Deleting Emails: Frees Up Phone Space?

Here’s how deleting emails frees up space on your phone:

Deleting an email will, in a literal sense, free up space on your phone, but it might not be a practical thing to do.

Typical emails use up very little data, so on average, you have to delete thousands of emails before you will see a big difference in data usage.

There are exceptions depending on what is in the emails.

So if you want to learn all about how emails use up space on your phone exactly, then this article is for you.

Let’s jump into it!

Deleting Emails: Frees Up Phone Space? (All the Info)

How Much Phone Space Do Emails Use? (4 Factors)

As I just said, technically speaking, deleting emails does free up space on your phone.

In a practical sense, deleting emails might not make a meaningful difference in your phone’s overall data storage.

The easiest way to understand this is to look at how much data emails use.

A typical email is not a data-hungry thing, so you can have thousands of emails without it really impacting your overall storage.

But, some emails use a lot more data than average, and it really has to do with the contents of the email.

So, let’s break it all down piece by piece.

#1 Text

The vast majority of email content is text.

We write emails after all.

And while emails can contain all kinds of information and content, written word is what shows up far more than anything else.

Whether your email is strictly for work, for dealing with junk mail and internet accounts, or for personal correspondence, you’re going to see more text than anything else.

This is why emails don’t take up very much space.

As far as information sharing goes, text is pretty much as low-space as it gets.

Written emails usually eat up kilobytes (kB) of information.

I’ll explain data comparisons more a little later, but here’s the one thing you need to know.

It takes a thousand kilobytes to make one megabyte (MB), and it takes a thousand megabytes to make one gigabyte (GB).

Your phone has gigabytes of storage, so you could actually hold millions of emails on your phone if they only had text content.

#2 Downloaded Attachments

Attachments are definitely what takes up the most space in an email account.

Depending on your email service, you can have attachments that are gigabytes big.

If your phone only has 32 GB of storage, then just a handful of email attachments could eat up that space very quickly, and that definitely happens.

But, it’s not quite as simple as all of that.

While attachments can be very large, they can also be very small.

If you send a Word document as an attachment, it’s still probably only a number of kilobytes large.

So, you can have thousands of these attachments without a problem.

More importantly, attachments don’t eat up any storage space at all by default.

Let me explain.

When someone sends you an attachment, they have to upload it to the email.

When they send that email to you, it really goes to your email server.

That’s the hardware managed by Google, Outlook, or whoever else runs your email account.

The entire email, including the attachment, is then on the email server.

But when your phone checks your email, it doesn’t work the same way.

Your phone will only download essential parts of the email so you can read it.

Attachments are left out of the download by default.

When you open up an email with an attachment, you can choose to download it, but you have to tap on it.

Until you give the phone permission, that attachment is really just a link to the information on the email server.

It’s not stored on your phone.

So when you do download an attachment, the information is usually not saved in your email folder.

Instead, it’s saved in your downloads.

What’s the real takeaway here?

Attachments can take up a lot of space on your phone, but they’ll usually be stored in your downloads, and depending on how your phone is set up, your downloads can automatically go to your pictures, document locations, and other parts of the phone.

If you want to free up this space, deleting emails isn’t the solution.

You have to delete the stuff that is downloaded via the attachments (like pictures, videos, etc.).

#3 Very Visual Emails

Attachments really are the biggest part of this whole thing, but there are a few other storage space eaters that are worth mentioning.

You can put visual elements into an email that are not treated as attachments.

An easy example is a picture for a signature.

It’s a common practice, especially for professional email accounts, and it’s a different thing from what we’ve discussed so far.

Pictures that are included in an email that aren’t attachments take up a lot more space than text.

You can have images in an email that are a few megabytes each.

So, if you have hundreds of those emails, your phone’s storage space is going to disappear a lot faster. 

#4 Embedded Videos

You can also include videos in an email.

If a video is a whole bunch of pictures playing one after another, then it’s easy to see why videos take up more space than pictures.

A simple GIF might be one to five megabytes.

The estimated average is that GIFs take up about a megabyte for every three seconds they last.

More involved videos can take up even more space than that.

So, what if a one-hour YouTube video is linked to your email?

Wouldn’t that eat up your whole phone’s storage?

Here’s where video in email can get a little tricky.

There are two ways to do things.

You can include a video in the email content, or you can embed the video through a link. (You can also just copy and paste a link in an email, but the video won’t play directly from the email in that case.)

If the video is actually embedded, then it doesn’t take up space on your phone.

Instead, you’re playing from a link, but it’s set up in a way that the video can play right then and there.

Ultimately, this means that videos can eat up a lot of space, but there are a lot of ways to share videos that don’t really take up any space at all.

Is it fair to say that it’s complicated?

How Much Phone Space Is a Lot?

I’ve been trying to explain all of this in terms of data storage, and that means that there are two issues that I really need to cover in more detail.

First, how much data is a lot of data?

Second, how much data do you really have to work with?

For the first question, I’ve built a little context, but we should add to that.

Text usually takes up kilobytes, pictures usually take up a couple of megabytes, and video can take up full gigabytes if it’s long enough.

When you watch a high-definition movie on Netflix, you’re probably streaming between one and five gigabytes of data.

Music and sound files are also important to understand.

A full three-minute pop song is going to be in the ballpark of five megabytes.

That gives you an idea of how much space these things take up, but how much space do you have to work with? 

The iPhone 13 comes with a starting storage capacity of 128 GB.

You can upgrade it all the way to 1 TB (which is 1,000 GB).

That can hold a lot of emails, even if they have images and attachments.

The Galaxy S22 comes with 128 GB of default storage as well.

That gives you an idea of how much data your phone can hold, but keep in mind that this storage covers all of your pictures, videos, and apps.

Email is only one part of that.

Speaking of email, email accounts usually have storage limits too.

A free Gmail account comes with 15 GB of storage.

That’s true whether you download the emails or not, so a completely maxed out Gmail account will only eat up 15 GB of storage on your phone.

If you manage the account, it will take up less.

And for most people, 15 GB will hold many thousands of emails.

Depending on what’s in the emails, it could even hold millions.

When Do You Need to Delete Emails on Your Phone?

All of this brings us to the final question.

Do you need to delete your emails?

Ultimately, this won’t be a single answer for everyone.

Some people have jobs that include ridiculous numbers of emails, and there are work or paid email accounts that can hold a whole lot more than 15 GB of data.

So there are definitely users who need to delete emails in order to free up space on their phones.

For people who aren’t power email users, there might never be an issue.

If all of the accounts linked to my phone were completely maxed out, I’d still have plenty of storage.

Deleting emails is about keeping the accounts easy to navigate for me.

It’s never about data storage.

So, where do you fit?

The easiest way to find out is to look at your phone and see how your storage is being used.

If your storage is less than half full, you definitely don’t need to delete emails to free up space.

Even if your storage is pretty full, emails might not be the problem. 

Androids and iPhones will show you exactly what is taking up all of your storage.

Browse through that.

If emails are a problem, then delete a bunch of them.

You can even change your settings so that they automatically delete from your phone after a while without being deleted from your email account.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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