Has your iPhone become slow and unresponsive? Especially after upgrading to the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 8, older iPhones can seem extremely sluggish compared to when they were new. Apple does roll out performance enhancements designed to make things easier for old ones, but they can still stutter and pause when trying to do even the most basic of tasks.
While some might see this as an unavoidable consequence of progress, there are a few things you can do to help keep your iPhone running as fast as it can, and hopefully it might last you just that little bit longer.
This collection of tips suggests a few things you can try to keep things snappy. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and of course if you are using an iPhone more than a few years old, I’m afraid its days are likely to be numbered…
iPhone speed tips
All the tips below also apply to other Apple iOS devices such as the iPad and iPod Touch.
1. Turn off background refresh
Many of the apps on your iPhone like to update their content in the background even while you’re not using them. While this means that they’re slightly quicker to show the latest information (such as Facebook feeds or news, for example) when you open them, it also means they consume system resources and slow things down slightly.
It’s easy to either fully disable background refresh or just selectively choose which apps you want to use the feature – such as your most commonly used ones.
Just open Settings on your iPhone, then choose General and then Background App Refresh.
There is a toggle switch at the top which you can just turn off, or you can just choose a few of the apps. As you can see in my case, I’ve just kept Google Hangouts with refresh enabled, and have turned off everything else. If however you do turn off refresh for your apps, you’ll still receive notifications as normal.
2. Keep your software up to date
You might think that it’s not a good idea to keep updating to the latest version all the time – as apps and software just keeps on getting bigger, right?
Well, that’s true to an extent and of course bigger apps will take up more space and memory, but in general most apps tend to roll out updates and improvements that improve the reliability, performance and security. So, it’s a good idea to keep your apps and iPhone system software up to date.
For iOS updates, you’ll normally see a red badge icon on the Settings app when there’s an available update. For other apps, you can turn on updates in Settings -> iTunes & App Store -> and toggle Updates on in the Automatic Downloads section.
3. Delete huge apps
If your iPhone is nearly full, then it you’ll not only have less storage space for more apps, photos and messages, but in general if you don’t have much space left your iPhone might not have enough space to perform system maintenance and optimisation activities that might require some temporary memory space to run.
One thing you might have heard is to ‘kill’ apps so that they don’t run – by double-clicking the Home button then swiping up to slide an app off the screen. This is a common tip, but it seems that (from reading up on memory management and some expert tech sites) the iPhone’s memory management is so good that this is totally unnecessary and won’t help at all. The reason is that when you close an app it goes into a kind of low power sleep mode, and when the iPhone is low on memory it will automatically kill off apps without you needing to do a thing.
You can of course delete apps you don’t use (they can be downloaded any time from the App Store) by holding down on any app icon until they appear to wiggle – they just tap the x on the app icons.
You can also check the worst size offenders by going to Settings -> General -> Usage and then tap Manage Storage to view the list of largest apps. In my case, I have lots of music and pictures on my iPhone, however I also have plenty of space – 64 GB…
4. Disable or tweak Spotlight Search
Spotlight is basically a search and index feature that keeps track of all your messages, emails, videos, pictures, apps, and just about everything. It’s used to enable you to quickly search for anything on your iPhone with a simple swipe down from the home screen.
The trouble with Spotlight is that it runs periodically (e.g. whenever something changes) and creates new indexes so that it can find items quickly few you.
Spotlight can either be turned off entirely, or just enabled for the apps that you use the most – for example, if you only want search results for music and emails, just include those and nothing else.
Go to Settings -> General -> Spotlight Search and tap on the items that you want to enable.
5. Delete old message threads
It’s great having access to all of your messages going back years, but to be honest how many times do you look at all those old messages? Besides Spotlight having to index them all, old messages (especially those with pictures in) take up valuable space that could be freed up for something else.
You can delete any messages or pictures directly in the Messages app, but a better compromise is to only keep your message history for a period of time – e.g. 30 days. In Apple’s latest iPhone software, you can choose to keep messages for 30 days, 1 year or forever.
Go to Settings -> Messages and scroll down to the Message History section. There’s an option called Keep Messages that lets you choose the desired time period. You will also notice another section for Audio Messages and Video Messages where you can set an expiry period (2 minutes or 30 days).
6. Empty Safari’s cache
The default web browser on an iPhone is Safari, and it stores lots of cookies and temporary data to make browsing faster and also for websites to identify you (for things like personalised adverts). You can save a bit of space by emptying Safari’s cache which will delete all the small temporary files.
In the Settings app, go to Safari and tap Clear History and Website Data and just then confirm when prompted.
7. Disable location services
Location services are used by the iPhone to send your location to apps (such as Maps) and even friends, if you’re using Find My Friends or share your location within the Messages app.
Unfortunately, lots of apps try and use your location (they have to ask when they are installed and run for the first time), but you might find that turning off Location Services for some apps speeds things up. For example, some apps want to use your location sporadically throughout the day, but there are various options to limit when they can do this – such as only when you are actually using the app. The reason why Location Services slows down your iPhone is that it’s just one more background process that runs, making things slower even when you haven’t necessarily opened an app…
In Settings choose Privacy and then tap Location Services. You could either turn the option off entirely (though it’s quite useful when you want to know where you are in Maps for example), or tap on specific apps and customise them individually. As shown in the example below, I’ve limited Air Asia to only use my location when I’m using the app – as there is no reason for it to check my location any other time.
8. Restart your iPhone occasionally
It’s always a good idea to restart your iPhone occasionally. These days, many people just leave their phones permanently on. While that’s fine in most cases, restarting your phone gives it a chance to reload all the apps and services, potentially resolving any issues that might be lingering and draining resources.
Go on – give it a try, you might be surprised to find that your phone is a little faster.
9. Restore from a backup or do a factory reset
If all else fails, and you keep regular backups, you could restore your iPhone from an older backup if you think that there’s some horrendous problem that just won’t go away. It’s probably not a good idea unless you know what you are doing, because you’ll inevitably lose some messages and other content if you haven’t backed up recently.
For most people, doing a full reset might be a better option as it will clear out all the junk that your phone has accumulated and give it a chance to run as it was intended. Unfortunately, you’ll need to then download all your apps again, but at least things like contacts and settings should all return seamlessly if you are using iCloud to keep everything synchronised.
10. Buy a new iPhone
We’re only half serious of course, but if you are able to upgrade to the latest and greatest iPhone, you’ll probably have no issues with things running slowly (at least for another 2 years or so).
We hope you enjoyed the tips in this article. If you have an Android phone, why not check out these tips to help keep your smartphone running in top condition.