(This is one of a series of articles looking at elements of iTunes that I think need fixing. I’ll choose one element for each article, and offer a solution. See all articles in this series. If you have any particular gripes about what needs to be fixed in iTunes, drop me a line.)
“Other” storage on iOS devices is a constant headache. It can take up several gigabytes, and even fill up the empty space on your device.
Some of it is legitimate; Apple says that it is “Settings, Siri voices, and other system data,” but that’s not the whole story. Anyone who has problems syncing has seen this yellow section of the capacity bar expand to surprising sizes at times. In some cases, when a sync fails, all the music on a device shows up as Other, or the Other fills the capacity bar.
There’s a lot of stuff that’s considered to be Other, much more than what Apple claims. Other includes cache files for apps, system cache files, and many other items. And there’s no way to delete it, other than restoring your device.
iTunes and iOS need to work together on this. First, there needs to be a system-wide feature to delete files cached by apps. If you look at your app usage (Settings > General > Usage > Manage Storage), you’ll see that some apps – when you tap them – show a size for the app, plus Documents & Data. In some cases, that data is essential, but many apps cache files, taking up lots of space.
Second, there needs to be a way to purge this Other space when it is made up of orphaned files, which is what happens when syncs go bad. Requiring users to restore their devices each time there’s a problem is ridiculous.
You’ll read many suggestions of how to remove this Other storage on the web. Some of them may help – for example, deleting photos in Messages threads can save space – but most are simply wrong, because the Other balloons again shortly after you do whatever magical remedy is suggested.
Apple needs to fix this. It is annoying, it takes up a lot of precious space, and it forces people to restore their devices, something that takes a long time, and should only be the remedy of last resort.