Cramming Ten Pounds of Crap into a Five-Pound Bag
What most of us want in our iPhones is probably more storage space. There isn’t any. Unfortunately, the memory of an iPhone cannot yet be expanded. A possible solution is to upgrade to the iPhone 6, one version of which Apple offers with 128 GB of memory. However, high purchase costs aside, the iPhone 6 comes with a growing reputation of software and hardware problems. Bugs in Wi-Fi and internet connections (Kelly) have plagued the new iOS 8 software, and the phone itself, with a relatively fragile aluminum frame, can bend (Hilsentger) or catch fire (Servantes). The consensus seems to be that “the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are about half as durable as the previous generation in the Consumer Reports testing.
You’d think that would be the major headline. The new iPhone is not quite fifty percent weaker, but how often do you purchase a next-generation product that doesn’t hold up as well as the previous one?” (9To5Mac) Of course with every update—iOS 8.4 as of this writing— Apple claims to be fixing problems, but all they seem to be doing is trying ever harder to frustrate jailbreakers and exert more company control over their products.
Sometimes, people simply do not want to throw away a good thing just to upgrade or to get more memory. Eugene Kim notes a recent decrease in iPad sales. Perhaps it should not be such a surprise. A few new features of dubious value, extra pixels for photos and more gigabytes of storage space, along with easier ways to hand your money over to iTunes, isn`t enough for savvy consumers to buy a new iPhone every year that does the same as their old iPhone. Both Michael deAgonia and Karyne Levy make the point regarding their 1st Generation iPads. I, for one, intend to stick with my steel-framed, jailbroken iPhone 4s at iOS 7.1.2 and my iPad 1st Gen. with the larger, easy-reading screen even though the 32GB of memory in each device are not expandable. My movie, photo and ebook collections are expanding, however, which brings us back to the central issue.
The lack of an expandable memory chip in the iPhones and iPads is not really a unique Apple problem because even the removable microchips that work in Android phones have size limitations similar to those of the built-in iPhone and iPad memory chips. Of course, considering the larger than necessary pixel size of photos and the full-sized audio and video files (some at 1.8 GB) available on the iTunes Store and Google Play, the commercialism of the iDevices, Windows phones and Android phones deserve much of the blame. Blame and complaining do not really help. Reducing the problem of a shortage of space would help.
Drive cleaners (free and paid) are available that can reclaim space, albeit temporarily. Cydia apps such as iCleaner and CleanUpCrap do help somewhat in terms of space and speed, freeing up as much as two hundred megabytes at a time. Yet, jailbreaking, with its many great tweaks, does not produce more storage capacity on the drive. One cleaner that works for everyone is PhoneClean3, offered by iMobie, which does a good job on iPhones that are jailbroken or not, and it is available in PC and Mac versions. I have used PhoneClean3 Pro on a nonjailbroken iPhone 3GS and a jailbroken iPhone 4s with equal, albeit cautiously worded, success. Be sure to back-up everything before doing a cleaning. After running my first deep clean option with PhoneClean3, I saw that in the Photos app, all of my photos had been erased—cleaned—except for the Camera and Videos albums. Fortunately, I keep second and third copies of everything.
Aside from cleaners, streaming video apps such as YouTube, SexTube or Netflix can reduce the space problem, but a strong internet connection is necessary for uninterrupted viewing and with some of them, you have to actually download the video to watch it.
Storage servers like iCloud or Dropbox also provide relief. Dropbox is especially good because videos can be streamed without downloading, usually, and the app (for iOS 7.0 and above) can open just about anything, including audio files and PDF ebooks. In addition, some cloud storage servers are currently offering large amounts of free space—10 TB and more with a couple of the Chinese companies. However, some of us, myself included, do not entirely trust The Cloud for various reasons, and there remains the internet connection issue. Uploading has been reported as difficult and unreliable by some bloggers, and most cloud servers do not stream video, or don´t do it well.
