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How To Survive Using An Old Android Phone With No Internal Memory

By Angela Alcorn2013-08-28

Not enough internal memory error. Phone has stopped syncing automatically. Can’t install any new apps. Does this sound like your phone?

What do you do to maintain your sanity when you realise that your choice of phones was very poor indeed? Well, besides wishing for an excuse to get a new phone, there are a few tricks you can use.

The Problem Is A SEVERE Lack Of Internal Storage

I’ve read numerous articles on how to free up space on your Android phone, and each of them made me laugh in a hollow, bitter kind of way. If you look at how much free space these authors have left on their phone, it’s more than mine started with in the first place – before the OS was installed! And after my service provider thoughtfully added a bit of annoying bloatware, what’s left is what most regular Android users would call an emergency in the space department. This is the problem all HTC Desire users face, for instance, and no doubt the owners of a few other phones too.

Why is this? Well, the HTC Desire, comes with a total of 512MB internal memory, most of which is used by the Android OS. What’s left is a usable portion of about 147MB for your contacts, all apps that can’t go on the SD card, and the parts of apps that get left on the internal memory (even though you’ve moved it to the SD card). It’s a nightmare. Supposedly the phone needs 100MB clear to run well, but I’ve never ever had that much thanks to bloatware and standard-issue Google apps. What’s certain is that after you’re down to 16MB the phone will stop syncing and you’ll be unable to install anything else.

Rooting Your Phone & Getting Rid Of Bloatware Isn’t Enough

Yes, you could root your phone and freeze the bloatware with Titanium, but sadly that will not actually free up the space and deleting the apps is NOT recommended. The safest way to remove the bloatware completely is to get a custom ROM. You can also use a bunch of great apps to free up storage space wherever possible (provided you can fit those apps on the phone).

What’s clear is that none of the fixes recommended by regular Android users come close to solving the day-to-day issues faced by the users of phones with limited internal memory.

Do Not Sync Contacts With Facebook Or Other Apps

Syncing contacts with the Facebook app means that your contacts storage will take up a LOT more space. In fact, don’t use the Facebook app at all. It’s huge.

Do, however, sync your contacts to Google. This means that if you ever need to free up 5-10MB quickly you can just delete that data and re-sync it later. This can be really handy, trust me!

Use The Smallest Version Of All Apps & Install On SD Where Possible

I personally seek out the smallest functional app for any task I want to be able to perform. For instance, replace Facebook with TinFoil or some other space-saving Facebook alternative. Thankfully, almost every app has an alternative in the Google Play store. Search around and you will find plenty. Also, using an app like App Monster or App2SD will let you know quickly if an app you’ve installed is able to be moved to the SD card.

Revert Back To Original Releases Of Stock Apps

Have you noticed that the Google apps themselves are the main culprit when it comes to hogging your precious internal memory? They just get bigger and bigger with every update, can’t be moved to SD and can’t be deleted. This is a real pain if you don’t even want to use them. Thankfully, it is possible to revert to the original version by “Deleting” the app. It won’t actually delete it, but it will uninstall the update and take you back to the version you started with, which is undoubtably smaller. You’ll need to un-check automatic updating for these apps in the Google Play store or it will just fetch them again for you.

I actually go so far as to uninstall Google Play and the Google Play Services app too (this saves you a good 20MB in space). This means that when I do need to install an app, I open the Android Marketplace app, it automatically updates to Google Play, then I have to quickly stop the automatic updating of all the Google apps and hope that the app I want successfully installs itself before the Google Play Services app gets installed. Then I quickly delete the Google Play app etc. all over again.

Keep Uninstalled Apps On Your SD

It’s one thing to install your apps on the SD card, but since they often leave a footprint on the internal storage, it isn’t always possible to leave them installed. If you use an app like App Monster or Titanium, you can back up the apps you install to SD, delete them when you need space and re-install them when you need to use them.

What follows is a merry-go-round of installing apps, using them for a while, then deleting them so that you can use other things. But just knowing they are on the SD card, ready and waiting, means that you can install them without needing Internet access, without having to recall the name of the app and without having to re-install the Google Play app.


If you’ve rooted your phone and you understand a bit about what you’re doing, you could try using Link2SD to create symbolic links to your SD card. Essentially, you’re tricking your phone into thinking things are still installed internally when they’re actually on the SD card. This means you can even get widgets to work on apps that are installed on your SD card.

Just Get A New Phone

The fact of the matter is that apps keep getting bigger, the footprint on the internal memory keeps getting bigger and that no-one hears our cries because most of the new phones have plenty of internal storage. If you are suffering from these problems, you will also never see Ice Cream Sandwich on your phone (because it won’t fit), nor any other upgrade to the Android OS. Eventually, you’re just going to have to hope your dog eats your phone and gives you a good excuse to upgrade. But until then, I hope this guide helps you. Also, you may want to check out how to fix up some other annoying Android issues.

I’ve named and shamed the HTC Desire for having a severe lack of internal storage. Which phone is causing your nightmare? How much internal storage do you have?

Image Credit: HTC Desire by John.Karakatsanis, on Flickr


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