Warning: iOS Mail Blocks Access on iPhone with Full Storage
Just about every iPhone I know is perpetually full and constantly battling the various storage error messages, and yes mine is included in that group. Typically the nuisance of having full iPhone storage is limited to not being able to take anymore pictures (you can use a screwy workaround to snap a few more photos if you’re in a pinch, by the way), but with modern versions of iOS things go even further: you’ll get locked out of Mail app on a full iPhone as well, preventing the user from being able to check email or use the email app at all.
Being locked out of Mail app on a full iPhone with no storage available is not a subtle experience. You go to open Mail and you get an error message saying “Storage Almost Full – To use Mail, free up storage space by deleting unused apps or files, and then try again” which then directs you to the Settings app. Here is what this looks like if you have not seen it before (or just fill up your iPhone and try to use Mail, you’ll see it):
If you do tap on “Settings” you’ll end up in the Storage section of Settings, which is likely to show you that you have 0 bytes available, whatever the size of your iPhone is. Perhaps what is most frustrating about this is once you’re in the Storage section of iOS Settings you’ll likely see many apps with exorbitantly bloated Documents and Data on the iPhone which usually have to be deleted manually through a cumbersome process of deleting the app and re-downloading it again. That basically means if some apps have poor cache, data, or document handling, you may lose access to your email on your iOS device for a while until you delete some apps or find some other way to free up storage space.
Remember, you can completely avoid this situation by always leaving some storage space available on your iPhone or iPad. The devices require free space to run optimally and to work as intended. That’s largely the point of this article, to remind users to try and maintain some free storage to avoid situations like this.
But, if you’re like many iPhone users and do have a full storage device and if you end up in this situation with an inability to access Mail app in iOS because of the “Storage Almost Full” error, you need to try and free up some storage space to regain access to Mail app. You can attempt any of the following to accomplish this:
- Uninstall apps and games from iPhone that you no longer use, this is likely the fastest way to regain Mail access if you have some old apps laying around
- Delete huge “Documents and Data” bloat by trashing and re-downloading apps on the iPhone
- Delete old Message threads which often have a lot of pictures or videos lingering around
- Tackle and remove the “Other” storage on the iPhone which typically requires a backup and complete device restore to achieve with any degree of success
- Bulk delete photos from iPhone to free up space, be sure to backup the pictures you care about first though
- Delete all music from the iPhone or iPad to free up some space
- If none of the above are possible, try to forcibly initiate the app “Cleaning” process in iOS by having an apps cache grow considerably, which can sometimes be accomplished by heavy usage of apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Maps
If you continue to ignore the Mail “Storage Almost Full” message on an iPhone, things get even more questionable, because not only will you be locked out of Mail app but iOS actually deletes all emails stored on the iPhone. With IMAP that isn’t much of a problem since the emails will just download again from the mail server when there is space free, but you can see the potential for trouble is there. And if you wait even longer then that, Mail app becomes inaccessible completely and just crashes instantly on launch as demonstrated in this video:
Not the greatest experience, right?
Avoid this entire situation by running your iPhone (or iPad) with a notable amount of free storage space available.
And if you find your iPhone has mysteriously eaten up all of its storage without any sense, don’t neglect removing the great big black hole of the “Other” space that you’ll often see in iTunes. It can take up an inordinate amount of storage and typically restoring a device is sufficient to regain the space, suggesting “Other” is predominantly cache and other junk which won’t be missed.
Anyway, the lesson is quite clear here: do your best to have free storage space available on your iPhone or iPad. And if you routinely run out of storage space, consider upgrading to a larger storage size iPhone the next time around.