‘Other’ storage on your iPhone and iPad explained

By , Feb 10, 2016

iTunes Other iPhone storage Mac screenshot 002

For most users, the ‘Other’ iOS storage category—reported after connecting an iOS device to desktop iTunes—is something of a mystery. ‘Other’ storage starts at one to five percent of total device capacity but can quickly creep in to a few gigabytes.

This post will unravel the mysteries behind ‘Other’ iOS storage, explain what it’s used for, how iOS manages it and what you can do to decrease it.

Can I see how much space is lost to ‘Other’ storage?

Yes, you can.

Connect your iOS device to a Mac or Windows PC using a USB cable and launch iTunes. When the device appears in iTunes, click its name at the top and then click Summary in the lefthand column.

iTunes will scan what’s on the device and display its storage graphically at the bottom of the window. Mouse over the yellow section of the graph to see how much space is taken up by ‘Other’ storage.

Sadly, iOS won’t let you see how much space is wasted to ‘Other’ storage.

What is ‘Other’ storage used for?

‘Other’ iOS storage includes mostly everything that doesn’t fit into the existing categories, as reported by iTunes: Apps, Audio, Books, Documents & Data, Movies, TV Shows, Photos and Podcasts.

As per Apple, the ‘Other’ iOS storage includes the following items:

  • Your device’s settings
  • Siri voices
  • High-quality VoiceOver voices
  • System data
  • Cached files

Things like Safari Offline Reading List, files created within apps and app content such as contacts, calendars, SMS and iMessages, emails and their attachments and other items are not part of ‘Other’ storage. Instead, these items are lumped into the ‘Documents & Data’ storage category in iTunes.

Here is the full list of iOS storage categories and the data each category encompasses, as reported in iTunes:

  • Audio: Songs, audio podcasts, audiobooks, voice memos and ringtones
  • Video: Movies, music videos and TV shows
  • Photos: Camera Roll content, Photo Stream and Photo Library
  • Apps: Installed apps
  • Books: iBooks books and PDF files
  • Documents & Data: Safari Offline Reading List, files created within apps and app content like contacts, calendars, iMessages, text messages, emails, Mail and Messages attachments
  • Other: Settings, Siri voices, system data and cached files

By far, the biggest portion of ‘Other’ storage is occupied by various cached files.

Why are caches in ‘Other’ storage?

Apple says that iOS creates cached files when you stream or view content like music, videos and photos. “When you stream music or video, that content is stored as cached files on your iOS device,” says the company.

On iOS devices, most caches are not visible to users in per-app sections in Settings → General →  Storage & iCloud Usage, though some are. For instance, Safari’s Offline Reading List cache can easily be deleted through the Settings app. On the other hand, caches that iOS manages automatically, like streamed audio and video content, are not exposed to end users and cannot be deleted in Settings.

A quick experiment can easily prove this. Imagine there’s absolutely nothing stored in the stock Videos app on your iPhone. Say you then launch Videos and stream a five-gigabyte movie that was purchased on the iTunes Store.

PhoneClean for OS X Mac screenshot 002

The reported storage usage for the Videos app in Settings won’t increase at all.

But if you glance at the amount of free device storage reported in Settings, you’ll notice it has dropped by five gigabytes due to that streamed video being cached automatically by iOS, thereby taking up five gigabytes of ‘Other’ storage.

Because the amount of device storage wasted on the ‘Other’ category cannot be directly checked out in iOS, less experienced users may be left scratching their head, puzzled as to why their reported free storage isn’t higher.

How iOS manages caches

iOS was conceived to manage storage automatically. Cached content may live in ‘Other’ storage for as long as system circumstances allow. iOS does flush the caches intelligently, especially if the system runs low on storage.

PhoneClean for OS X Mac screenshot 001
‘Other’ storage on my iPhone 6s, as reported by PhoneClean. Most of it are caches of previously streamed video content.

The other thing to keep in mind are apps. All apps create a residue of temporary files on your device, so they load faster. For example, the stock Camera app and third-party photo editing apps create their own photo caches.

These temporary files, along with other app items that are marked for the system as safe to delete, are caches inside ‘Other’ storage, too. Even the most mundane things, like a failed iTunes sync, may add up to Other storage by littering the device with temporary files and media junk.

Purging caches, manually or with a third-party app, won’t delete apps nor will it remove your documents. These items—app data, settings and your documents—are kept in separate databases which aren’t part of system caches.

Why storage amounts on iOS devices differ from what iTunes reports

That’s because iTunes categorizes cached music, videos and photos as ‘Other’ iOS storage instead of actual audio, videos or photos—that’s why the reported usage for Music, Videos or Audio sections might differ.

