A: I saw your article last week about reducing iCloud storage. It’s helpful as I’m in the same boat of losing my 20GB of free storage and having to trim things down. My problem though is that when I go into my settings, my iCloud backups is well over 5GB by itself, yet when I look at the stuff that’s being backed up, it just doesn’t add up to that number—I’ve cleaned out most of my camera roll, and only have a couple of apps with more than 100MB of data in them. Even if I turn everything OFF on that list, my backup is still saying it’s 3.5GB. Any ideas how I can trim this down further? Also, what happens if I don’t get this cut down before I lose my extra 20GB?
A: The likely reason for this discrepancy is that your iCloud backup actually includes some data that can’t be excluded and therefore doesn’t appear on this list. If you go into your Settings app and check under General, Usage you should see a list of the storage being used by all of the apps on your iPhone, including those that don’t appear on the iCloud
Unfortunately, this doesn’t tell the whole story either, as the listing here shows what’s actually on your device, much of which doesn’t get included in your iCloud backups at all. Your actual applications aren’t backed up to iCloud as they can be re-downloaded from the App Store; only your application data gets backed up. The same applies to your Music and Videos for much the same reasons. Photos & Camera here will also likely show a larger number as it includes your Photo Stream and any photos that have been synced on through iTunes—neither of which are backed up to iCloud either.
One section that does get backed up to iCloud and can grow particularly large, however, is your Messages data. While normal text messages don’t take up a lot of space, if you’ve been using iMessage to share photos and videos with your friends, this can add up quickly—particularly as iMessage sends and receives photos and videos in full resolution, and these remain in your Messages database unless you specifically delete them.
This database is backed up to iCloud, and factors into the sizes you see in your iCloud backup summary. There is no way to exclude this data, so if it’s become huge, your only option—other than paying for more iCloud storage space or switching to iTunes backups—is to clear our some of your old Messages conversations. The good news, however, is that there are a number of third-party tools you can use to archive your messages on your computer before removing them from your iPhone. eCamm’s PhoneView (Mac) and CopyTrans Contacts (Windows) are a couple of options worth checking out if you want to save your old messages offline.