Deleting duplicates, especially in photos (within folders, not between folders) and music will gain a bit of space—a very little bit in my experience. An obvious, and oft mentioned solution, is to back up material that is rarely used or not really necessary and then erase it from the phone. The unspoken response is that we pack-rats want that stuff handy even if we don’t look at it every day. How then can we cram more photographs, business PDF documents and entertainment media into the limited storage capacity of an iPhone’s drive? Even the whopping 128 GB of the iPhone 6 is ultimately limited.
Two fairly simple solutions exist for reclaiming memory storage space: one involves software, and one involves hardware. The software solution will give you a more efficient use of space. The hardware solution, to be covered in the next article, takes a bit of thinking outside the box, literally. Neither is terribly difficult. In recent years, the techs have written programs that are really user-friendly, but you will need a comfortable knowledge of computers, just above the drag-and-drop, Office, Facebook level of competence. Let’s start now with the software solution.
We will begin with several programs to be installed onto your computer. They are all good, clean, and reliable, but not the only options out there . . . and, no, I don’t work for any of the developers. If you have Windows 8 or 10 installed, or you are running an iOS of 8.2 or higher, jailbroken or not, check that the program is compatible: that it has been updated for your system. The following are Windows programs, but there are Macintosh versions or makes available.
As an aside: you can perform some of these operations directly on your iPhone with iFile or whatever, but the computer offers more flexibility. On the computer, what you do for one device, you do for all, essentially. That includes Android. The focus here is on iDevices, but the compression and conversion works equally well on Android phones and tablets. In fact, you won’t need the transfer programs with Android devices because you can simply stick your micro chip into a card reader and drop everything where you want it with Windows Explorer. I have installed the same audio files and music videos on my iPhone, my Android Alcatel, and my iPad, no problem.
To get started, download and install the following programs, or similar versions, onto your computer:
A couple of Transfer programs such as iMobie Photo Trans, Appandora, iFunbox, ImTOO iTransfer Platinum, or iSpirit. These are not the only ones available. Syncios also works well, for instance. I like Appandora because the interface is easier. None of them requires a jailbreak, although iSpirit is really designed for it. Nor are any hampered by a jailbreak. If you are running on a system lower than iOS 6, some of these programs will not be compatible. Get iTools instead, which works just as well, is free, and, in my experience, seems to be compatible with just about everything including, for instance, iOS 3.1.3.
Compression programs for audio, video and photos such as Advanced Audio Compressor, Advanced Video Compressor and ImageResizer. In addition, there is also a free app available in the iTunes Store called Video Compressor (iOS 7.0 and up) that compresses videos taken with the camera app. Apparently, it works on the fly, and so may be of some use if you take videos with your iPhone. Sébastien Page demonstrates an iOS app called Shrink My Pictures, available on the App Store. It is not free, but it looks like it may be worth a try. I just prefer to do this kind of work on the larger computer screen with enough space to see what I’m doing. Whichever way you swing, there are a lot of compression programs and apps out there to try.
Media conversion programs such as Calibre for ebooks, which is free; Wondershare Video Converter for videos; any preferred audio converter such as dBpoweramp CD Ripper, a sort of two-in-one program that works well; and any free image converter. You may wonder: Why Calibre for compression? There are thousands of public domain ebooks available for free download on the internet, and most, in my experience, are in PDF format. That’s fine, but Calibre can convert those to epub, a format that is usually smaller than PDF and a bit easier to handle for iBooks, at least on my iPad. Note that the current version of Calibre (2.32.0) is for Win 7 and 8 and is incompatible with Win XP. For XP, use version 1.48, available on their website.
Your favorite torrent client such as BitTorrent or a CD or DVD ripper such as dBpoweramp or Any DVD Cloner Platinum (the latter of which, in my experience, is very accurate and flexible, but also quite slow).
Any DVD Cloner Platinum
All of the above programs are easily located through Google or Yahoo Search with websites that include detailed descriptions and instructions. Most of them are free. All of them, in my opinion, are easier to work with than iTunes; although some of them, Appandora, for example, need iTunes to be installed (but not open) to work. And iTunes needs Quicktime to be installed first.
Follow the yellowbrick road . . .
