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snail crawling on slow phone
© Serhii Opikanets |
Smartphones & gadgets

Here’s why your phone is so much slower now than when you bought it

You spend a lot of money on electronics, so why not keep them in tip-top shape? When it comes to computers, speed is the name of the game. Is your PC or Mac running slow? Take these simple steps to speed things up again.

The same applies to your smartphone. Everything you do, from sending messages to browsing the internet, becomes highly frustrating when your phone is crawling along.

All is not lost. You can bring your phone back up to speed. Here’s how.

1. App audit

Clutter slows things down. Whether it’s your work desk or apartment, it’s harder to find things when there’s too much stuff in the way. The same applies to your smartphone. Too many apps mean more scrolling to get to what you need.

On a deeper level, apps take up storage space, slowing down the phone. Apps also consume battery life and data, so the fewer you have, the better. Finally, the more apps you have, the more exposed you are to security issues, such as an app getting breached.

The occasional app audit is good practice. Go through your apps and note the ones you rarely use, if at all. Here are some more guidelines for trimming the fat:

  • Do you have two or more apps that perform the same function?
  • Do you have apps that read QR codes? How about flashlight apps or ones that show the level of a surface? Guess what? Your phone has all of those functions built in from the factory.
  • Are there any apps you downloaded in exchange for a free trial membership?

Before you delete any apps, delete your account if you don’t plan on using it again. This can usually be done through the app, but sometimes you’ll have to call or log in from a desktop. Unsurprisingly, some developers want to make your exit as difficult as possible!

With that taken care of, it’s time to delete!

Delete apps from your iPhone:

  • Touch and hold an app, then tap Remove App > Delete App > Delete
  • Or use the App Library, introduced in iOS 14, to get a curated list of your apps grouped by category. Swipe past the last page of your Home screen to access it. Tap and hold the app, then select Delete App > Delete

MORE IPHONE KNOW-HOW: Hidden iPhone features everyone should know

Delete apps from your Android phone:

  • Long-press an app, then tap App Info > Uninstall
  • Go to Settings > Apps & Notifications to see a list of your apps and delete them the same way. 
  • Or open the Google Play Store app and navigate to Menu > My apps & games. Tap on the app and hit Uninstall
  • NOTE: Samsung and OnePlus phones have an Uninstall option under the app shortcuts menu. 

2. What’s going on in the background?

Some apps constantly download content and use cellular data (and battery life) in the background, even when you’re not using them! By default, all apps have background refresh set to on. Consider turning off background app refresh for messaging, email and social media apps.

Stop app background activity on your iPhone

  • Go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh.
  • Toggle off any apps in the list that don’t need to be updated all the time.

Stop app background activity on your Android phone

  • Go to Settings > Connections > Data Usage > Mobile data usage and select an app from the list.
  • Toggle off Allow background data usage for any apps that don’t need to update in the background constantly.

3. Clear your browser cache

Cache stores information that will likely be used again, which saves time. For example, when you visit a webpage, the images may be stored in the cache. When you open that page again, those images will be ready to display instantly.

As with RAM, apps can use up your cache to the point where it slows down your phone. The same thing happens when you browse the internet.

iPhones come pre-installed with Safari, and it’s a solid browser. Let’s start there:

Clear Safari cache from your iPhone

  • Go to Settings > Safari.
  • Tap Clear History and Website Data, then Clear History and Data.

You don’t need an Android phone to use Chrome, the world’s most popular browser:

Clear Chrome cache from your iPhone

  • Open the Chrome browser and tap the three dots in the corner and then tap Settings.
  • Tap Privacy > Clear Browsing Data.
  • Make sure the option for Cached Images and Files is checked and then tap Clear Browsing Data.

Chrome is a natural fit for Android users, so let’s start there:

Clear Chrome cache from your Android phone

  • Open the Chrome browser and tap the three dots in the corner.
  • Tap on History > Clear browsing data.
  • Make sure the option for Cached images and files is checked and then tap on Clear Data.