As an illustrative example of this, iTunes reports that the Audio section is taking up 856 megabytes on my iPhone 6s. On the device itself, however, the actual reported storage amount for the Music app is 565 megabytes.

NOTE: The screenshot below is meant for illustrative purposes and does not reflect the current amount of storage space taken up by music on my device.

iOS 9 Manage Storage iPhone screenshot 002

The 291-megabyte difference between the 856MB seen in desktop iTunes and 565MB reported by my iPhone is actually caches for the songs I had streamed via Apple Music. Cached media lets the Music app instantly play any previously streamed song, enhancing the experience at the expense of reported free storage.

People who use iCloud Photo Library with the ‘Optimize iPhone Storage’ option may observe a similar discrepancy in the ‘Photos’ storage section between iTunes and iOS Settings, due to large caches of photos in device-optimized resolution.

Your mileage may vary, depending on how you consume media on your devices. To view the storage usage on your iOS device, go to Settings → General → Storage & iCloud Usage → Manage Storage under the Storage heading.

Can I decrease ‘Other’ storage?

Yes, but not completely.

You cannot manually purge cached files from ‘Other’ iOS storage. Even though iOS was designed to clear the caches when it needs more space, it doesn’t do this aggressively enough. And sometimes caches aren’t dumped properly either.

For instance, Kevin Hamm found out that streaming a four-gigabyte iTunes movie will temporarily take up four gigabytes in iOS caches. Should iOS for any reason fail to delete that cached movie, the four gigabytes will get stuck in ‘Other’ storage.

Making matter worse, neither iTunes nor the iOS Settings app provide necessary controls for users to manually delete all the cruft that has accumulated on their devices.

RELATED: How to reclaim ‘Other’ iOS storage

The good news is, specialized third-party applications can clear the caches which are clogging up ‘Other’ iOS storage. Any of these Mac apps should get the job done:

Some of the aforesaid programs will identify storage-hogging iOS apps so you can then delete and re-install them, which in most cases will remove 100 percent of app-specific junk from your device.

If you’re jailbroken, do yourself a favor and manage your ‘Other’ iOS storage using iFile or Ryan Petric’s smartly done cache-cleaning tool.

PhoneExpander Clear Temporary Files Mac screenshot 002

RELATED: 40+ ways to save storage space on iPhone and iPad

Restoring your device from an iCloud backup can also drastically decrease the size of ‘Other’ storage because iCloud backups have been found to store fewer temporary files and caches than those created by iTunes.

In some cases, restoring your device from an iTunes backup might bring over caches and temporary files that haven’t been deleted properly. In iTunes’ defense, iOS crash and log files will be transferred to a computer and deleted from an iOS device during the syncing process so there’s that.

And lastly, restarting a device may prompt iOS to clear some cached content. To restart your device, hold down the power button until a “Slide to power off” message appears, then slide to restart.

Force-restarting, however, might force iOS to purge more caches. To force-restart your device, press and hold the Sleep/Wake and Home buttons simultaneously until an Apple logo appears.

We’re eager to learn about your space-saving strategies when it comes to keeping the size of ‘Other’ iOS storage under control so hit us in comments.

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  • Jackson Grong

    Since the 9.2 AppStore bug where apps updates kept downloading until you ran out of storage, I lost 15gb and 9.2.1 didn’t fix it.
    Such a screw up by Apple, I’ll need to restore again, sigh.

  • David Pomerleau

    Using the “reset all settings” option in settings^general^reset cleans up a lot of cached files without having to restore.

    • Rick Hart

      If your jailbroken then you can’t use that option

      • Merman123


        Reset all settings is safe even if jailbroken.

        Reset all content and settings is not.

      • rockdude094

        Try iCleaner if you’re jailbroken. Usually frees up about 1 gb

      • iCleaner

    • William Wales

      iMyfone Umate is a good tool to clean up space, both for unjailbreak and jailbreak, it can save tons of space. I used it last month, the temporary files and large files are the highlights, which helped me a lot to save space.

  • Joaquim N.

    I just restore my phone as new every new IOS public release no matter how small it is. And I never restore from a backup, I install every single app I use and I set everything, including the device settings.

    I do the same with my macbook every 45 days no matter if there’s a new OS X release or not.

    It’s about keeping everything running smooth on both of my devices as much as possible and I don’t mind doing all the hard work at all if that’s what it takes.

    • Foh

    • stevie bacon-lopez

      This sounds painfully excessive and tedious. Especially your MacBook routine.

      • Joaquim N.

        The Macbook routine is the easiest one! haha I don’t keep any files stored on my rMBP, it’s all on Dropbox so it only take time to install the apps which is way faster since I don’t need to reconfigure every one of them like I do with most of the IOS apps.

        It’s basically just hit the Install Button on MAS or download the others from the developer’s website and drag it to the Applications folder.

