How to Speed up Your iPhone

If your iPhone isn’t performing as fast as usual, you might not need to replace it. This article shows you how to speed up your iPhone.

The iPhone is the fastest smartphone on the planet. Every time a new iPhone is released, it crushes competitors on benchmark scores.

Beyond the blazing fast CPU, iOS is compiled to machine language. It does not run on interpreted byte code, like Java-based operating systems.

Between the fast processor and efficient operating system, the iPhone is a speedy device. As your iPhone ages, however, battery issues and background processes may bog down the system. Let’s take a look at how to speed up your iPhone:

How to Speed up Your iPhone

  • Replace iPhone Battery
  • Make Sure Your iPhone Isn’t in Low Power Mode
  • Turn Off iPhone While Charging
  • Use the Original iPhone Charger
  • Don’t Charge Your iPhone in Its Case
  • Calibrate the Battery
  • Let Your iPhone Chill If It’s Hot
  • Don’t Leave Your iPhone in a Hot Car
  • Restart Your iPhone
  • Soft Reset Your iPhone
  • Reclaim iPhone Memory
  • Turn Off Background App Refresh
  • Turn Off Automatic Downloading
  • Clear Safari Cache
  • Free Up Space on Your iPhone
  • Reduce Animation and Transparency
  • Use New High Efficiency Image and Video Formats
  • Use First Party Apps
  • Restore iPhone to Factory Settings

Replace iPhone Battery

iPhone users have suspected, for years, that Apple slows down devices. A rather nefarious conspiracy theory developed — Apple was doing this to force users to upgrade.

Apple was eventually caught when an iPhone user noticed a huge performance increase after replacing the battery. This was measured with benchmarking software. Apple could no longer keep this a secret.

The Cupertino tech giant admitted that they were slowing down iPhones with failing batteries. This was done to prevent devices from shutting down unexpectedly. It’s the right thing to do, but some people were upset about it.

There’s a whole slew of class action lawsuits, because Apple has deep pockets. Most surveys show that people would rather have their iPhone slowed down than have it shut down unexpectedly.

The lack of transparency is nothing new for Apple (or other tech companies, for that matter). Their competitors boast that they don’t slow down their phones. Yes, their phones shut down unexpectedly when the battery starts to fail. It’s one of the many reasons why I use an iPhone! Apple handled this exception with grace. It’s excellent engineering and nothing to get upset about!

As a gesture of goodwill, Apple will replace any iPhone 6 (or later) battery for $29 until December 2018. It doesn’t matter if your battery is failing or not. If it is failing, a new battery will definitely speed up your device.

You can check if your iPhone’s battery is failing. Assuming you are running iOS 11.3 or later, simply tap on Settings > Battery > Battery Health. From this screen, you can view you battery’s maximum capacity and find out whether it is being slowed down.

Users can override the slow down and opt to have their device shut down instead. It makes about as much sense as wiping before you use the rest room, but some people need to be contrary. The Battery Health screen has prompts to adjust these settings, if your battery is affected.

I highly recommend that everyone, even people who just bought an iPhone, get their battery replaced by December 2018. For more information, please read “Replace iPhone Battery for $29”.

Make Sure Your iPhone Isn’t in Low Power Mode

Low Power mode allows iPhone users to curb power consumption. This helps preserve battery life.

The feature was never hidden from users. Users are prompted turn it on any time the battery goes below 20%. You can also turn it on manually by tapping Settings > Battery > Low Power Mode.

Low Power mode temporarily disables some background processes such as automatic downloads and fetching mail. It also reduces or turns off power-hungry visual effects. These optimizations do not boost performance. On the contrary, this performance mode sacrifices performance for a lesser current draw.

If your iPhone is running slow, ensure that low power mode is turned off.

Turn Off iPhone While Charging

Battery condition is key to iPhone performance. We are well aware that a failing battery can slow down your iPhone. It makes sense to keep your iPhone’s battery in peak condition.

Heat damages lithium-ion batteries. Charging an iPhone while it is on generates more heat. The battery is charging and discharging simultaneously, as there is no pass through. The CPU and other modules are also generating heat. You have probably felt how warm your iPhone is when charging. If you turn it off while charging, you can actually feel the difference.