And now, onto the privacy-focused Firefox:

Clear Firefox cache from your Android phone

  • Open Firefox and tap the three horizontal dots in the bottom right to open Settings.
  • Tap Delete browsing data and make sure the box for Cached images and files is checked.
  • Tap Delete browsing data.

NOTE: Most mobile web browsers will have a way to clear the cache within their settings. You may have to look around a little but check the history or privacy settings to find the right spot to clear this data.

We’re getting into your phone’s internals, but

RELATED: Tech spring cleaning: Guide to a fresh phone, computer and TV

4. Remove photos and videos

We feel you balking at losing your precious memories, but hear us out. There are many reasons to eliminate photos and videos you’ll never look at or share. They take up tons of room and make it harder to find the gems you’re looking for:

  • Do you need all those screenshots of recipes, addresses and reminders you used once and never again?
  • Your phone is probably full of doubles or nearly identical images.
  • Not every photo you take is a masterpiece!

As for the photos you keep, you don’t need them sitting on your phone for years. Instead, use a backup service that you can trust to protect all of your precious memories. We recommend our sponsor, IDrive.

IDrive lets you back up all your devices, whether you have a Mac, PC, Android, iPad or iPhone, and you can conveniently manage your backups through a single online account.

You can go to and use promo code Kim to save 90% on 5 TB of cloud backup! That’s only $7.95 for the first year.

5. Get rid of old messages

Your phone keeps your conversations intact. This includes any images and videos you or your contacts shared. You’d be surprised how much storage this eats up on your phone. You may feel a connection to old text messages but let’s be honest — how often are you scrolling back through months or even years to read them?

Save the files you want to keep and get to work clearing out old conversations. Your phone will run better, and you’ll have an easier time navigating texts. Delete messages with photos and videos first — they chew up the most space.

Delete messages on your iPhone

  • Open Messages and swipe a texting thread to the left and tap on the trashcan icon, then hit Delete.
  • You can also set your phone to delete messages after a certain period of time automatically. Go to Settings > Messages > Keep Messages and select a timespan.

Delete messages on your Android phone

  • Open the Messages app and press down on a message or conversation. Tap Delete on the bottom menu, then again in the popup window.
  • To automatically delete old messages, open the Messages app and tap the menu icon (three dots) in the upper-right corner. Go to Settings > More settings and toggle Delete old messages on.

Always be updating

Developers release regular updates to add new features and improve performance, even on older devices. They trim down the software to run better while using fewer resources.

More importantly, regular updates help secure your phone against malware, bugs, hacks and more. This is a critical step in keeping your data safe.

While you’re at it, update your apps for the same reasons.

Update your iPhone

  • Go to Settings > General Software Update and tap Download and Install.
  • To update your iOS apps, open the App Store and tap your profile icon at the top of the screen.
    • Scroll to see pending updates and release notes. Tap Update next to an app to update only that app, or tap Update All.

Update your Android phone

  • Go to Settings and tap System and then System update. You’ll see your update status. Follow the onscreen steps.
  • To update your Android apps, open the Google Play Store app and tap your profile icon.
    • Tap Manage apps & device, then Update next to apps with an update available.

7. When all else fails

Did you try turning your phone off and back on again? A soft reset will not erase your settings or wipe out all your data. Instead, it completely stops all programs and apps and clears out whatever memory they may still be hogging up in the background. Think of it as a “restart,” similar to rebooting a PC.

If the above steps don’t get the job done, you can always do a factory reset. This is the nuclear option.

This option will wipe everything from your device, leaving only the operating system. It could give your phone a whole new lease on life. Before taking this step, you must make sure to back up everything. After a reset, it’s gone for good.

Tap or click here to avoid data backup mistakes before taking this step.

Factory reset your iPhone

  • Go to Settings General Reset > Reset All Settings.
  • Enter your Apple ID, then tap Erase.

Factory reset your Android phone

  • Go to Settings Backup & Reset > Factory data reset> Reset phone.
  • Enter your passcode and tap Erase.

You may also like: Is someone watching? Six signs your phone or computer is infected with a virus or keylogger

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