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How to Boost Performance on Your Older 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, few can afford to buy new hardware every year, or even every few years. If your iPhone or iPad is showing its age, try these tricks to squeeze out a bit more performance.

Even though Apple strives to keep iOS running well on older iPhones and iPads, the sad truth is, eventually they won’t be able to keep up. Plus, as apps become more advanced, they too won’t run as quickly. So, aside from falling into an endless upgrade cycle, what can you do?

Turns out, there are quite a few things.

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.

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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.

First, tap open Increase Contrast and then turn Reduce Transparency on.

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 others.

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 Storage & iCloud Usage.

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Under Storage, tap Manage Storage.

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Now that you’re on the Storage screen, you will see all your apps and the space they consume in descending order.

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.

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

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 in the background.

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

You have two choices here: you can disable them wholesale, or individually.

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…

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…or delete multiple messages by tapping the “Edit” button in the corner and selecting the messages you want to delete.

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Most likely, though, you’ll want to limit your message history and delete items over a certain age. Open the Settings app on your iPhone and scroll down to and tap open Messages, then tap Keep Messages to limit your message history to a year or 30 days.

Disable Siri Suggestions

As cool as it may be, Spotlight Search can be a little resource intensive on less capable devices. Turning off the Siri suggestions that show up when you search can help move things along.

Once again, in the General settings, tap open Spotlight Search.

Just like with background app refreshes, you can elect to go the individual route or turn it all off at once.

Again, how you go about it is up to you, if you find this feature useful, but there are things you might not need results for, and you can thus disable them.

Use Apple’s Apps

Third-party apps often offer more functionality than Apple’s built-in apps, but they can also require more resources–resources that an older iPhone or iPad won’t necessarily have.

If third-party apps are feeling slow, try using one of Apple’s built-in offerings instead (for example, try Safari instead of Google Chrome). Since they don’t get updated as often–and since Apple takes great care in developing their apps to run well–they may have more longevity on old devices than new, constantly-updating apps do.

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Be Careful with iOS Updates

You might think that updating to the latest version of iOS will improve performance, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, sometimes it’s better to not update, especially on an old device.

Historically, many of Apple’s final updates to an old device–for example, iOS 5 on the first generation iPad–slow the device down to a crawl. That old hardware just isn’t powerful enough to run the latest and greatest, but Apple updates it anyway.

This isn’t always the case (some iOS updates really do boost performance), but it just goes to show that you should be careful when your old device shows it has an iOS update waiting. Don’t update it right away–wait a few weeks, and then search the web to see if others are noticing better or worse performance. You can’t downgrade on iOS, so once you update, you’re stuck on that version–so it’s better to wait and see how the update is performing for others.

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If All Else Fails, Just Start Over

If none of the above solutions work, you may have a more serous problem, like data corruption, causing your device to slow down. Sometimes it’s best to just start from a clean slate, which means resetting your device. To do this, open the General settings and scroll down to Reset.

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Instead of implementing the nuclear option, you can first try to Reset All Settings, which will remove a lot of data like stored Wi-Fi networks, Touch ID, app permissions and more.

But, if that doesn’t work, make sure your important data is backed up, then choose “Erase All Content and Settings”. You’ll have to set your iPhone back up from scratch, but you may find it runs better as a result.

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No, Closing Open Apps Won’t Help

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 a stuck app). In fact, this will force all your apps to start from scratch the next time you open them, which will make things take longer–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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