iPhones do get slower with age – especially when there’s a shiny new model out and you’re wondering how to justify treating yourself. The cause is often caused by a lot of junk files and not enough free space, as well as outdated software and stuff running in the background that doesn’t need to be. So before splashing out on a new device, check out our tips on speeding up your iPhone.
Step 1: Update iOS
At time of writing Apple’s current operating system for the iPhone and iPad is iOS 13, released on 19 September 2019. There have been a few reports of bugs in the initial release of the software, but Apple is apparently addressing these in a
iOS 13.1 update, which will land on iPhones on 24 September 2019.
We would normally suggest that updating to the latest version of iOS will go some way to fix any issues you are experiencing with your iPhone, because, assuming your iPhone supports the latest version, updating will grab the latest patches and fixes for known problems. That’s exactly why we hope that any issues with a slow iPhone will be fixed if you upgrade from iOS 13 to iOS 13.1. But what about updating from iOS 12 to iOS 13?
It is wise to be cautious when it comes to large software updates, such as iOS 13, because a feature-packed iOS update, designed for phones with the latest blockbuster hardware, could actually slow down an iPhone with less up-to-date components. iOS 13 is compatible with any iPhone from the iPhone 6s and iPhone SE upwards. It might improve the experience with these phones considerably, or you might end up feeling that things have slowed down. In which case, you might like an excuse to update your iPhone to a newer model (we have the
latest iPhone deals here if that helps!).
To check whether your iPhone is up to date, head to Settings > General > Software update. If you’re not sure how to get it up to date, check out our
complete guide to updating iOS.
Step 2: Restart your iPhone
A common first piece of advice is to close down unused apps – and if it comforts you to do so, double-press the Home button (or swipe up from the bottom of a Home button free iPhone X-series or later, or 2018 iPad Pro) and swipe upwards on non-essential apps to close them. But this strategy has long been debunked, by
Daring Fireball, Apple itself, and many others.
restart the iPhone completely. Again, how you do this will depend on which iPhone model you own.
On a iPhone 5s or earlier, press and hold the Sleep button – you’ll find it on the top right. You’ll see the Power Off slider appear. Swipe it and wait for the iPhone to power down.
Similarly you’ll need to press and hold the Sleep button – this time found on the right side of the iPhone 6, 7 or iPhone 8 – until the Power Off slider appears. Swipe it and wait for the iPhone to power down.
With iPhone X and onwards pressing and holding the button on the Side of the phone brings up Siri (because it’s taken the functionality of the Home button on earlier models). So, in order to tell your iPhone you wish to shut it down, you first need to press the volume up then the volume down, and then press the Side button. You’ll then see the Power Off slider and be able to restart your iPhone.
Once it’s finished shutting down (it’ll take about 10 seconds or so), start the iPhone up again by pressing and holding the Sleep button for about 5 seconds. You’ll see the Apple icon, then the iPhone will restart.
You shouldn’t have to do this very often, but when you do it’ll clear out the memory and can often fix unruly apps. The occasional power cycle helps keep iOS ticking over.
If for some reason your phone won’t restart or close down, you might need to force reset. In which case, press and hold the Sleep button for about 30 seconds until you see the Apple logo (with iPhone X or later you’ll need to press the up then down volume controls first).
Step 3: Kill automatic background processes
New in iOS 13 is a quick and easy to stop some of these background processes. The new Low Data Mode will stop apps from using data in the background, there will be no automatic app downloads, and emails won’t be automatically retrieved. Switching off these three things won’t only save you data, they could also speed up your iPhone.
To turn on Low Data Mode open Settings > Tap Mobile Data (or Cellular in the US) > Tap on Mobile Data Options (Cellular Data Options) and tap on the slider beside Low Data Mode to stop these background processes.
You can also turn off these data hogging processes in WiFi too. Select the WiFi network you wish to limit by going to Settings > Wi-Fi > tap on the network and then choose Low Data Mode.
If you aren’t running iOS 13, or you just want to stop a few things from running in the background, you can still stop these automated features will help keep your iPhone running faster, and help extend your battery life as well. The following feature was added way back in iOS 7, so if you’ve got that or a later version, you can benefit from it.
Start by turning off Automatic Downloads. Tap Settings > iTunes & App Store > and turn all the Automatic Downloads off.
Next, turn off Background App Refresh.
Tap Settings > General > Background App Refresh and turn Background App Refresh off.
You don’t need these processes going on in the background and you’ll see a big boost in battery life as well as a noticeable increase in performance if you stop them.
Step 4: Turn down the graphics
iOS 7 also introduced some fancy visual effects, but dialling them down can help to improve performance.
Start by turning off Motion. Tap on Settings > Accessibility > Motion and set Reduce Motion to On. (In older versions of iOS Accessibility was found in Settings > General > Accessibility > Reduce Motion).
This turns off the parallax effect of icons and alerts. Some people complained of feeling seasick because of this effect, so you might find the phone easier to use in this setting. Of course, it will also use less power, which should also be beneficial.
Next you can reduce the see-through background effects which can also slow things down on an older iPhone.
