How to Clean Your Phone or Tablet – Part 2

How did you get on with part 1?  If you missed it, you can catch up here and find out how to clean up your apps and app data.  In this part, we’ll be dealing with other files, mostly things that you have created.


This part only applies to Android users – iPhones store files and attachments as part of the corresponding app, so hopefully you already found and cleared out any storage hungry ones. 

If you look in your Downloads folder, you’ll probably find a mixture of files you meant to download, and files that were downloaded for you by a web page – I find restaurant menus in mine that I remember looking up but don’t remember downloading! Along with e-mail attachments, they can add up to hundreds of MB.  Before you start, please remember that if you downloaded a ringtone or wallpaper image, it may not be stored anywhere else on your phone, so keep those if you want to keep using them.

To find them, use the DownloadsFile Manager or My Files app on an Android, and long press on a file to select it.  Once you’ve selected one, you can tap on more, then press the bin or Delete button that appears.

The same applies to e-mail attachments, they shouldn’t be too big individually but together can add up to quite a bit.  There are far too many e-mail apps for me to go through individually, however, so just scan through your e-mails and look for the tell-tale paperclip icon, and delete any that you don’t need.

Download management on an Android


If you’ve got hundreds of notes, it’s worth cleaning out any of those you don’t use any more.  This one is easy – just go to the Notes app on an iPhone or the Keep Notes (Google) app on an Android.  Some Android phones will have their own apps, i.e. Samsung Notes/Snote for Samsung phones – hopefully you’ll remember which one you used as you made the notes!

Music, Books and Podcasts

If you use a streaming app for music or podcasts, it might be set to automatically download purchases or recent podcasts.  I’m not really into podcasts but have started listening to audiobooks – I was amazed to find that the three audio books I had downloaded in Audible took up over half a gigabyte!  I’ve deleted the one I’ve finished which freed up about 200MB of space – this was easily done in the Audible app.

If you’re in a WiFi or 3/4G area then you would be able to stream your music (at least using Google Play, Spotify or Apple Music) without having the files on your phone – so you could delete the music files to save space.  If you want to listen to your music when you’re offline, you will need to keep the files though.

It’s worth checking your settings in the music and podcast apps – in Google Play Music go to Settings and scroll down to the Downloading section.  Check whether Auto-download is switched on, and you can also empty the cache and manage your downloads while you’re there.  On an iPhone, go to Settings > General > Usage > Manage Storage > Music.  You’ll see the total amount of storage your music is taking up at the top right, and an Edit button above it.  Tap Edit and you can either delete all songs using the Delete button or tap the minus sign button next to individual artists to delete them one by one.

There are a lot of different podcast apps out there, and instructions for those should be similar to the above – if you get stuck just let us know and we’ll give you a hand.

Music settings on mobile phone
Managing music settings on Android

Photos and videos

This is usually what takes up the most space on my phone, but I recently got a new phone so it’s not a great example at the moment!  Both Androids and iPhones have options to back up your photos and videos to the cloud (Google Photos or iCloud) – which means you can delete them from your phone or tablet, but still look at them online.

Please note – WHERE you delete the photos (at least on an Android) affects what happens to them.  If you delete them in the Gallery app, they will be deleted from your phone but remain backed up to your Google Photos account and viewable online.  If you delete them in the Photos app – they are removed from your phone, any other synchronised devices, and deleted from the backup as well so they will be permanently gone.

Let’s start with the straightforward – delete any photos you don’t need.  We’ve all got pictures of the floor or your hand which were taken accidentally, probably a few questionable selfies, and photos of that thing you had to remember… 

Then there are other people’s photos – your phone may be set to download any pictures you’ve been sent in WhatsApp, Messenger, iMessage and other apps.  You can delete photos individually in each conversation on each app – but this would be a bit time-consuming.  I find them in my photo library, or in an images folder called WhatsApp/Messenger/name of app.

If they’re not showing up in your photo library, then on an Android go to Gallery or Photos.  In Gallery, go to Collections (may also be called folders or albums) – in Photos press the three lines for the menu, then choose Device Folders.  You can then go into each app’s folder and delete as necessary, and choose whether to synchronise those folders to your backup.

On an iPhone, go into the app (let’s say WhatsApp), go into a conversation and tap the group or contact name. You’ll see a link called Media – tap this and you can delete all or selected media or documents from that conversation.  The same thing works in Facebook Messenger but is named Shared Content.