Remember that these programs are for data storage compression and not data transmission compression, a different thing. Also, if you are a “good,” obedient citizen and purchase all of your media from the iTunes or Google Play stores (including music that you already bought on CDs or movies on DVDs and on cassettes and VHS tapes before that . . .), then only the transfer and compression programs will be necessary. You can transfer (export) your media from the iDevice to your computer, compress everything, and transfer it all back with similar results.
When you have all of the compression, conversion and transfer programs downloaded and installed, assemble the media that you want to compress, and store it in separate photo, audio and video folders through a backup to your computer, external drive or whatever. Here is where things get interesting.
Your best option is to convert everything into formats that your iPhone or iPad likes before (or during) compression. Although there is some flexibility, such as with the Media Player Pro and RockPlayer2 apps or the almost universally versatile .pdf format, those iDevice preferred formats are JPEG for photos, ePub or PDF for iDevice system ebooks, mp3 or ACC for audio and mp4 for video, specifically (H.264). Advanced Audio Compressor, Advanced Video Compressor and the rippers will usually do the conversions of those forms for you when you choose the right option. You can’t really compress ebooks, so let’s start with photos.
ImageResizer is a free program that, once installed, gives you a convenient right-click menu item in “Properties” called “Resize Photo.” The “Properties” option is at the bottom of the menu that appears when you right click on a photo. This might look a bit different, depending on the operating system you are using. Click on “Resize Photo,” and choose “Mobile” at 320X480 pixels. You can put all of your photos in one folder and batch compress them by highlighting them all with your finger held down on the left mouse button. Make sure to check “Replace Originals” (with them backed-up, of course). The size change in the photos is significant, especially with large collections. For example, my wife had 2,408 photos which took up 1.24 GB on her 8 GB iPhone 3GS. The photos reduced to a total of 476 MB with no noticeable loss in picture quality. Now move on to audio and video.
For video output, choose mp4 (H.264). Note that with the Advanced Compressors brand (both the audio and video), you have to actually compress something to be able to insert the serial number to activate the trial program. Pick a short song and music video; compress them, and a window pops up where you can click on the blue link to write in the serial and so eliminate the watermark or commercial subtitle.
These two programs also allow batch compression. Be advised that the video compression takes a while, hours, if you have a lot of movies and an older computer. You may want to let the program work overnight.
Don’t be afraid to push the size limits because the iPhone has very good graphics and a relatively strong sound system. The audio will be fine at 96 kbits/s, down from the original 112 or 128. For the video, choose the drop-down menu at “Video Frame Size.” I select 352X288 Smartphone, Portable Device. You will get a “Recommended Bitrate for This Frame Size.” Set the size at the lower 240-245 rate (212 works fine), which produces excellent picture quality on my iPhone. I set it a bit higher for my iPad at 380. You can adjust it to your own preference. Note how changing the frame size to make it more suitable to the iPhone or iPad screen changes the output file size. If you are a business professional or teacher who uses a projector for group presentations, note that the smaller size may reduce pixel quality on a large screen.
You may notice that some of the estimates for completed compression are actually larger than the originals because some video formats are smaller than mp4, and YouTube videos are already compressed. Accept the occasional larger sizes to get the mp4 format changes. Choose mp4 output for downloaded YouTube videos, and then leave them alone. You will find that overall your entire media collection will be about fifty to sixty percent smaller, giving you significant gains in storage space. I have a friend for whom I compressed twenty-five HD episodes of a television series—the entire first season—into 4.5 GB, an easy fit for his 16 GB iPod. The original size of all the video files was a cramped 10.7 GB.
Finally, use the transfer programs. Erase what you have in the media section of your iDevice (backed up, beforehand) and replace everything with your newly compressed media. Be careful of the photos. Back up all of them first. Delete what is in the folders and not the folders themselves, and remember that erasing the contents of the Gallery—the biggest one with a master copy of all of the photos—erases everything. Be careful if you have an iPad 1st Gen. It doesn´t have a camera, so its handling—or mishandling—of photos can get a bit weird. I purchased a used iPad, restored it to iOS 5.1.1, jailbroke it, and then installed the already resized photos with Appandora. I then created folders in the photo app on the iPad with no problems. The apps and ebooks won’t be compressed, but you can, for instance, and in my situation, get 1715 songs, 390 videos (including about 18 full-length movies), 805 photos, about 1000 ebooks and 61 apps onto a 32GB drive (iPhone or Android) with 7.3 GB still free.
