Ask LH: What's Hogging 'Other' On My iPhone?

Dear Lifehacker, Can you tell me why in iTunes, under my iPhone summary, there is 1.1GB used by 'other'? I can understand app, music, photos but don't know what the 'other' option is and why it is using my precious 1.1GB of space. Can I do anything about that? I have only 16GB so I want to use it for something useful! Thanks, Space Challenged

Dear SC,

The answer to this is twofold: part of that space is taken up by iOS, the operating system running on your iPhone. While your phone has 16GB of memory in purely physical terms, it still needs an operating system to actually do anything. That takes up space, and there's no way of reclaiming it.

However, that's not the only data in 'other' -- it often contains save files and temporary files created by apps, and some of that isn't needed long-term. Sometimes you can reclaim this space by doing a sync with iTunes; in other cases, you may have to go through a full backup and restore process. (Remember, if you're doing a restore, make sure you do a backup first to make sure you don't lose data.)

In our screenshot, you can see other taking up 0.77GB, so you probably do have a little space to regain following this method. It's not guaranteed, but it's worth a try.

Note this isn't invariably the case with mobile phones: many Android models have storage on SD cards which is quite separate from the on-board memory where the OS resides. But for the iPhone -- a device which doesn't let you alter or upgrade the storage in any way -- the onboard memory is always going to be partially consumed by iOS, and that will comprise a bigger percentage on smaller-capacity phones. We've offered tips in the past on how to make the most of the space available on your iDevice, and those might be a good place to start if you're running low.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    Yeah I had this issue after upgrading to iOS5. I had about 5Gb in "Other". A simple sync sorted me out :)

    Actually, with iOS devices, the operating system is not counted in that calculation. It is stored on a separate partition away from the user data. This is why it displays 13.6gb instead of 15.6gb (for a 16gb device).

    Of course, if you have a jailbroken device, one of the first things Cydia does is move many files from the system partition over to the user partition - this can eat up some more space. Also, any jailbreak apps will fill that "other" space as well.

    If not jailbroken, then emails, text messages, etc all take up space.

    Don't forget too that like all drives, formatting takes up a chunk of that "16gb" or whatever. A 1TB HDD wont give you 1TB of storage, same with iPhones. I don't believe iTunes reports it as used though, but you cant fit exactly 16GB on a 16GB iPhone.

      It's not formatting that takes up that space. It's that storage manufacturers work in 1000 increments whereas the rest of the tech world works in 1024. As such, a 16gb iPhone will be formatted to 14.9gb (not 15.6 as my last post said, that was a wrong calculation on my part) plus the system partition.

    "Other" is usually the equivalent of "Application Data". Every app that you download/sync, regardless of whether or not you end up deleting the app or not, is going to leave behind Application Data. That's why you can download an app, use it for a while, DELETE the app, redownload the app from your phone at a later date and STILL have all your Application settings preserved.

    Deleting an app from your phone still leaves the App Data behind. I had the same restore since summer of 2009 on my phone up until last month when iOS 5 came out. Instead of choosing "restore from backup" I chose to start as a new phone and all my old useless App Data was deleted.

    I noticed that after using the same sync for a 2+ years that I had built up a LOT of app data in the "other" space and it had slowed my iPhone 4 down to a crawl. Even doing a complete factory restore + restore from backup would cause the "other" data to come back.

      On my iPod, things are slightly different. When you delete an app, the data goes with it. Maybe it's just me, (I haven't synced in like 2 years and it's an iTouch 1st gen stuck with iOS3.1.2) but if it's not then you should think again about where you're 'other' data is coming from

    There's a much better way to do this if you are jailbroken.

    Resolution (If Jailbroken IPhone).
    > Open DiskAid or iPhone Explorer and delete all files in the following directories
    /private/var/mobile/Media/iTunes_Control/Music
    /var/mobile/media/applicationarchives

    Resolutoin (If Not Jailbroken)
    > Restore your iPhone..

    That usually fixes it, however also clear your history and content in Safari settings

      I have 10.8 gb in "other" capacity. I'm loosing all my storage space to this. I have deleted all data and history in safari settings but this made no difference. It sounds like I should do a restore, is that right?

    I may have a reason for this mass amount of used storage space, I have about 2Gb of "Other" memory on my iPod touch 4g, on IOS6, and upon taking a look in my backup directory I found about 1.7 or so Gb of Sms images and their icons, that get synced to my iPod and iPad, AFTER clearing iMessage conversations regularly. Furthermore, even with all forms of internet turned off on both devices, I can still see cleared messages and conversations when using the Spotlight search feature. Clearing conversations used to fix this but ever since iOS6, which has absolutely ruined both of my devices and friend's iPhone 4S's with all the crashing and memory problems, conversations appear to stay around, even with multiple backup-restores.

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