Since a powered-down iPhone turns on when plugged in, you’ll need to plug it in first and then turn it off. You can turn it off by holding down the sleep/wake button until you see the “slide to power off” switch. Slide the on-screen switch and your iPhone will power down.

You can also shut down your iPhone by tapping on Settings > General > Shut Down. This displays the “slide to power off” switch. Slide the switch to power off your device.

Turning off your iPhone while charging will improve the battery’s lifespan. My iPhone 6 is three and a half years old, and still has 97% of its battery capacity. I always turn it off when charging.

One note — you need to plug in your iPhone in order to do backups and a few other iOS processes. I recommend charging your iPhone fully, while off, then turn it back on so it can backup your device and perform other synchronous processes. Since the iPhone does a slower trickle charge when the battery is over 80%, it won’t generate as much heat.

Use the Original iPhone Charger

Newer iPhones support rapid charging, but they still come with the same low-wattage charger. This is not a mistake. Don’t second guess Apple because some blogger told you to charge your iPhone with an iPad charger. Yes, it works. It is faster. It is also noticeably hotter.

A we have mentioned, heat will shorten the lifespan of your iPhone battery. When the battery starts to fail, your iPhone will slow down. Just use the charger that came with your iPhone. Your battery will last longer and your iPhone will run faster.

Don’t Charge Your iPhone in Its Case

If heat is the enemy of your iPhone’s battery, its case is like a winter coat. Cases trap in heat. They should be removed when charging. Even Apple, as tight-lipped as they are about proper handling, admits that the iPhone should be unsheathed while charging.

I am well aware that Apple makes a battery case, and one is expected to charge both the case and device at the same time. They issue contradictory recommendations and redact prior maintenance tips (battery calibration, for example) if they prove troublesome for marketing. The fact that they even mention case-free charging means that you really should do it.

Calibrate the Battery

What’s good for the battery is good for the iPhone. Calibrating the battery can help prevent lesser used lithium ions from seizing. It also adjusts iOS’s battery metering, making it more accurate.

If your iPhone shuts down unexpectedly before the battery reaches 0%, it definitely needs calibration. Although this might not fix the battery, it will at least make the software battery meter more accurate.

Battery calibration is controversial, in that some people think it is a myth. I can assure you, this is not fake news. The recommendation comes straight from my iPhone 4 manual. Calibration is still necessary for all iPhones, even though they redacted it from the manual. They still use lithium-ion batteries. Apple Store Geniuses have been known to run this process and recommend it.

I do it, and it works. I still have an iPhone 4. It’s almost 8 years old and still holds a charge. I use it as a clock and charge it once every two weeks. My iPhone 6 is about three and a half years old. It has 97% battery capacity. I calibrate the battery and take good care of it. I don’t need to buy a new iPhone every year or two… not even three.

For more information on battery calibration, please read “How to Calibrate iPhone Battery”.

Let Your iPhone Chill If It’s Hot

Have you ever noticed that iPhone addicts have to get new iPhones every year? This is partly because they destroy their battery with overuse.

After playing Candy Crush for several hours straight, one may notice that their iPhone is very warm. This is because it has been using a lot of power. The processor, screen, battery and other components are generating heat.

Heat damages the lithium-ion battery. If you notice your iPhone getting warm, the best thing to do is to turn it off. Set it down on a metal surface, if possible. This will help dissipate heat. Don’t put it in the refrigerator or freezer.

If you can’t turn it off (expecting an important call or message), at least stop using the device. Simply lock the device and set it down, preferably on a metal surface. Resume using the device after it has cooled down.

You don’t have to stop using your iPhone. Just let it chill. There’s a whole, real world outside of that iPhone screen. Enjoy it, for a moment, while your iPhone cools down.

Don’t Leave Your iPhone in a Hot Car

This seems like it doesn’t need mentioning, but unfortunately it does. Leaving an iPhone in a hot car will do serious damage to the battery. This will result in a slower iPhone, unless you decide you’d rather have it shut down randomly.