Your results will depend on your personal preferences and on the material that you have stored in memory. If you are a music connoisseur and you have an equalizer installed, then you probably use one of the lossless formats like FLAC or Apple Lossless, in which case your files will be larger, and you may not want to compress them much. Compression to 96 or even 112 kbits/s may not suit you, despite the storage limits.
However, if you just want to listen to some Bon Jovi or old Stevie Wonder at a decent volume, then a high compression rate will work fine. With quality headphones, I have found that 96 kbits/s is adequate for my Alcatel Pop3 Android and produces more than enough volume for my iPhone 4s for both audio and video files, especially with good headphones. I have played compressed and uncompressed mp3 files of the same song for people, all of whom said, “They sound the same.”
If you do notice lowered volume and find it unsatisfactory in audio or video (as I did on my iPad), but you still need to save the space, there is an effective way to compensate on jailbroken devices. The techs at iJailbreak.com have outlined a clear process to change the values in the RegionalVolumeLimits.plist. I won´t get into the details here because it would be a bit of a Shandy-ish digression, more because the .plist is in different places depending on your iOS; but I can say that the process worked well on my iPad 1St Gen. iOS 5.1.1. Note: the writer suggests setting the values at 25. I did notice a difference at 25, but I liked the difference at 40, with no distortion on my iPad using Groove, RushPlayer+ (from Cydia) and RockPlayer2. Also, read the comments after the article because some of the bloggers clarify the location of the .plist file in different systems. That is how I found mine. They are not all in the same place in /system/library/PrivateFrameworks, as stated in the article. If you have no idea what all this means, then read the iJailbreak.com article and spend an hour with our good friend Google. There are a lot of nice, helpful people out there.
Regarding music formats, Whitson Gordon says, “In general, we recommend using MP3 or AAC. They’re compatible with nearly every player out there, and both are indistinguishable from the original source if encoded at a high bitrate.” Higher bitrates take up more space, so some compromise may be in order. That is where jailbreaking helps. Messing with the RegionalVolumeLimits.plist is completely independent from choosing audio formats or media players, so don´t worry about that. The best compromise I have found is to reduce the audio bitrate to 96 on compression and set all of the Property List Viewer values of the RegionalVolumeLimits.plist at 40.
As you can see from the current state of my iPhone 4s, I have done okay in space efficiency. And those stats don´t include the 1,500 ebooks and comics that I have installed.
Space or storage saving results on any iPhone or iPad depend on installed programs as well as media. If you are into the bigger games like Call of Duty at 301 MB or office apps like Pages at 206 MB, then your luck may not be as good. Consider smaller versions. For example, Polaris office requires only 76 MB, and, for my purposes, it works just as well as the others. Best of all, it is free. In terms of the big games, take a cultured look at the classics. Try Space Invaders or learn to play chess. However, I understand if you can´t give up the high end games; my iPad is primarily for reading, and I haven’t yet found a way to compress ebooks, so I am kind of stuck in that regard.
Don’t forget to review the system requirements as well as the size when choosing an iPhone or iPad app. Some require at least iOS 7.x, or won’t work with iOS 7.1.2, 8.4 or the 64-bit systems in iPhone 5s and 6. Usually Cydia or the App Store just won´t let you download it if it won´t work, but don´t rely on that. Similar limitations probably apply to Android as well.
When finished, disconnect your device, reboot—or at least respring—and check your work in Settings/General/About on the iPhone/iPad or System Settings/Storage on an Android phone or tablet. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised. Try to leave space for more stuff, and, in addition, reserve about twenty percent of the drive empty to keep your device running fast.
That should put some more useful life into your “old” iPhone 3, 3GS, iPad 1st Generation, iPhone 4, 4s or iPhone 5.