Stream what you own
Amazon has just launched its Cloud Player service in the UK. This lets you store and play all the tracks you’ve bought from the AmazonMP3 Store plus up to 2,000 others you bought elsewhere. Hopefully, Google will soon announce a UK launch for its Music by Google Play. Since November 2011, US residents have been able to stream up to 20,000 tracks as well as purchase more for playback on their Android devices.
iTunes Match is Apple’s music streaming service. It lets you stream whatever you’ve bought through iTunes to your device. It’s a useful storage limit-buster for those with extensive music collections. You have to pay £22 per year to stream tracks you didn’t buy through iTunes, but it automatically replaces your music with top-quality DRM-free versions.
Rent, not rip
Music and video rental services take the pressure off your gadget’s already cramped storage, and they can work out cheaper than buying albums digitally.
Spotify and Napster’s music subscription services start £5 per month for unlimited streaming over Wi-Fi and £10 if you want to enjoy offline listening and download to your mobile device.
Smartphone users need to buy the Premium (£10 per month) version of Napster to enjoy the app anyway, while Spotify is ad-free on a PC for £5 but also requires the Premium app to serve up its streaming library on Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows or Symbian phones.
You can import your own music collection to Spotify, but the only real benefit is the convenience of having one program to manage all your music.
Portable Wi-Fi hard drives
Several hard drive manufacturers have hit upon the cunning ploy of adding Wi-Fi and battery power to their hardware, allowing whatever’s stored on them to be streamed to an iPhone or iPad. These drives connect directly to your gadgets and are controlled via an associated app, so you can use them on the move.
Products such as the 32GB Kingston Wi-Drive add significant amounts of storage yet are small enough to take out and about with you. The Wi-Drive works with an iPad, an iPhone and an iPod (it has a three-device limit for simultaneous streaming).
Seagate's GoFlex Satellite is similar. It has an eight-device limit and also works with Windows laptops and Android tablets.
Archiving items to save space makes sense on a PC. On a tablet or smartphone, you need to shrink or compress the files instead so they take up less storage space. The smaller versions should load faster too.
No tablet or smartphone can display more than a 3Mp photo without scaling it down to fit the screen. Storing 8Mp images, therefore, is a waste of space if you merely want to view them on screen.
Use an image organiser or editor such as Photoshop Elements to batch convert the photos, reducing their resolution to be the same as your device's screen (or lower if you don't mind a drop in quality). You can also choose a medium amount of compression, without noticing any degradation in quality. Each photo should end up less than 1MB.
Make sure you save the originals to your backup drive and the low-res copies to your laptop or tablet.
Repeat the process for photos you’ve taken on your smartphone or tablet as well, making sure you don't lose the originals.
Shrink your music files by re-encoding them at a lower bitrate. Advances in music encoding software mean that albums you ripped years ago may now be ripped again using the latest tools with no discernible audio loss but significantly smaller files. See our How To on converting audio tracks.
Similar principles apply to video. Use a free video encoder such as Any Video Converter, Freemake or HandBrake and export your video files for the device on which you wish to view it - iPhone, iPad, Android or BlackBerry smartphone or even PSP. Note that this is a time-consuming exercise on most computers, however.