        At least I don’t have to deal with things going wrong during my work because of a bad app update, malfunctioning, logs, cache or whatever. It’s always running clean and fast reducing the change of issues in 95% at least.

    • Martynet

      What would you do that? I just upgraded my iMac (27″ late 2009 i7) from lion all the way to El Capitan and it’s running fine. Samsung SSD gave this machine a new life. Also upgraded the graphic card couple of years ago for better gaming.

      • Halltrimm

        I’m thinking it’s time for me to follow suit. iMac 9,1. I was aware SSD was an option, but graphics too? Great! What route did you take?

      • Martynet

        I was in a stage when I had a new iMac in the apple store basket… Changed my mind last minute and decided to try the SSD. I bought samsung SSD 840 – 500 GB which works great with a macs. I would probably buy 1TB today as they are not expensive either, today. I couldn’t recognize the machine after the first boot. It’s really incredible the difference. Couple of month later my graphic card just died. When I called service and asked for a quote to replace graphic card, I nearly fell of the chair. Anyway I did a bit of research and find out that I can replace the card with a better one, myself. I mean the walkthrough on ifixit website looked terrifying but I decided to give it a go. I succeeded. I think the original card was ATI 4850 500GB and the replacement is ATI 6970 with 2GB ram. So bit of jump there too. I still use the imac today and I’m going to replace it with 5K iMac when Apple upgrade the iMac line. But this machine is a killer and I can’t feel huge difference from my 5K iMac in the office.

      • Halltrimm

        You don’t know how much I needed to converse with you. A few weeks ago my iMac began showing artifacts all over the screen in a manner I’d never seen before. I don’t know why it went away, but it did. Two days ago it just started restarting itself. When that stopped it would boot up, but without the chime. Looking it up earlier today, not seeing the third startup light underneath, points to a graphic card issue. I’m scared to learn how much repair costs, and I’m not eager to play Operation, but you’re motivating my decision. Thanks. A 2Gb card? Choice

      • Martynet

        Before I did anything, I wanted to be sure 100% that the graphic card is the issue, so I brought the iMac to service and let them run the diagnostic test, which is FREE. After that I bought the graphic card and did the service myself. I also had to buy the right tools. Bought the whole set for all apple devices from iFixit. It became handy many times 🙂 Your iMac is the previous generation from mine so I’m not sure what options there is. What EMC is your iMac? 2266 or 2267?

  • Shawn Wang Hsu


    • Tommy


    • iPhoneWINS

      I stopped using it cause i noticed it always caused odd glitches over time

  • n00b

    Jailbroken users: iCleaner Pro and Disk Pie are must items to check all space is using

  • leart

    used podcasts some time ago, especially one podcast was buggy and it was not downloading so i clicked again and again.. ended to have 4 gb of other file… thnx god im using a old ios (not jailbroken) and iTunes so im able to browse at least the download folder with iTools and deleted the problematic podcast, the other file went back to normale

  • Hot12345

    Any windows tool?

    • Nicholas Smith

      iMyfone Umate is a desktop software on Windows to free up space for your iPhone/iPad/iPod touch. Hope it helps.

  • Athanasios Pap

    In the post there is a point, where iOS deletes the cache when more space is needed. Is there a difference in the speed of the deleting process between iPhone 5 and iPhone 6s? I know they have different processors, but my problem lies when I try to record a longer than usual video. It stops the recording. I am thinking the deleting speed is slow.

  • agipaok

    I Believe cannot anymore clean cache with those programms if you are not jailbroken ! Right ????


    iMyfone Umate




    Decipher Phone Cleaner

    • Nicholas Smith

      I don’t think so. iMyfone Umate can be used for non-jailbroken devices. This desktop software have no such limitations. I use it to free up space for my iPhone 4S on PC, and works well indeed.

      • agipaok

        But I think 4s has not 9.3 !!! Am I correct?

      • Nicholas Smith

        I didn’t have the habit of upgrading the iOS system. Not much space left for the upgrades, and it can drag my iPhone slower.

  • Ray Eklund

    I was on the phone with a senior advisor earlier today about this exact issue, they had no good answer and said (in typical noncommittal fashion) is it is probably a bug that will be addressed in a “future” update. The only fix that works for me was one I found posted by Rene Ritchie from iMore. Basically the only option without having to restore or hook up to my Mac, is to sign out of iTunes in settings and sign out of home sharing under Videos. I then force restart my device and sign into iTunes and sign into home sharing. Then my storage space “magically” reclaims my lost 40 to 50 gigs. After streaming a couple of seasons in HD from iTunes I have to restart the entire process I purposefully buy the highest storage available in all of my iOS devices for this reason.

  • Eerikkibak

    Shocked…So many temporary files!

  • Steve

    Is there any way to remove it?