I have an iPhone 11 128GB with around 30GB of used storage. Most of the photos are uploaded up into 200GB iCloud which is full at the moment.

I got an iPhone 12 and transferred data & settings over from iPhone 11, device to device as described here https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT210216. The transfer itself took around ~30min.

What I ended up with, is an iPhone 12 with 122GB of storage is use, photo library taking around 90GB of it. My assumption is that for whatever reason a LOT of the photos from iCloud got stored locally on iPhone 12. The phones have same amount of photos in the libraries.

How can I get rid of the photos that that are currently LOCAL on iPhone 12, while they are living in the iCloud (uploaded from iPhone 11)?

  • Welcome on AskDifferent. Asking two questions at a time is usually not recommended. I am not sure what you want to revert, but cant you just make a backup to a Computer? What exactly do you want to take "back"?
    – X_841
    Apr 16, 2021 at 6:39
  • I have 200GB of photos in iCloud, I have 90 GB of photos on the new phone. On the old phone, I have just 30GB of photos. So I am assuming there's 60GB of photos that are on the new phone, that are already in the cloud....I just have no way of knowing whether icloud is currently cleaning this up, creating duplicates or just decided to reclaim 60GB of phone's storage for no reason.
    – honelnik
    Apr 16, 2021 at 12:09

2 Answers 2


You most likely have selected keep originals in the photos settings.

Open the settings app and scroll down or search for photos. Then under the iCloud section there should be listed the following options:

  1. Optimise iPhone storage
  2. Download and keep originals

Select the first option and your iPhone will offload older photos and only store them in iCloud. Only new photos and often viewed ones will be stored locally, so you can save a lot of space on your phone. Alternatively you can select this option if you go into [your name] -> iCloud -> Photos as described on AppleSupport.

  • hi, thanks for the input, but I have the "Optimize iPhone storage" set
    – honelnik
    Apr 16, 2021 at 11:55

To answer my own question - I had to upgrade to the 2TB icloud storage, performed a fresh iCloud backup of the old iPhone 11. Restored it on iPhone 12 and storage is back to normal.

Note - restoration of backup via iTunes ended up in the same situation - freshly restored iPhone 12 had ~100GB of used storage space. The backup itself was ~90GB, so I suspect that the photos that icloud photos "moves" to icloud are still on the device, just marked for deletion. Somehow the iTunes backup/restore or the device-to-device transfer restores them to the device too.

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