Making 1,480 + 323 = 890
I was a bit surprised to learn that a tablet I recently bought had just 1GB (0.89GB, actually) in which to store apps. Worse, a bug in Android meant that sometimes apps wouldn't install even when there was sufficient room.
Well, I wasn't going to let those two limitations stop me from installing all the apps I wanted and needed, so I researched solutions, and now have more than 1GB worth of apps running on the tablet.
Here are seven ways to go beyond the 1GB limit. I used these techniques to install 1.5GB worth of apps on this tablet, yet have 323MB of internal memory still free. Figure 1 shows what the home screen looks like (SD storage = USB storage, in this case). Below, I listed the techniques in increasing technical proficiency.
But first, a summary of the places in which Android can store stuff:
- Internal storage
Ranges form 512MB to 4GB, depending on the design of the tablet
Stores apps and their data, normally
- USB storage
Ranges from 4GB to 32GB, but most commonly 8GB-16GB
Stores songs, movies, photos, and other large files
(Internal storage is taken from this USB storage)
- SD storage
Available only if the tablet has a microSD slot
Usually limited to a maximum of 32GB or 64GB
Also for storing songs, movies, photos, etc
- External USB
Available only if the tablet supports OTG (on-the-go) USB
Accesses USB thumbdrives, external hard drives, and so on
When I write tablet, I also mean Android phones. iPad users are invited to read along with envy at the flexibility we Android users enjoy.
How to See the Storage Summary:
1. On your Android tablet, tap Settings
2. Tap Storage
3. Wait for Android to work out an analysis of the storage
4. Scroll down to see the full list (see Figure 2.)
Move Apps to USB Storage
A portion of some apps can be moved to "USB storage." This is the odd name that Android gives to the part of the phone's memory where things like movies and songs are stored. This area typically is 8GB or 16GB in size.
Moving apps to USB storage frees up space from that precious 1GB space. There are two catches, however: (1) not all apps can be moved; in fact, most cannot. (2) only part of an app is moved, because Android needs a stub in that main 1GB memory to access the part of the program that's been relocated.
How to Move Apps to USB Storage:
1. Tap Settings, then tap Apps
2. Drag your finger across the screen until you see the "USB Storage"
3. If apps are listed there, then tap the first one without a check mark; see figure 3.
4. In the App Info screen, tap Move to USB Storage. See figure 4.
5. Wait patiently, for the transfer process is slow and can take up to a minute
6. Repeat steps #3 to #5 for each app.
When you later install more apps, return to to this screen to check if they can be moved to USB memory.
Clear the Cache
Sometimes, there is enough memory to run an app, but not enough to do the initial installation. To temporarily create more space, clear the cache. The cache contains temporary data that apps store on your phone so that they don't have to keep downloading it over the Internet. Clearing the cache does not destroy any information important to you, and so can be done safely.
How to Clear the Cache:
1. Tap Settings, then tap Storage
2. Wait for your tablet to analyze the storage categories.
3. Tap Cached Data.
4. You are asked, "This will clear cached data for all apps". Tap OK. See figure 5.
5. Now return to installing the app.
As you use the tablet, the cache will increase again, and so you may have to clear it again to install another app.
Look for Apps with Lower RAM Equivalents
Some apps are efficient when it comes to the amount of storage they require, while others are memory hogs. When your tablet won't install an app, look on Google Play Store for another one that takes less memory. The store lists the memory requirements for each app, although it can be a pain finding alternatives and checking each one by one.
Here are a couple of examples of apps with different storage requirements. See figure 6.
Google's Chrome browser comes in three versions:
The Dev one is the most exciting, because it comes with latest bang-wiz functions, like reading mode, and so I normally install it on my Android devices. But it takes up 1.12x more storage than the regular version, and so on this memory-starved tablet I installed the regular version.
