iOS 14 Users Struggle With Defective Scrolling and Keyboard Lag

image credit: Meme Generator

published by Chand Bellur
March 11, 2021 at 3:33 p.m.
  • iPhone users in Apple’s support community are experiencing scrolling and keyboard performance issues after installing iOS 14.
  • The issue affects virtually all iPhone models capable of running iOS 14, including the newest iPhone 12 series.
  • Apple has been unable to fix this problem so far, as users continue to experience it with iOS 14.4, the latest version.
  • Resetting the device, which wipes out everything on the iPhone, doesn’t fix the problem.
  • Restarting the iPhone improves scrolling and keyboard performance temporarily; however, the problem returns after a matter of hours.

iOS 14: Keyboard and Scrolling Lag

iOS is known for its buttery smooth scrolling and speedy user experience. Unfortunately, some iPhone users upgrading to iOS 14 aren’t enjoying Apple’s high-performance user interface. Instead, they endure slow and often erratic scrolling, with sluggish keyboard response. For example, if a user types in some characters, they may take few seconds to show up. Users are upset because the iPhone is a premium product; however, these defects make the experience seem shoddy.

iPhone customers started reporting this issue on Apple’s support community back in mid-September of 2020, shortly after the operating system’s release. In the six proceeding months, Apple’s engineers have been unable to fix these defects, leaving customers in the lurch. Some have resorted to frequent restarts and even factory resets, which don’t fix the problem.

Although the support community has some theories about possible causes and solutions, Apple employees don’t answer questions in this forum. Instead, it’s users helping other users figure out how to fix a black box problem.

Restarting Your iPhone Temporarily Solves Scrolling and Keyboard Lag

It’s like the classic line from the IT Crowd — “have you tried turning it off and on again?”. Although Roy’s catchphrase applies, it doesn’t result in a durable fix. Restarting your iPhone will only temporarily fix these issues. After a few hours, the problem resurfaces, and the iPhone becomes frustrating to use.

Even though the fix is not permanent, restarting your phone may restore performance for times when you need it. If the lag is unbearable, spending a few minutes to cycle your iPhone is likely worth the time and effort.

If your iPhone doesn’t feature Face ID, you can restart it by holding down the side button. The screen will show a sliding switch with the message “slide to power off”. For those with Face ID, holding the side button and either volume button will display the sliding switch to power down your device. Once it turns off, you can power it back on by holding down the side button until you see the Apple logo.

Some in the Apple support community suggest that this temporary solution indicates insufficient RAM in the iPhone, as restarting the device frees memory. While it’s true that the iPhone has much less RAM than Android devices, iOS is an entirely different operating system. Of course, today’s apps continue to pack in more features and higher quality sound and graphics. Modern-day apps take up more memory; however, Apple won’t significantly increase RAM in its newest models.

A process stuck in a loop could result in significant performance problems. It would also explain why this only happens to some users while others are unaffected. Perhaps some rogue thread is churning away in the background, and restarting the iPhone kills this process. Such a condition would hamper scrolling and keyboard performance. One would assume Apple or the third-party developer would detect such a flaw; however, defects can persist for several months without anyone discovering a root cause. Apple’s opacity doesn’t make finding these issues any easier.

Memory Management May Cause iOS 14 Keyboard and Screen Lag

Devices such as the iPhone feature a limited amount of random access memory (RAM). Memory is primary storage. This is where your active applications exist, but sometimes, when a device runs out of RAM, the operating system needs to use secondary storage — the SSD. This technique, known a virtual memory, is neither new nor unique to Apple devices. Computing systems have employed virtual memory for decades, as RAM is more expensive and only finite amounts can be installed and addressed.

Computing systems divide memory into pages. Currently, each page of memory is 16 kilobytes on a modern-day iPhone. Unlike macOS, iOS doesn’t write pages from memory to a backing store, such as the SSD. Instead, it retrieves read-only pages from storage, such as assets from an app. When an iPhone runs out of memory, iOS eliminates inactive and unused pages and requests that apps jettison unused memory.

The problem with sluggish scrolling and keyboard performance is specific to certain apps. Perhaps these apps aren’t removing memory properly, but since they run in the foreground, they can’t be closed. According to user reports, some of these apps are so slow that they appear to hang.

Although PC Magazine recommends 7 GB of free space on an iPhone, this probably isn’t the culprit. Apple Support Community members haven’t posted statistics regarding free storage space on their devices. It’s tempting to say that because iOS 14 takes up more space on an iPhone, it has something to do with the problem. This is likely a coincidence, as iOS does not write in-memory pages to SSD.

Does the iPhone Need More RAM?

As iOS 14 continues to grow, app developers take advantage of newer features. Popular and enduring apps bloat over the years, consuming more resources. Perhaps Apple needs to add more RAM to its devices and fine-tune iOS to accommodate larger apps.

While it’s true that Apple devices don’t have as much RAM as their flagship Android counterparts, perhaps this needs to change. The differences in RAM are quite significant, with present-day Android flagships featuring 12 GB or more of memory. Apple’s most expensive and powerful smartphone, the iPhone 12 Pro, only comes with 6 GB of RAM.

For a long time, Apple could justify using half the RAM of competing Android devices because the A-series processors were faster than Qualcomm Snapdragon chips. However, the Qualcomm 888 processor offers faster multi-core speeds and comparable single-core performance to an iPhone 12 Pro Max sporting an A14 Bionic processor.

Apps are getting bigger and better. They take up more space and use more RAM. As screens improve in quality, assets within an app, such as graphics, need to scale up. Larger apps with rich graphics and multimedia take up more RAM, but it appears that Apple won’t budge.

The Android Grass Really is Greener

After years of using an iPhone, I switched to a OnePlus 8 Pro last September. I couldn’t be happier with this device. There’s no lag whatsoever. It’s faster, more stable, and more reliable than any iPhone I’ve owned. With 12 GB of RAM, it has twice as much memory as the latest and greatest iPhone. Its 120 Hz screen provides much smoother scrolling than a properly-functioning iPhone.

With Apple’s laggy iOS 14 release, my OnePlus 8 Pro mops the floor with the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Perhaps the benchmarks are better for the iPhone, but the user experience is another story. Disgruntled iPhone customers may look beyond Apple, which seems more interested in maximining profits to keep its stock lofty than creating excellent products. With less RAM, out-dated screen technology, and weak batteries, it’s a wonder why people shell out top dollar for an iPhone.

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