As we have seen, anything that makes your iPhone warm will damage the battery. Damaging the battery slows down the device. This has been made abundantly clear, and, I promise, this is the last of the battery/heat related tips. I’m sure you get it!

Restart Your iPhone

“Have you tried turning it off and then on again?” This famous quote from The IT Crowd is both funny and true. Most operating systems function better after a restart. The Mac is generally an exception, but Cupertino doesn’t seem to offer this same level of quality with the iPhone.

As apps run within an operating system, resources are often instantiated, but not cleaned up. This is usually due to sloppy coding.

Memory leaks are more of a problem with iOS, as developers are responsible for managing memory. iOS apps written in Apple’s Swift managed code language don’t suffer from memory leaks, but not every app can be written in Swift. As developers have rushed into mobile apps, many of them lack the skills for proper coding. You run their app and it can end up bogging down your system.

Beyond a memory leak, sometimes threads are created and never destroyed. They keep running in the background, slowing down your device until you restart. This is rare, but not impossible with iOS. One version of the Facebook app had this problem.

Even major apps like Facebook have had lingering performance problems. That said, Facebook doesn’t have amazing developers, so it shouldn’t be surprising. If Facebook’s app is poor, just think about how bad that free app created by a newbie developer is.

Beyond sloppy coding, just about everyone has a poor Internet Service Provider or cellular carrier. Sometimes Internet connections are created and hang, and new ones are created. They should be killed off when they’re inactive, but over time, they can take up resources. The problem may be even due to iCloud synchronization that gets stuck.

It’s hard to say exactly why rebooting works, since there is so little transparency with iOS. It doesn’t hurt anything, and I usually notice an improvement. Overall, iOS is pretty good at killing off rogue processes and giving the foreground app priority. That said, there have been a few times where restarting my iPhone has obviously improved performance.

You may want to close all apps before restarting, however, this is not required. I have found that a simple restart will set things right, with minimal consequences. Your apps will appear to be in the same state, but inaccessible memory will be returned to the operating system. Corrupted syncs are cleaned up. It just works.

Restarting is a rare necessity with iOS. I can literally count the times I have had to do this with one hand, after using iOS devices for almost a decade. It’s not as bad as Windows, but iOS is not as good as macOS.

Soft Reset Your iPhone

A soft reset takes restarting one step further. In addition to restarting the device, a soft reset will clean up cached app, operating system and user data. This not only seems to speed up an iPhone, but can also solve any strange problems with application state.

Soft resets are the holy grail of the Apple Store Genius. It is usually the first thing they try when troubleshooting any iPhone problem. It is the ctr-alt-del of the Apple world.

It’s easy to do a soft reset. Simply hold the Home and Sleep/Wake buttons down, simultaneously, for about ten seconds (until you see the Apple logo). Next, release both buttons and let your device restart.

The iPhone 7 doesn’t have a physical home button. Instead, it is a software-bound sensor. These newer models of iPhone can be reset by holding down the sleep/wake button and volume down button until you see the Apple logo.

You’ll notice that a soft reset takes significantly longer than a restart. This is because there’s more going on. It is clearing out cached data and restarting your device at a lower boot level.

I prefer to do a soft reset over a restart. It takes longer, but seems to fix more problems.

It is important to note that a soft reset won’t delete any permanent user data. You won’t need to re-enter WiFi passwords or anything like that.

For me, soft resets are a rarity. I used to do them all the time on my old iPad 2 running iOS 8. It was an old, slow device running one of Apple’s worst iOS releases. With a new iPad and newer iPhone, it’s not something I do much at all. iOS is also much more mature and stable.

Reclaim iPhone Memory

Some claim that Apple devices offer few options, however, this is not true. Apple offers yet another secret way to boost performance.

User can reclaim used memory by holding down the sleep/wake button until the “slide to power off” message appears. Next, release the sleep/wake button and then hold down the Home button until the message disappears. This will release used memory back to the operating system, which can sometimes speed up a slow app.

iOS is very good at allocating resources, such as memory, to the foreground app. In theory, you should never have to reclaim memory. Theory and practice doesn’t always result in praxis. Poorly developed apps or even iOS defects may necessitate freeing up memory, particularly with older devices.