Tap on Settings > Accessibility > Display and Text Size > and switch Reduce Transparancy on. You can also turn on Increate Contrast here.
In earlier versions of iOS (below) you’ll find the same settings in Settings > General > Accessibility > Increase Contrast.
Step 5: Clear Safari’s cookies and data
Next you should try emptying Safari’s data, cookies and so on to free up some memory.
Open the Settings app and scroll down to Safari. On the next page scroll down to ‘Clear History and Website Data’ and tap on that.
Bear in mind that this action may make browsing the web a bit less convenient for a while. Safari will forget the URLs you’ve been visiting so won’t suggest them as you type, unless they’re bookmarked (although it will start remembering new ones from now on). And clearing data may mean some websites forget your preferences.
We’ve got more tips about improving your browser’s performance in a separate article:
How to speed up Safari.
Step 6: Free up space on your iPhone
If you’re running out of space on your iPhone this could account for the sluggishness. Your iPhone will tend to run better if it has at least 10GB free, or around 10% of the available storage.
To find out just how much storage you are wasting, open Settings > General > iPhone Storage. You’ll see how much storage space is left on your iPhone and which apps are using up most of the space.
If you’re anything like us, the top two culprits will be Music and Photos & Camera, because these apps’ storage usage includes music, images, and videos.
One quick way to free up a chunk of space is to delete a few apps. You can also delete photos, music and more, or switch to storing data in iCloud.
If you have loads of space you can skip this step. If you are really short of space read our complete guide to
freeing up space on your iPhone.
We’ll start with deleting apps.
Delete unwanted Apps
Identify which apps are taking the most space by going to Settings > General > iPhone Storage. You can then scroll through your various apps and see how much space they are taking up. iOS 13 will offer recommendations of various things you can delete, for example, we see the option to save 2.64GB of space by deleting Apple TV downloads.
You can also scroll through the list of apps and see if there are any you don’t use – these would be great ones to delete. Remember, once you own an app you can always download it again for free at a later date.
Want to delete an app? Just tap on it here, and then choose Offload App (if you want to maintain any documents and data) or Delete App if you want to get rid of it.
In earlier versions of iOS you needed to choose Storage & iCloud Usage and then tap Manage Storage under Storage to access the same options.
We would advise that you should aim to have at least 10GB space left – or 10% of whatever your iPhone’s capacity is.
You can also
delete apps from your Home Screen by pressing and holding the app until it jumps about, and then tapping on the X that appears in the corner.
Messages can take up a considerable amount of space, especially if you send and receive a lot of images.
One option is to sync your Messages to iCloud. Go to Settings and tap on your Apple ID at the top, then iCloud and turn the Messages slider green. With this setting turned on your Messges will be stored in iCloud rather than your phone. We have 14GB of Messages in iCloud. Obviously to use this option you will need to pay for iCloud storage though.
If you don’t want to pay to store your Messages in iCloud, you can delete them from your iPhone quite easily.
Start by opening Messages and scroll down to find any message threads that you can manage without. Swipe to the right and tap Delete.
Deleting threads with only text-based messages won’t free up much space on your device, so it’s worth concentrating on threads that include a lot of images, videos and voice notes.
There’s also a relatively easy way to stop the back-log of videos and photos building up in the Messages app. If there is a person who sends you a lot of images, but you don’t want to delete a whole conversation with that person, you can quickly delete a few chosen images by opening up their message, tapping on the > and then the i icon beside their name, and then pressing on an image until you see the option to Save, Copy, Share or Delete. Choose Delete. You can choose Delete to delete that attachment. If you want to delete more than one attachement then just tap on the
In older versions of iOS it was easy to delete a number of images. Rather than tapping Delete for each individual image, there was a More… option, which when tapped would allow you to tap on all the images you want to remove from your device.
However, in iOS 13 this process has changed and it seems you can only delete one image at a time.
If you are sent a lot of audio messages you can change your settings so that they don’t stick around after you’ve listened to them, freeing up lots of space in one go.
Simply open the Settings app, navigate to the Messages menu, scroll to the bottom and change the expiry of audio messages from ‘Never’ to ‘After 2 minutes’.
With this setting, any voice messages you receive on the device will automatically delete themselves after two minutes of being opened, which will keep your storage free.
This is another one that can be fixed simply by signing up to iCloud and storing music there. If you sign up for iTunes Match all your music will be uploaded to the cloud for you to play on any device (either streaming it over WiFi or just downloading the track you want). iTunes Match costs £21.99/$24.99 a year. Another option would be to sign up to Apple Music, which would automatically give you access to the entire Apple Music library of 45 million songs in addition to the features of iTunes Match. Read about the different music options here:
Best Apple music service: iTunes Match vs Apple Music.
However, if you don’t want to spend any money, note that if you delete any tracks you have downloaded from Apple’s iTunes Music Store you will always be able to download them again for free in the future, so you can delete them will free up stace. Any music you had added via iTunes on your Mac (soon to be replaced with a new Music app) can also be deleted from your iPhone since you have it backed up on your Mac.
