Friday, October 7, 2022

Showing the Amount of Free Space on iOS

Kyle Howells:

Got tired of iOS lying about the free space so finally just built a 1 screen app to show the real free space available. Probably no way I can actually get this in the AppStore though.

He makes the code available here.

I really wish this info was actually exposed in the settings app.

I’m so tired of explaining to friends and family why their phone is telling them they don’t have enough free space to accept an airdrop of some photos and videos; while also saying they have 200+GB of free space.

Kyle Howells:

Apple doesn’t count anything “purge-able” as actually existing. So local iCloud Photo Library caches don’t count, iCloud document caches don’t count.

So Settings will say 200GB free, but if I AirDrop you a 2GB file it might fail saying you don’t have enough free space.

Same with copying a file via the Files app from a USB stick. It’ll fail unless your true free space is enough for it, despite Settings app saying you have “up to 200GB we could clear if we need it”.

So you might actually benefit from more space than you think, even with iCloud.


The only way to get more “real free space” I found to copy files onto my device was to run the camera to record video at max settings for 10mins. Then Delete and Delete from Recently Deleted. That would free a chunk of “real free space”.


6 Comments RSS · Twitter

Huh, macOS has a very similar problem where it lies to you about the amount of space that's available.

It's hard to think of a better example than this for demonstrating how Apple from before was better than the Apple we get now. This is a nice little microcosm of Apple's more recent shittiness.

Back in the day, your system always reliably told you how much space was left. This is one of the most basic things a filesystem can do and was a solved problem with no reason to change it or try to improve it.

Now for no god damned reason Apple thinks the OS needs to lie to you. On the macOS side of things I recall they're lying because things like APFS snapshots are taking up space, but they think they don't need to report it as part of used disk space because everything gets "magically" handled behind the scenes, with snapshots being removed automatically when space is needed. But of course that's bull and it doesn't work like that at all. Your system will routinely run out of space, provide no good way to free things up manually, and then has the gall to lie to you about it, leaving you in a confusing mess. I'm guessing it's the same sort of stupid, misguided garbage happening on iOS.

"Now for no god damned reason Apple thinks the OS needs to lie to you"

I'm pretty sure the reason is support calls from people who complain that iOS has filled up all the space on their iPhones despite them barely having any actual data on it. Apple's solution is to just pretend all of that cache data doesn't exist. Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo, no more support calls for that particular problem, OKR achieved.

The support calls caused as a side effect of hiding that information are, of course, an entirely separate concern that is completely unrelated to this original problem.

A GUI for Mac would be great. Also for iOS.

@Plume You are technically correct, the best kind of correct, and I should amend my statement to be "for no *good* god damned reason" or something to that effect.

I was originally going to post the exact same thing!!!! "Didn't recent versions of Mac OS also have problems with its ability to display proper space use of the filesystem," which you astutely confirmed and I completely agree, why would I ever want my device to lie to me about how much space is left? If anything, the lie should underestimate free space. I would rather actually have more space than less, but my true preference being accurately reporting how much free space is actually present of course.

This is stupidly weird and cannot fathom what engineer at Apple said, "Yeah, this seems like the best practice, systems that cannot show truthful drive capacity information." I am actually thankful I am not the only person peeved by the behavior.

Another facet of this is that both iOS and MacOS do a maddening job of providing a breakdown of how space is used. Some things are just plain wrong and a lot of people have trouble with "System" or "Other" being enormous and having know way of knowing what's actually contained in that category.

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