I used this trick all the time with my old iPad 2. It often got so bogged down, I couldn’t even type on it. I would type a sentence and it would appear 5-10 seconds later. Freeing up memory would always seem to help. It seems to work best on older devices with less RAM.

Turn Off Background App Refresh

Introduced in iOS 7, background app refresh allows your apps to stay recent, even when you’re not using them. For example, a news app can download the latest headlines in the background, so when you launch the app, you don’t have to wait.

In theory, background app refresh should speed up your iPhone. After all, a background-refreshed app will launch faster. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work this way. If you have a lot of apps that use this feature, the background threads can cause performance problems. This is rare, as iOS places priority on foreground processes (the app in focus).

The best way to see if this feature is a blessing or a curse is to turn it off. Tap on Settings > General > Background App Refresh > Background App Refresh > Off. If you notice an overall performance improvement, leave it off.

You may notice that Background App Refresh can also be set to run over WiFi alone or WiFi and cellular. The latter setting will use cellular data, which is another wasteful aspect of this feature. I just turn it off and make sure it is off after every major upgrade cycle.

Turn Off Automatic Downloading

Automatic downloads are another feature that can cause your device to slow down. This feature will automatically download any iTunes Store or App Store purchase on your iPhone. So if you download an app on your iPad, it will automatically download and install it on your iPhone.

This is a great feature of you want your iPhone, iPad and Apple TV to all have the same stuff. It’s also great for Apple, as they can gouge customers on storage space. The feature is on by default, and many people won’t even realize that it is slowing down their phone and devouring storage space.

Fortunately, it’s easy to turn this feature off, with a fair amount of granularity. Simply tap on Settings > iTunes & App Store, then turn off automatic downloads for each desired service. I shut them all off.

I find Apple’s automatic downloading to be very annoying. It not only slows down my iPhone, but can cause my network to grind to a halt. It’s supposed to do these downloads in the background, when the Internet connection is idle. That doesn’t always happen. All too often, I find myself swearing under my breath as my favorite show is pausing over and over. Then I find that one of my Apple devices was downloading something in the background.

Unfortunately, your iPhone will still automatically download this or that, especially when plugged in, regardless of what you do. It will download new iOS updates, whether I want them or not. This can happen in the evening when I am trying to use my Apple TV. I often put my iPhone and iPad in Airplane mode to prevent this. Pathetic!

It is frustrating. Not everyone lives in an Atherton mansion with T1 lines. The people in Cupertino are so out of touch. They don’t realize that, even in the SF Bay Area (or especially here), Internet connectivity is horrible. Not all of us can have a T1 line installed in our mansion, and have tax payers pay for it. (Yes, this is unfortunately true.) Most of us live in small apartments and condos with heavily used Internet infrastructures running on 1970s cable lines. If I am lucky, I get 30 Mbps, in the tech center of the world!

I really wish Apple extended this feature to cover iOS software updates. It seems as though every time my network grinds to a halt, some unwanted iOS release has been pre-downloaded on some device. Please stop doing this, Apple!

Clear Safari Cache

As with all web browsers, Safari for iOS features a cache. This helps avoid re-downloading the same content over and over. For example, if you visit a website frequently, caching the graphics and code will speed up load times.

Over time, the cache can grow in size and cause minor performance problems for iOS. I don’t think clearing the Safari cache will result in major performance increases. It may temporarily slow down access to web sites. It doesn’t hurt to try this out, but don’t expect miracles.

Clearing the cache is easy, but it will have the consequence of deleting your browsing history. That may come in handy if you have been doing some embarrassing web surfing. Tap on Settings > Safari and then scroll down and tap on Clear History and Website data. Confirm that this is your desired choice. Keep in mind that this clears the history and website data on all devices that use your iCloud account.

Free Up Space on Your iPhone

As with most operating systems, iOS needs some free space to operate. Unfortunately, they don’t require or reserve swap space. If you fill up your iPhone too much, it will just start running slowly.

According to my research, iOS needs at least 1 GB of free space to function normally. That’s a lot of space, and unfortunately, it means that you can’t fill your device up with apps and content. It also means that you should probably spend more money on a higher capacity iPhone.

