Big iOS updates, bigger app bundles, and 16GB devices have many an iPhone and iPad user tearing their hair out when it comes to doing just about anything. But there's a better way than manually deleting images on your phone or removing apps — it just requires a nearby Mac.
iTunes is worse: App sync is frustrating and outdated, with the program often hanging or glitching when you least want it to.
For those who want a speedier solution, however, there's a new app beta on the block and it's called PhoneExpander. The free beta lets you view and empty the biggest data offenders from your device: namely app cache data, apps themselves, and images.
Once you've downloaded the app, you need only to connect your iPhone or iPad to your Mac via USB.
Take out the cache
App caches — or "temporary files," as they're called in PhoneExpander — are various little saved states that let your apps open quicker on repeat viewings, like saved offline map data. (As an FYI, game saves are not stored in these files, so you don't have to worry about accidentally wiping your Space Age progress. A single app's cache won't necessarily break the storage bank, but if you have a few dozen apps on there, you might start feeling the crunch.
Getting rid of them in PhoneExpander is as simple as clicking the Clear Temporary Files button — all apps are auto-checked by default, but you can easily uncheck specific apps if you'd rather their caches stay intact.
On your iPhone or iPad, there are two ways to delete an app: manually tapping and holding on an icon from your home screen to enter edit mode, then deleting it; or going to Settings > General > Usage > Manage Storage and tapping on an individual app's record to delete it.
For one app, it's not a big deal. If you're trying to free up a lot of space, however, you may be looking at a lot of tapping. PhoneExpander lets you remove apps in bulk without having to first go through the iTunes sync process on your Mac. By default, it even organizes them by size, so you can see just how much excess space that copy of iMovie or Fitstar Yoga is taking up. To delete an app, just select the checkbox next to it, then press Remove checked when you're ready to go.
I'll note that this process won't back up the app bundle to your computer the way iTunes does; any iCloud-stored data for that app will be safe, and you'll be able to redownload the app from the iTunes Store, but you won't be able to retrieve a saved bundle from your computer's hard drive. Doesn't matter for most people, but just in case: be forewarned.
Shoebox your Camera Roll
PhoneExpander's Clear Photos button is a little more nuanced than it appears: The action doesn't just remove your images and video — it also backs them up to your Desktop or other selected folder on your computer under the name PhoneExpander Backup. That way, you don't have to worry about your images being lost forever just because you needed an extra gigabyte or two of space on your iPhone.
The app does tend to take awhile to process large amounts of photos and video, so don't be alarmed to see OS X's beachball as it processes; I did this several times with both photos and videos and everything got saved and
The PhoneExpander beta doesn't quite have its music removal tool set up yet, but I imagine it'll look similar to the Remove Apps tool. If you can't wait for PhoneExpander to add the tool, you can always manage your music storage from iTunes, or through Settings > General > Usage > Manage Storage > Music.
Clean up time!
Despite being in beta, PhoneExpander appears to be relatively solid — and it's super-simple to use for clearing out space on your iOS devices. Check it out, and let us know if it solved your storage woes!