Most iOS users encounter “Other” for the first time when they connect their iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to a computer, where they’ll find it listed in the little iTunes usage bar graph. With everything else so well labeled, Other can be a bit of a mystery, particularly when it takes up a ton of storage in iOS.
What is ‘Other’ space? It’s generally a combination of local caches from apps, browsers, mail, Messages, Reading List, saved games, app-specific documents and data, notes, and voice memos. Knowing this, it’s actually pretty easy to recover most of the space consumed in that category by targeting those things specifically.
This guide will apply to all iOS devices, though the iPhone will likely benefit the most because of the Messages trick. Nonetheless, if Other is gigantic on an iPad or iPod touch, these methods will work there as well.
Checking if “Other” Data is a Storage Problem
The “Other” storage isn’t always a large problem, and many users can use iOS devices for years without ever finding it to be an issue that is consuming unnecessary storage. On the other hand, a very obvious symptom of an abnormally large “Other” space hog is a mysterious lack of available storage capacity on an iOS device, despite not having much music, movies, media, apps, or photos stored locally.
If you don’t have such an obvious sign something is up, here’s how you can figure out if Other space may be too large on your device:
Checking on the iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch
Though there is no direct way to see “Other” space in iOS, you can get a rough idea by taking a peak at general space usage stats:
- Open Settings, go to “General”, then go to “Usage”
Now look at sizes of “Available” vs “Used” at the top of the Storage screen, and compare that to the size of the apps you have installed. Just do some rough math in your head, and if there is a large discrepancy in space available vs space that is obviously used by apps, that’s probably the infamous “Other” taking up the extra storage.
This method is obviously imprecise, so you can connect the iPad, iPhone, iPod touch a computer with iTunes to get the exact number.
Checking Other from iTunes
iTunes is where most people are first introduced to the mystery “Other” capacity, and it’s by far the most direct way to see how much stored data is labeled that way:
- Connect any iOS device to iTunes to see the yellow “Other” number
If “Other” is under 1GB you probably don’t have much to concern yourself with, but if starts taking up several GB of storage on a 16GB device, it can be very annoying and that’s the type of capacity issue that we’ll focus on reclaiming here.
Follow these tricks in descending order, unlike a lot of the other crud you’ll find out there, these actually work to recover space.
1: Delete & Reinstall Apps with Bloated Local Data
Apps are usually fairly small, but with continuous usage some of them will expand to fairly large sizes due to local caches, saved games, components, and whatever else they decide to keep around. Here’s how you can see which apps have a lot of stuff stored locally:
- Go to “Settings”, then “General” and look under “Usage”
- Look at the largest apps and compare the Documents & Data size to the actual app size, these are what you should focus on for removal and reinstallation
Keep in mind that deleting apps and reinstalling them this way may cause you to lose local data, be it saved games, saved app caches, and certain app specific data and files, so you wouldn’t want to do this with apps that have locally stored data that is important to you.
One example that is fairly inconsequential to delete and reinstall is the Instagram app. The app itself only takes up about 25MB, but it’s “Documents & Data” after being used for a few months can easily expand to be 10x-20x that size as image cache is kept locally.
To recover that space from apps like this, simply delete them and then reinstall them from the App Store again.
2: Remove Large Messages & Threads
Believe it or not, all those iMessage and text message threads can take up a ton of storage space. This is particularly true with the iPhone, and to a lesser extent the iPad and iPod touch. This is particularly true for those who send and receive a lot of multimedia messages, be they shared photos, movies, animated gifs, or whatever else. As of now, all that stored message and media become listed as part of the “Other” space, and it’s not unusual for Messages to wind up taking up 1GB or more of space. The solution to this is easy, just delete message threads:
- Open Messages app, tap on “Edit”, then tap the red (-) button to delete an entire message thread
- Repeat as necessary
If you’re looking to reclaim as much Other space as possible, clear out every message thread.
This is much improved in iOS 7, because Messages becomes a listed item in the general Usage menu which lets you easily see just how much space all those saved threads are taking up.
3: Clear Safari Cookies, Data, History
Being the default browser of iOS, Safari is unlike other browser apps, which will list their caches and cookie data in the aforementioned “Documents & Data” section of app usage. This means you have to delete Safari specific data separately:
- Open Settings, then go to “Safari” and tap on “Clear Cookies, Data, History”
The Safari caches usually aren’t too large, but clearing them out can make a noticeable impact on Other in some cases. Keep in mind that deleting cookies means you will lose saved web settings and logins on websites, so be prepared for that.
4: Delete Voice Memos
If you use the Voice Memos app frequently, all those voice notes can wind up taking up a lot of storage space as they are basically just audio files. These are easily deleted though:
- Open Voice Memos, tap on the memo to delete, then tap the red “Delete” button
- Repeat as necessary, aim for the longer voice memos for the biggest gains
If you can’t part with some memos, consider trimming them down to the portions of the audio that matters most, this can help to reduce the space taken up by the individual memos.
5: Restart the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
Once you’ve done the above steps, you should restart the iOS device so that it effectively recalculates the usage data. Connect it again to iTunes, or check the Usage stats again from Settings, and things should finally add up and that Other space should no longer be massive. If you do still see a large Other capacity, it may be due to a calculation error that can be resolved by forcing iTunes to re-sync and recalculate space use, but sometimes the only solution is to back up and then restore the device.
6: “Other” Still Bloated? Backup & Restore
If you have done all of the above and the Other space is still too large to make sense of, you may need to just backup and restore the device. This basically reinstalls iOS while preserving your data, and in the process it can clean out a lot of the junk that accumulated to create the humungous Other space. This can either be done with the assistance of a computer and iTunes, or entirely on the device itself with the help of iCloud. Here are the two basic steps and tutorials for each:
Restoring can take a while making this a less than ideal solution, but if none of the above tricks worked then you will find restoring almost always does.
Restoring from backups isn’t perfect though, particularly if the backups contain huge amounts of local data from apps, Messages, and other things that could have been cleaned up better using the tricks mentioned above. If you’ve restored and find the situation no better than before, a factory reset is often the only remaining solution.
Enjoy your newfound space on that iOS device, and if you’re still struggling trying to find some available storage, check out these simple tips to free up a significant amount of storage space on any iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.