Sunday, May 17, 2015 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Phantom iPhone “Photo Library” Storage Usage

My iPhone has been nearly full for a while now, and I’m in the process of switching away from Apple’s photo ecosystem, so I have been deactivating various features to free up space. I stopped syncing photos from iTunes to the phone. I deleted shared iCloud photo albums. I turned off Photo Stream. I emptied the Camera Roll using Image Capture. I deleted the contents of the Recently Deleted album. I deleted the contents of Photo Stream from Aperture.

At this point, I expected Settings ‣ General ‣ Usage ‣ Manage Storage to show very little spaced used by Photos & Camera. In fact, it was still using lots of space, second only to Overcast. Shared Photo Stream and Synced from iTunes Library were close to zero, but Photo Library was using lots of space, even though there were no photos shown in the Photos app.

Rebooting the phone did not help. For a third-party app, I could have cleared the data by uninstalling and reinstalling the app, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to do this for the built-in apps. Resetting the entire phone and restoring from a backup did not help.

I found several threads in Apple’s forums about this issue. An intriguing suggestion was to set the phone’s date to the past in order to make old photos reappear in the Recently Deleted album and thus be available for deletion. This didn’t help either.

I ended up looking around using PhoneView (which still works for photo data) and found two major consumers of space:

Since I no longer needed any photo data on the phone or in iCloud, it seemed safe to delete these files. Indeed, that seems to have gotten rid of the phantom Photo Library usage. My phone now has a comfortable amount of free space.

7 Comments

Jonathan Lundell

A brute-force solution that seems to work generally (I used it for a similar problem with my music library) is to restore after a factory reset (best with an encrypted iTunes backup).

Isn't manually editing the Windows Registry usually the easiest way around these problems?

I would look forward to a post explaining why you’re moving away from Apple’s photo ecosystem.

@Jonathan Do you mean erasing and restoring, or is there something else that “factory reset” implies? I’m pretty sure that I have done that (after the dates of the photo files that I found with PhoneView) and it didn’t work, but I have not done so recently because it’s a pain for apps like Overcast that don’t back everything up.

@Matt It’s simply that Photos is currently very far from what I want, and I doubt that it will ever be anything like Aperture. So my plan is to put new photos in Lightroom and keep Aperture around, while it still works, so that I can migrate the old photos in a year or two when the tools for doing that are more mature.

"I would look forward to a post explaining why you’re moving away from Apple’s photo ecosystem."

Obviously, Michael has his own reasons. But I'll offer a couple:

Reason #137 is covered in Michael's post today.

Reason #1 is to never use Apple applications that lock-in user data when you can possibly avoid them.

@Chucky Yes, #1 is something that I was aware of and considered when starting to use Aperture but perhaps made the wrong call. At the time, my thinking was that Aperture was so good compared to the other options, and I thought Apple would be more respectful of data because it was a pro app.

Jonathan Lundell

@Michael, yes, I suppose that's what I mean. I haven't tried it for your problem, though. And yes, it's a PITA and time consuming to boot.

(I recently turned on iTunes Match, and now my phone has a lot of duplicates in playlists. If I delete one, they both go away... Good times!)

Photos is disappointing. I really hate the thought of migrating to Lightroom, though. I may hold out to see whether it improves, though no, it does not seem destined to be an Aperture replacement. At this point I'd settle for an iPhoto replacement, though.

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