How to Speed Up Your Old, Slow iPhone or iPad

How to Speed Up Your Old, Slow iPhone or iPad

Every year, Apple comes out with new iPhones and iPads and a new version of iOS. While it’s a good idea to stay current on software, not everyone can afford to buy new hardware every year. If your iPhone or iPad is showing its age, here are a few tricks to squeeze out a bit more performance.

You’ve probably heard in the news recently that you can speed up your old phone by restoring it from scratch, or by replacing the battery. But before you go nuts, these smaller tweaks may be worth a try first.

Restart Your Phone

Have you tried turning it off and on again? It sounds silly, but we all know that the most time-tested way to sole problems is to just restart your device. To do this, just hold down the power button until the “Slide to power off” control appears, power off you device and then start it again.

We understand, this method has usually been the domain of Windows users, but it can work for a sluggish iPad or iPhone as well. Give that a try before you go changing settings.

Reduce Graphics Overhead by Disabling Eye Candy

Graphics comprise a great deal of performance overhead. On newer iPhones and iPads, everything seems seamless and liquid, but as your device ages, you might start to notice some stuttering and lag. To improve things, open Settings, then head to General > Accessibility.

There are two settings groups here that you’ll want to look at: Increase Contrast and Reduce Motion.

This removes the transparency effects you see on certain UI elements, such as the control center. Instead of seeing a hint of your icons underneath, it’s grey and opaque. This requires less processing power for your device to draw and should speed things up a bit.

The other item you can consider is Reduce Motion. This will reduce a lot of unnecessary animations, like the parallax effect on your home screen.

Those items will go a long way to speeding up your device, but there are obviously other options as well.

Delete Apps and Free Up Space

If your iPhone’s storage is very full—as in, close to zero free space left—deleting apps you’re not using may help improve performance in certain areas. Also, many apps employ background processes that use precious resources, such as the aforementioned background refresh, so uninstalling apps you don’t use can go a long way.

Make sure you’ve got the General settings open and tap iPhone Storage or iPad Storage.

For most apps, just tap on it and choose “Delete App” to uninstall it. You can also do this from the home screen, but this view lets you see how much space you’re freeing up as you go, which is nice. Again, you don’t to go crazy deleting stuff to improve performance, though it is nice to have a buffer of free space so you have room for new photos and things like that.

There’s also an “Offload App” option here. This will delete the app itself, but keep the app’s data on your phone or tablet. This would let you redownload the app from the App Store in the future and immediately begin using it once again, picking up right where you left off.\

Some apps, such as the Podcasts app, will give you the option of purging the data contained therein, but this is more rare.

Also, if you want to free up space, you might look within those apps themselves—cleaning out certain podcast episodes or old photos and videos you don’t want is a great way to get back some of that space.

Do Away with App Refreshes

Background app refreshing is a surefire way to gobble up precious resources on your device. Luckily, you can disable them-though be advised that disabling them means opening up apps to see anything new. They won’t update their data in the background.

Head into the Settings, if you aren’t there already, and head to General > Background App Refresh.

You might try disabling individual apps at first to see how that affects performance. If it doesn’t help, try disabling them all in one go. This option will also likely get more life out of your battery too, so it definitely has its advantages.

Clear Out Your Messages

While it’s unlikely to slow down your entire phone, many users have found that storing hundreds or thousands of text messages can cause the Messages app itself to slow down—after all, that’s a lot of information for it to index. So, from time to time, it may be wise to clear out your Messages app if it’s starting to feel laggy.

To delete individual messages, you can swipe to the left to reveal a Delete button…

Back Up and Restore Your iPhone or iPad

If the above tricks aren’t enough, performing a backup and restore can help speed your iPhone or iPad up. Under the hood, this process can fix bugs where a rogue process or some other part of the iOS operating system is using too much CPU power.

Rather than wipe your phone and lose everything, you can back up the contents of your phone, restore it to factory default settings, and then restore your personal data from the backup. This gives you a fresh “system state”, but your iPhone or iPad will still have all your personal data an apps on it.

You’ll use iTunes for this, as it allows you to create and restore a local backup of your device. If you’re using a Windows PC, you’ll need to install iTunes first. If you’re using a Mac, iTunes is already installed.

Once you’ve launched iTunes, connect your iPhone or iPad to your computer with its included USB cable—that’s the same one you use to charge it. If this is the first time you’ve connected your device to this computer, you’ll be prompted to “trust” it. Tap the “Trust” button on your device’s screen and enter your PIN to continue.

We think it’s also important to dispel a widespread myth here: contrary to popular belief, “clearing your RAM” and closing open apps won’t do much of anything for general performance (though it can help fix an individual stuck app). In fact, closing all your apps regularly will force all your apps to start from scratch every time you open them, which will make things take longer—and drain more battery—not go faster.


Hopefully these tips will give you some improvements when it comes to giving your old iOS devices a new lease on life. Obviously they won’t be as fast as the latest and greatest, but they will at least give you maybe another year or so before you inevitably have to upgrade.


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