If your iPhone is performing poorly, it’s a good idea to check how much free space is available. Tap on Settings > General > iPhone Storage to view a graph of storage utilization. If you have at least one GB of free space, you don’t have to do anything. If you are close to this point, however, I recommend freeing up space on your iPhone.

You can delete most apps and content directly from the iPhone Storage screen. iOS 11 even has a new feature to offload unused apps. Apple has really made it easy to free up space on your iPhone and make the most out of it’s capacity. It almost makes up for their ridiculous prices for iPhone storage space.
In reality, there’s a few cents worth of difference between a 64 GB solid state drive and a 128 GB one. Apple typically charges $100 more for the next level of storage. They’re not the only ones who do this, but they are the most notorious.

Reduce Animation and Transparency

All of iOS’s nifty animation and transparency come at a small performance cost. All of that zooming and detailed rendering take up more processing power, which can slow down your iPhone. Fortunately, you can easily turn these features off.

Tap on Settings > General > Accessibility to view the Accessibility screen. From here, you can easily turn on Reduce Motion. Tap on Increase Contrast to access the Reduce Transparency setting. You will notice an immediate performance boost, albeit a slight one.

The real reason Apple added these settings was because iOS animations made some users nauseous. They also slow down your device.

Use New High Efficiency Image and Video Formats

iOS 11 introduces two new compact and efficient formats for video and image storage. Video and image compression boost performance by decreasing load times and preventing your iPhone from using too much storage space.

The two new formats for video and images are HEVC and HEIF, respectively. You must have an iPhone 7 or later to use these new formats. Next, tap on Settings > Camera > Formats and make the appropriate changes.

Don’t worry about compatibility with other devices. When you share, send or upload an image, iOS will convert it, on the fly, to a compatible format.

Use First Party Apps

Like most tech companies, Apple can get away with things that third-party developers cannot. Their apps often have escalated privileges, so they execute faster on iOS. In theory, Apple’s first party apps will perform better than any third-party equivalent. Like most theories, it isn’t always true.

This is one of a few recommendations that I don’t follow, mainly because most first party Apple apps are horrible. Apple Music is one of the buggiest and slowest music apps I have ever used. Both Spotify and Google Play Music run circles around Apple Music.

Apple’s Mail, Calendar and other apps are OK, but I think Google has some competitive offerings. The iTunes Store is the biggest piece of garbage I have used, regardless of platform. You don’t really need to use iTunes. You can buy content from Google Play or Amazon and watch them on any device, even your Apple TV.

If you are having performance problems with a third-party mail, calendar or media app, try the Apple equivalent. It may be faster, and if so, you should probably use it.

Personally, I think Apple makes excellent devices and operating systems. Their first party apps are horrible. I would only use one if the third-party alternative was dreadfully slow.

Restore iPhone to Factory Settings

The last tip in this article is also the most drastic, but effective. If all else fails, restoring your iPhone to factory settings will dramatically improve performance. I did this with my old iPad 2 and it was actually usable again.

Be forewarned, you could possibly lose data from third-party apps. Many third-party apps, such as text editors, store documents directly on the iPhone. If you do a full factory reset, you will lose these documents. They also might not be backed up with your iPhone. Make sure to store these documents in the cloud or even email them to yourself.

Apple’s own apps tend to store documents in iCloud. If not, they are backed up when you run your regular iCloud backup. (You do backup your iPhone regularly, right?)

As for the apps, music, TV shows and movies purchased from Apple, you own them. When you restore your phone back to factory settings, you can re-download all of these later, unless they have been removed. For example, if you downloaded an app that was later removed from the App Store, you won’t be able to get it again. This is an extremely rare case. If it applies to you, you may want to reconsider doing the factory restore.

Tap on Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings. You may need to enter your Passcode and confirm. Again, make sure you have backed up everything you need before doing this, particularly documents created in third-party apps.

Resetting your iPhone to factory settings seems drastic, but it works. Unlike the Mac, and like Windows, iOS seems to perform better on a fresh install. If your iPhone has gone through numerous iOS upgrades, all of the accumulated meta data and digital “baggage” will weigh it down. Starting fresh will breathe new life into an old iPhone.

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