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“My phone has run out of room. What to do?” Our guide to the options.

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Getting that dreaded “out of space” message on your smartphone? USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham has three cloud suggestions.
Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY, USA TODAY

LOS ANGELES — We’ve all had it happen. You reach over to get another photo on your phone, and up comes the dreaded message — you have run out of storage. What to do?

Talking Tech is here to help. 

You can’t expand the memory on iPhones without buying a new phone, and while that option is available for many Android models, the upshot is that the easiest, best, safest and most affordable option for most is subscribing to the cloud, with external storage.

Apple’s iCloud, Google One and Dropbox are three of the most popular choices, in the $100 yearly range, while Amazon’s Cloud Drive is the most affordable option at $60 a year for 1 terabyte of storage. Backblaze is even lower priced at $50 a year and has more liberal terms, but access to the files isn’t as drop-dead simple as with the others. 

And nothing beats the pricing on an external hard drive. You could pick up a 4 TB drive from many manufacturers, including Western Digital, LaCie and others, for around $100. But unlike cloud storage, it won’t have multiple backups, or be copied automatically. Additionally, it’s not a question of if a drive will fail, it’s when. They don’t last forever. Online storage is more reliable. 

 

(One solution, the iXpand drive from Sandisk is great — but very costly. This drive fits right into the Lightning port of the phone and backs up photos. A 32 GB model costs $36, while you’ll pay as much as $175 for the 256 GB version. You can do better with cloud storage.)

Let’s take a look at options: 

 

iCloud

For iPhone users, you know all about iCloud, since it’s pushed so heavily at you, usually with a nag message every morning saying that we’ve run out of room, whether that’s true or not.

iCloud starts with a free 5 GB of storage, which is enough for about a week or two for most people. This really comes home on entry level phones with 16 or 32 GB of storage, which just doesn’t work anymore in 2018, when we constantly snap 2 megabyte photos and hefty 4K video files.

Since iPhones can’t be expanded, you turn to storage. iCloud starts at $1 a month for 50 GB, or 200 GB for $3 monthly. But selfie alert–even 200 GB won’t get you very far. You will run out of room. Apple charges $10 monthly for 2 TB, which is competitive with Google, and twice the amount of comparable storage for what Dropbox charges.

Pro: iCloud is the Best choice for Apple users

Con: It’s hard to remember whether your photo is on the phone or in the cloud. You’ll need to go on the web or via the little used Files app on the phone. 

 

GOOGLE ONE

Google just changed its pricing structure and has matched Apple’s terms, with 200 GB for $3 monthly or 2 TB for $10 monthly. Accounts begin with a free 15 GB of storage.

Pro: Google now offers phone support for members, a perk others don’t match and lets up to five family members share the storage. 

Con: You won’t be able to easily find your files on mobile. 

DROPBOX

Dropbox has long been a popular option and easy to use, but it’s more expensive and less generous than Apple or Google, with a flat rate of $99 yearly for 1 TB of space. (Accounts begin with 2 GB of free storage.) Fans are encouraged to tell others about the service and get them to sign up to earn extra storage space, at 500 megabytes per referral. 

Pro: Dropbox is really easy to use and find your files — easier, simpler and more reliable than the others.

Con: More expensive than rivals.

 

Amazon Drive

The service, which at one point offered unlimited storage for $59.99 yearly, now charges the same rate for 1 TB of storage, with a caveat — all photos are free for members of the Amazon Prime expedited shipping and entertainment service. 

Amazon begins with 5 GB of free storage (not including photos) and also offers a 100 GB plan for $12 yearly. 

Pro: If you take a lot of photos and go to the bother of backing them up, the price can’t be beat. 

Con: Amazon has changed the name and terms of its service several times, so what you sign up for today could be something else in a month or so. Additionally, backing up isn’t as seamless as with the others. 

 

Microsoft OneDrive

The Windows maker offers 5 GB of free storage, rising to $1.99 for 50 GBs or $69.99 yearly for 1 TB of storage. 

Pro: Competitive pricing, and companion app. 

Con: It’s Microsoft software, so interacting with it will take several more steps than with others. 

 

Google Photos

Finally, don’t forget that the Google Photos app backs up all your smartphone photos for free, at slightly lower quality, and for most of our readers is probably the best option. It’s certainly the cheapest.

 

Which service do you use? Let’s chat about it on Twitter, where I’m @jeffersongraham

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