To get rid of iMessage photos on an iPhone, go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage, then scroll down and tap on Messages. Tap Review Large Attachments and it will give you a list of all photos and videos attached to your messages, which you can keep or delete.

google login menu
Google Photos menu
screen shot of pictures on as mobile phone
Photos from various apps

iPhone Photo Stream and iCloud Photo

Apple has two methods of sharing/storing photos, the Photo Stream and iCloud Photo.  I was a little confused by this as I don’t have an iPhone, but it seems that a lot of iPhone users are also confused!  You are able to use both – Photo Stream will keep photos that were taken within the last 30 days up to a maximum of 1,000 photos, and it will synchronise them to the cloud and your other devices. iCloud Photo Library stores a high-resolution copy of your photo in the cloud and does not have a limit to the number of photos and videos. It does form part of your personal iCloud storage however, so you can reach your limit on this if you have a lot of photos.  The handy thing about iCloud Photo Library is that you can choose to keep the original high-resolution photo in the cloud and a smaller version on your device to optimise storage space.

Photo Stream synchronises low-resolution versions of photos from all your devices (iPhone, iPad and Mac).  There are pros and cons to this – If you’re very short on space, turning off Photo Stream will free up some storage for you.  Open  Settings > Photos and turn off My Photo Stream.  However, this does mean that you won’t be able to see your iPhone pictures on other devices. 

The Apple photo issue can be quite complicated – so for more tips on backing up your pictures, there’s a great article on Macworld here.

Check your camera settings

To try and get the best possible image, your phone might have an HDR mode (High Dynamic Range) or Burst mode.  When you take a picture, it takes two, sometimes three, to get the best possible quality – but you don’t need to keep all three of them.  If you check the settings in your camera app, you may be able to adjust whether it keeps all images or just the best one – and you may find quite a few duplicates you can delete in your photos.

Burst mode is great for moving subjects, as it takes lots of pictures in rapid succession so you can choose the best or least blurry one.  It does create a LOT of photos though, so you can probably get rid of a number of those.  Luckily there’s a shortcut to do this!  On an Android, open Photos, and when you click on the set of burst images, navigate to the one you want to keep then press the burst icon at the bottom (two vertical lines beside an image icon).  You can then choose to keep this image and delete the rest.  It’s very similar on an iPhone – find the set of burst images, choose Select, tap on the image(s) you want to keep, tap Done, and then  toKeep only 1 Favourite.

If you’re not sure if your phone has a burst mode, try taking a photo but keep your finger pressed on the shutter button!

The Ultimate Clean!

There’s one last option to clean your phone, which I recommend doing at least once a year – the factory reset.  It’s a bit scary the first time when you’re not sure if all your contacts will be restored, but I’ve done it multiple times on my Androids and it does help to boost performance.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to back up your phone before you do this – otherwise you may lose the items you want to keep!  You can find instructions for backing up on Android here and for an iPhone/iPad here.  It’s also worth checking in your Contacts folder, whether all contacts are synchronised to the cloud (ie backed up), or stored locally (not backed up and could be lost).

For an Android, check in Settings > Backup and reset whether Automatic restore is turned on.  This will restore all your app settings when it reinstalls your apps.  You may still need to choose the apps you want reinstalling from the app store, but it will check your backup for any app related data.  If you want a complete cleanout, then turn off Automatic restore and the app will be installed “as new”.

Once you’re sure everything is safely backed up to the cloud, just go to Settings > Backup and reset, and tap on Factory data reset.  You’ll be asked if you’re sure before the phone goes ahead – this can take a little while to reset and set it up again.  

If you’re an iPhone user, go to Settings > General > Reset and then select Erase All Content and Settings.  You will need to put in your passcode, and again, the phone will ask you if you’re certain you want to do that.

Other tips

To maximise your battery life, check your location settings and Bluetooth.  If they’re permanently turned on, and on high accuracy for location, this can drain your battery.  ,You can also tailor which applications have access to your location, for privacy reasons – I could fill another whole blog post with my opinions on this though!


It’s generally a good idea to turn your phone off now and then (gasp!), or restart it at least.  If you’re under 21, then yes, this is possible in case you’ve never tried it!  Smartphones are essentially tiny computers, and much as your PC needs turning off now and again, your phone can benefit from it too, to clear out the RAM and any temporary files.


I hope this has been useful, if you’ve got any questions please post them below.  We’ll be moving on to cleaning up your PC next week, and next month you can find out which apps are essential to install on your newly cleaned up phone!

If you missed part 1 of cleaning your phone, you can find it here.

Reset your Android