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Q. My mobile device is completely starved for space and I've already deleted the apps I can easily live without. What's my next move?

A. I've lived this particular scenario with two devices in my own home, an iPad 2 and a Nexus 4 Android phone. It's not much fun: You're thinking you've got half a gigabyte of space free and shouldn't have to worry about running out, and then Android or iOS start complaining they don't have enough room to install updates to your apps.

Getting rid of apps that you don't use or, just as important, don't have to use should always be your first resort. Judge them by this standard: Do they provide a valuable function unavailable at the same company's website? If not, bookmark that page instead; it will stay current without your having to tap a couple of buttons in Apple's App Store or Google's Play Store to load each new patch.

But then your choices of what to dump get more complicated.

First, see if any apps have been squirreling away an unusual amount of data by checking the Settings apps in Android and iOS. In the former, tap "Apps" and then tap the menu button at the top right and select "Sort by size." In the latter, tap the left-hand column's "General" heading and then tap the right-hand column's "Usage" link.

Then tap the listing of any especially hefty app to see if the program itself is dwarfed by whatever data it's saved on the device. Looking at each device's set of installed software in this way can reveal bugs in the apps.

On the iPad, I saw that the Washington Post's app had somehow gobbled up almost an extra gigabyte of space. A tap of that app's menu button revealed an option to clear cached data; that worked for a while, but when the problem returned, I opted to dump the app. (To my former colleagues: Sorry!)

On the Android phone, meanwhile, Twitter's app had become a ravenous little beast, eating 800 megabytes and change for no apparent reason. Fortunately, an update shipped Thursday afternoon with the hopelessly vague description of "several improvements and bug fixes" freed up almost all of that lost space. Bonus: It also appears to have ended the app's irritating hangups at displaying attached pictures and search results.

If none of your apps have been on a bit binge, you'll have to try other measures. Deleting unwanted music, videos or photos is tedious but not too painful — every other phone picture seems to come out blurred anyway, while services like iCloud or Google+ should already have all of your pics backed up online. While doing so, remember that in iOS, the Music and Videos apps require you to swipe left across a song or video to see the "Delete" button.

If your Android phone runs version 4.2 or newer, you should see an extra sort of panic button in the Settings app's Storage screen: Tap the "Cached data" line, and the system will offer to dump all those spare files.

If anybody's now thinking, "Your mistake was not buying a mobile device with enough storage," that's something I would have been much more enthusiastic about at the time had the manufacturers involved not charged such a high markup for an extra 8 or 16 gigs of capacity.

TIP: "DISABLE" UNWANTED ANDROID APPS

You can reverse a regrettable Android app download in the Settings app's Apps page, but that's not the case with some titles pre-installed by Google or your wireless carrier. You can't uninstall those, but in Android 4.0 or newer you can "disable" them and recover much of the storage space they've taken up.

To do that, select the offending item of bloatware in that Apps screen, tap the "Uninstall updates" button, then tap "Disable." It won't run anymore and will vanish from the list of apps available from the bottom of your home screen. I've used this to bench some foreign-language-input plug-ins and an HP printing app, and my phone has shown no signs of harm from their absence.

Rob Pegoraro is a tech writer based out of Washington, D.C. To submit a tech question, e-mail Rob atrob@robpegoraro.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/robpegoraro.

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