Don’t use Google Photos’ “Free Up Space” command on iPhone unless you know this.

There are 2 special considerations on iOS: your photos will also be deleted from iCloud, and the space is not released until you go in to Apple Photos and clean out the recently deleted album.

First of all, what is Google Photos “Free Up Space”

When your phone is getting full, odds are that photos/videos are a big part of the problem. If you could clear all the photos and videos off your phone, you’d have a lot more space! That’s exactly what google Photos “Free Up Space” does. After it confirms that all your photos/videos are in the Google Photos cloud, it erases them from the phone. When you use the Google Photos app, you’ll never miss them because you’re looking at the cloud and all your photos are there.

This works brilliantly on android – see video 739.GP-Free up space on Android. It also works on iPhone but with 2 concerns.

1. Free Up Space will result in deleting all iCloud Photos

If you have iCloud Photos turned on for your iPhone, it’s job is to keep the cloud and the phone in sync. So, when Google Photos erases the photos/videos from the phone, iCloud notices that and deletes them from iCloud. If that’s not what you want, you need to turn iCloud Photos OFF. You do that in Settings, Photos, iCloud Photos, then “Remove from Phone” if prompted.

You need to leave iCloud Photos off then. If you turn it back on all the photos/videos will be back on your phone and some may even be re-uploaded to Google Photos – what a mess.

2. Space is not released until you do this

On the iPhone, any photos/videos deleted from the device will be placed in an album called “Recently Deleted.” That’s like a recycle bin. They will stay there for 30 days before being deleted. If you want to free up the space right away, you need to manually empty that album.

  • On your iPhone, open the native Apple Photos app (icon above)
  • Tap “Albums” button at bottom
  • Scroll down till you see Recently Deleted
  • You should now be seeing all the deleted photos, Tap on Select at top right
  • Now tap on Delete All at the bottom

If you do all this, you should now notice a difference in your iPhone Storage

  • Settings
  • General
  • iPhone Storage

More info on cleaning up phone – Episode 263 of Button Show


One reply

  1. Wow! Thank you, MrsGeek, for clearly explaining this tricky, not straightforward stuff. ! I think it’s VERY important, especially for iPhone users like myself, to understand the (likely) unintended consequences of falling for the iOS Google Photos app innocent overtures to “Free up space,” which sound harmless enough and things that one ought to do, like throwing out the trash. However, this “ploy,” if you fall for it, leaves you WITHOUT your iCloud backup of all your photos AND without ANY photos left on your phone!!!!! What a terrible position to be in, if that’s not what you wanted!!! If you fall for it, then your ONLY remaining place to look at your photos is at Google Photos in the cloud, and then Google really OWNS your photos so you must bow down to them. I say DON’T DO IT! The whole reason I installed Google Photos app on my iPhone was to give me a backup in case the entire Apple iCloud ecosystem dies. Also, people might and do share photos with me through Google Photos that WON’T be in my Apple photo library so it’s good to keep BOTH Apple iCloud AND Google Photos, IMHO. When you’re treading between two different ecosystems, each one wants you to reject the other and join them 100%. Pretty disgusting, as they make it very confusing if you want to utiliize BOTH ecosystems in tandem, as I do.

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