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Apple Storage Explained

iPhone (and iPad) users: do you know the difference between your iPhone Storage and your iCloud Storage? You should, especially if you get an “almost out of storage” notice.

iPhone Storage
This is the storage capacity of your phone’s physical hard drive. When you purchased your phone, you chose 16, 32, or 64 gigabytes of storage. The more gigs, the more room to store pictures, music, apps, messages, etc. This storage capacity is not expandable in Apple devices; to increase physical storage, you need to purchase a new phone.

iCloud Storage
When you bought your first Apple device, you created an Apple ID: your unique identity in the Apple world. With that, came 5 free gigabytes of storage in the iCloud. This is the space reserved for backing up all of your apple devices into, well, space. Any device registered to your Apple ID — iPhone, iPad, iPod, etc. — shares your Cloud storage space. Fortunately, this capacity is expandable without buying new devices; currently $.99/month will expand your 5gb to 50gb.

So, which storage is your error message warning you about? Here’s how to tell:

  • Home Button
  • Settings
  • General
  • Storage and iCloud Usage (older phones might just say “Storage”)

The phone’s physical storage is listed first and the iCloud storage second. “Used” and “Available” show for each. You can see which storage is almost full.

Tap the “Manage Storage” option in each section to reveal a list — in descending order — of how that space is used. If you need to make choices about what, if anything, to delete, these lists might help.