Easy ways to get more storage on your smartphone

If you use your smartphone for everything in your life -- from taking photos to managing your finances you've probably gotten that frustrating alert warning you there's "not enough storage" to download anything else. 

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Certain apps, as well as files like high-resolution photos and videos, can take up a lot of storage space on any type of smartphone -- often forcing people to delete things in order to make room for new stuff.

But the good news is that there are ways to get more space without having to buy a new phone with more storage capacity, which is way more expensive.

Cloud-based backup plans

Both Apple and Google have cloud-based servers where they allow users to back up their files. Below are some details about each from Consumer Reports.

Apple's iCloud Drive: Available for any device with access to an iTunes account. Here's what to know:

  • Provides 5 GB of free storage. 

  • To maximize usage: Go to Settings --> iCloud --> Photos. Turn on the option to use the iCloud Photo Library, then Optimize Photo Storage. 
  • Your phone will then store your photos on your device at a lower resolution, but they will be backed up on the cloud at full quality.

Google Drive: Available for both Android and iPhone. Here's what to know:

  • Provides 15 GB of free storage (that's a lot of storage).
  • To get access, all you need is a Gmail account (which is free) and the Google Drive app on your phone. 
  • Another option to consider is downloading Google Photos, which allows users to set up automatic photo and video backups, as well as an interface for viewing, editing and sharing photos.

Here's a comparison of these cloud services from Consumer Reports:

Both of these services also give users the option to buy more storage.

You can also back up your files on your computer, which likely has a lot more available space. 

Add more storage

If you have an Android, you may also have the option to use a microSD memory card that can increase the phone's storage space to as much as 128 GB. And for that much space, the cards are pretty cheap -- about $25 for a card that gives you 64 GB of extra storage. 

Sorry iPhone users, you don't have this option.

Make room for more on your phone

Once you have all of your important photos, apps etc. backed up on the cloud or your computer, here are a few things to delete from your phone to make room for more everyday stuff: 

  • Photos and videos
  • Files and apps you don't need or use every day
  • Old games you don't use anymore
  • Old movies, music and playlists you don't regularly use

Once your files are safely backed up on the cloud or in iTunes (or similar program on your computer), you will be able to access and download them again at any time. Plus, Amazon, Apple and Google also keep copies of everything you buy from them -- in case you want to download files to your phone that you had previously deleted from the device. 

Read more: Free apps to reduce your data consumption

Conserve data and batter usage

Using these options to back up all of your photos, videos and other files can eat away at your data plan. To conserve your data usage, set the apps to perform backups only when your phone is connected to Wi-Fi. And make sure your phone only automatically connects to secure Wi-Fi networks you trust.

  • Google Photos: Open settings within the app.

  • iCloud Drive: Open the app in Settings and turn off the Use Cellular Data option. 

Another option is to try Onavo, a free app that compresses data on your smartphone and saves you money. The compression process to your data is much like what cable and satellite TV companies do versus traditional over-the-air broadcast signals.

There are also several apps that can not only eat up your data plan, but also drain your phone's battery very quickly. If  you have an iPhone, you can turn apps off by double clicking the "home" button and then swiping up on each application so it stops running in the background while you're doing other things or not using your phone.

Read more: Common apps that eat up your phone's battery

 In order to save data and battery, make sure these apps aren't still running in the background of your phone when you aren't using them:

  • Netflix
  • Weather apps
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Spotify
  • Pandora

Your best bet is to just turn all apps off when you're finished using them.

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