How to clean up your iOS devices

If you’ve owned your iPhone or iPad for a long time, there’s a good chance it has files, photos, apps, and other digital items that take up more space than necessary. Maybe you’ve even gotten to the point where you’re getting warnings about how little free space you have left on your device. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to declutter your iPhone or iPad, free up some space, and otherwise make your gear feel like new again. This guide will walk you through how to get back your device’s notifications and memory.

Delete your unused apps

A screenshot showing how to access the iPhone's storage utility.

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

I don’t need to tell you to delete apps you don’t use to free up space on your iPhone, but you might not know that iOS has a special tool to help you do this. You can access it by opening the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad, then tapping General, followed by iPhone Storage or iPad Storage. It may take a few minutes for the interface to populate, but once it does, you’ll see a handy visual representation of how much of your device’s storage you’ve allocated to apps, photos, and other file types. You’ll also see a list of every app installed on your device, along with how much space it’s taking up and when you last used it—all useful information you can use to decide what to delete.

Depending on the app, iOS will present you with at least two options when you tap it. You can delete the app and all associated data or “unload” it. In the latter case, iOS will delete the app from your iPhone or iPad, but leave your data untouched. That way, when you reinstall the app, you can pick up where you left off. It will also stay in your app library for easy access. From the iPhone storage menu, you can also set your device to automatically offload unused apps when you run out of storage space, which is useful for everyone, but especially for those with older devices with little storage space.

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

If you use Apple Music and Messages frequently, tap them, as they offer several additional options to manage their footprint. The Apple Music interface includes a list of every download on your iPhone or iPad, sorted by artist and album, offering a much better way to retrieve your library than from the app itself.

Meanwhile, Messages has several handy options for serial texting. At the bottom of the interface, you’ll see a breakdown of all the different attachments you may have received in messages with your friends and family. Seeing how much memory these old photos, videos, and GIFs take up can be eye-opening; in fact, iOS will prompt you to view large attachments. This is a good place to start, as the interface does a good job of highlighting the biggest space hogs right at the top. You can also set iOS to automatically delete messages and attachments that are more than a year old. Unless space on your device is at an absolute premium, I’d recommend not turning this option on, if only because you might delete a photo or video that has sentimental value to you.

Cut your contact list

If you’ve had an iPhone for a while, there’s a good chance your contact list has been edited. Unless you plan a day call everyone on this list, why not delete the contacts you no longer talk to? Your iPhone will give you a head start by identifying suspected duplicate contacts. Other than that, there isn’t much to this process other than going through each contact and making sure the information you have is up to date.

Review your notification settings

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

Something everyone should do every so often is review their notification settings, as alerts can drain your device’s battery (not to mention they often distract you from more important things). To get started, open the Settings app on your device and tap on Notifications. If you haven’t already, I’d recommend taking advantage of iOS 15’s scheduled summary feature. Let’s be honest, most notifications don’t require your immediate attention, and it’s better to address them all at once instead of in parts. The schedule feature will help you do this by letting you set multiple times a day when your device shows some notifications at once.

For most people, this should make their notifications more manageable, but if you want to take things a step further, you can adjust the individual settings for each app. For some of the worst offenders (Instagram and Twitter come to mind), it’s worth jumping into their in-app settings to limit or disable the notifications they send you.

Focus modes

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

Another tool you can use to manage your notification is Apple’s Focus feature, which lets you configure custom Do Not Disturb settings for different activities. By default, your device will ship with several pre-configured, and it’s worth reviewing the settings for each to optimize them for your needs.

To create a new custom focus mode, open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad and tap Focus, which is in the same subcategory as notifications. You can also create a new focus mode directly from your device’s Control Center by long-pressing the Do Not Disturb icon and tapping New Focus.

Once you’ve created a new Focus, customizing it is easy. You can specify contacts from whom you want iOS to mute or allow notifications. You can do the same for apps. Once you’ve customized these lists to your liking, tap the Options prompt below the contact and app lists to see a few additional settings. Specifically, there is an option to allow muted notifications to appear on your lock screen, which you may find useful.

The last thing I want to address is the options to customize your home screen for different focus modes. By limiting the apps I have easy access to, I find I’m less likely to get distracted. For example, I’ve set my reading focus to limit my home screen to apps like Libby, Pocket, and Apple Music.

Exit mobile version