Microsoft's Word for Android is one of the worst memory hogs I've ever seen (excluding Cardboard), taking up 104MB of storage. A better alternative is OfficeSuite, which takes up just 40MB while giving you the functions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint combined, along with a PDF editor thrown in for good measure -- all in 2.6x less space.
Employ Web Versions of Apps
Some companies provide Web versions of their apps. Examples include Twitter, Facebook, GMail, and Google Drive. (This is how smartphones running FirefoxOS work: all apps are Web apps.)
The advantage of Web apps is that there is nothing to install and so they take up no storage space. The disadvantage is that they tend to have fewer options than native apps (apps written for Android).
How to Install Web Apps:
1. In the browser, go to the Web site of Twitter, GMail, or etc.
2. From the menu, choose Add to Home Screen; see Figure 7.
3. Notice that an icon for the site appears on the home page of your tablet; see figure 1 above.
4. Tap the icon, and the "app" starts to run.
Root, and Remove Stock Apps
So, those were four non-scary ways to cram more apps into a memory-limited tablet. Now, onto the scary step of rooting your Android tablet. "Scary," because rooting doesn't always work (so you'll be disappointed) and because sometimes rooting will brick your tablet (and so you'll be super disappointed, as well as out-of-pocket). "Brick" means the tablet no longer works.
"Rooting" means that safeguards against tampering with the most crucial parts of Android are removed. The word comes from "root access," in which a human has all control over a computing machine. Heh: on Windows, every user has root access, which is why the "rooting" word is usually only heard around things like smartphones.
("Rooting" is not to be confused with "unlocking." Many smartphones are locked to one specific carrier and in some cases to one geographic area. Unlocking a phone -- or buying an unlocked phone -- lets us use them with any cell phone provider around the world.)
How to Root Your Tablet:
1. On your Windows computer, go to the http://superuser.kingoapp.com Web site, and download the KingoUser software.
2. Install the software on your Windows computer, and then launch it.
3. Follow its instructions, which will include things like connecting your tablet to the computer, turning on USB Debugging mode, and perhaps turning the tablet of and off.
4. If your tablet is successfully rooted, the program will also install its KingoUser app on your tablet. You use it to remove stock apps. (See figure 8.)
If KingoUser is a success, then send them a $10 donation, please.
Keep the KingoUser app on your tablet, because now that the tablet is rooted, it is more vulnerable to malicious -- and accidental -- destruction. Any time an app tries to access the forbidden areas of Android, the KingoUser will ask you if that's OK. (See figure 9.) It is, when you are familiar with the app.
Now that the tablet is rooted, you can remove apps that the vendor installed but you never use. On tablets I buy through eBay from China, these would be ones specific to the Chinese market that I have no use for -- let alone can read.
Root, and Move Even More Apps to USB Storage
When your tablet is rooted, then you can move even more apps to USB storage. To do so, you need a different app. I happen to use System App Remover Pro.
How to Move More Apps to USB Storage:
1. From the Google Play Store, download and install System App Remover (free), which is named "Uninstall" after it is installed, oddly enough.
2. Run Uninstall. It will require approval from KingoUser for root access.
3. Tap the menu button, and then choose Move to SDcard; what it calls "SD" is actually USB storage.
4. Notice the list of apps that can be moved. It might be a half-dozen or so. See figure 10.
5. Select the first app, and then tap Move. Even though it looks like you could, you cannot move more than one app at a time.
6. Wait for a half-minute for the transfer to take place, and then repeat step #5.
(If any app does not work after being moved to USB storage, then move it back to main storage.) If System App Remover works for you, I encourage you to pay the developer by buying his Pro version for $2.
Unroot, and Install
In one case, I found that an app (Kobo ebook reader) would not install because my tablet was rooted. During installation, I saw an "unknown error" message with code -21. This means that existing files were preventing the app from installing.
It turns out the solution is to unroot the tablet, install the app, and then reroot it. Use KingoUser to unroot and reroot the tablet.
- - -
And so that's how I installed 1,480MB worth of apps in what looks like just 585MB of internal storage. See figure 11.