What does ‘Other’ mean in your device storage? Dealing with the dark matter of iPhone and iPad data

“Other” can be a five-letter word of doom to iPhone and iPad users. Those who can’t install software patches on their devices with maxed-out storage blame that amorphous foe.

In that context, “Other” – to see it, open the Settings app, choose General and then either “iPhone Storage” or “iPad Storage” – functions as a catch-all villain.

Apple defines it as “caches, logs and other resources currently in use by the system.” In practice it often becomes a barrier to installing such patches as the two security fixes Apple shipped in March.

“In theory it should manage itself, but as we both know, it doesn’t do a great job,” emailed Josh Centers, managing editor of the longtime Apple newsletter Tidbits and author of the book “Take Control of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14.”

On an iPhone SE and an iPad mini 5, each with 64 GB of storage, “Other” took up more room than Apple’s system files: just under 7 GB for System on each device, around 8 GB for Other. (Except for when the iPad briefly showed Other topping 29 GB.)

Those totals dwarf any one app, although if only a gigabyte stands in the way of a patch addressing an “actively exploited” vulnerability, you’ll do better using Apple’s option to offload an app while keeping its data and settings. To use that, tap an app’s item in the storage list and select “Offload App.”

Some apps also let you delete specific files within that interface. For example, Apple’s Podcasts app’s entry in the storage list includes shortcuts to erase every episode of a podcast.

There’s not, however, any way to delete caches of individual apps as you can in Android’s Settings app or to dump temporary files all at once as you can with Google’s Files app.

To clear out Other all at once – which may be more necessary on an older iPhone or iPad with little storage to spare – you’ll need to back up and restore your device. Moving all of your data off the phone or tablet, erasing it and then moving it back zeroes out Other, if only temporarily…Read more>>


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