In fact, if you want to reduce the size of your music library that syncs to your iPhone, it is easy to do this within iTunes (and we assume in the
new Music app coming to Macs). Just plug in your iPhone and choose your iPhone once it’s icon appears. Then select the Playlists you wish to sync with your iPhone
Otherwise, just open the Music app and find any non-vital tracks, albums or artists that you want to delete. Swipe to the right and press Delete.
The simplest way to free up space on your phone is to sign up for some iCloud storage and start to store your photos in the cloud. We have more than 100GB of photos so this is the best option for us even if it means paying Apple the monthly
subscription for iCloud. (200GB is £2.49/$2.99 a month).
With iCloud Photos turned on (in Settings > Photos > iCloud Photos) all your photos from all your Apple devices will be stored together in the cloud, and you’ll be able to see thumbnails of them all on all your devices. Because the full res version won’t be stored on your iPhone (unless you download it from iCloud) you will save lots of space on your iPhone. Note: don’t delete photos on your iPhone once you are using iCloud Photos as this will delete them from iCloud – unless you really do want to delete them. Remember the version on your iPhone isn’t taking up a lot of space once you have iCloud Photos turned on.
However, if you don’t fancy paying to store your photos in the cloud, you could back up your photos on your Mac and then delete them from your iPhone.The easiest way to do this is to plug your iPhone into your Mac, open Photos, and then import your iPhone photos into Photos app on your Mac.
Alternatively you could plug the iPhone into the Mac and open Image Capture on yoru Mac. Tick the option ‘Delete after import’ at the bottom left. Next select the photos you wish to copy while pressing the Shift key, and drag and drop them into a folder on the Mac. You’ll see a green tick appear next to them in Image Capture, to show that they’ve been downloaded.
If there are any photos on there that you don’t want to keep but still want deleted from the iPhone, select them and click the red circle at the bottom. Image Capture will confirm you want to delete the photo.
Of course, you can also
delete photos on the phone itself. Open the Photos app, find the images you want to delete, tap ‘Select’ and then tap on the images you want to delete. Then tap the bin icon and confirm to delete the photos and videos you’ve selected. Just remember to back up any to your Mac before deleting them from your iPhone.
You will then need to go to the Recently Deleted folder to actually delete the images though as Apple keeps them on your device for 30 days just in case you change your mind.
Here’s a tip: if you
take a lot of screenshots on your iPhone, find the screenshots album and delete them there. You could also delete the Burst photos you take – where you end up with 14 pictures because you kept the shutter button pressed too long.
Step 7: Check the iPhone’s battery
Back in iOS 10.2.1 (which arrived in January 2017) Apple started slowing down older iPhones that have ageing batteries in order to elongate their lifespan. Older batteries, cold weather and low charge can shut your phone down without warning, and so the performance of older models was automatically reduced to prevent this.
The company did receive some backlash for this, so Apple has since made it possible to turn off this throttling, should the battery have degraded to the extent where it was deemed necessary. As of iOS 11.3 it’s been possible to Disable the setting under Peak Performance Capability. This might speed up your iPhone, but beware, your battery is showing signs of degrading, so it might be worth getting a new battery fitted.
We have a separate article that shows you how to find out if you
need to replace your iPhone battery because it’s slowing down your handset. Also learn how Apple has greatly
reduced the price of a replacement battery and how you can get a new one.
It’s even cheaper if you buy a new battery from
eBay, but it’s a tricky procedure, and Apple warns against these non-official batteries.
Step 8: Restore to factory settings
Finally, the most drastic step of all: we’re going to perform a full restore, which deletes all the data on the iPhone and returns it, in effect, to the state it was in when you bought it. (Except that the hardware components will still have suffered a number of years of wear and tear, of course.)
Since we’re deleting all the data, it’s vitally important that you
back up the iPhone: either back up to iTunes by connecting the phone to a computer as above; or to iCloud, by opening the Settings app, and either tapping on your Apple ID info at the top and then scrolling down to the device you are wanting to back up. Tap on Back Up Now.
In older versions of iOS it was necessary to tap iCloud > Storage & Backup, then Back Up Now or to turn on iCloud Backup.
Now you can restore the iPhone to its factory settings by going to Settings, General, Reset, Erase All Content and Settings. You’ll then have to enter your passcode, and then confirm that you want to delete all media and data, and reset all settings.
After a few minutes of restoring, you’ll be presented with the welcome screen you saw when you first started up the iPhone. You’ll be able to restore from the backup you made – the only issue was this is that it might reintroduce the issue you were experiencing.
Step 9: Revert to an older version of iOS
We’ll mention this here, but it’s not for the fainthearted, and it’s not a simple solution. However, it may be possible to return to an older version of iOS if you think it’s the update that’s broken things for you. Follow this tutorial to do so:
How to downgrade iOS 13 on an iPhone.
Step 10: Check your warranty, and make an appointment with Apple
If none of the above techniques work, it’s time to decide whether the speed of your iPhone is a serious enough problem for you to take it up with Apple. If there’s a problem with a component, the issue may be covered by your Apple warranty if you’ve got one – check out our guide to
Apple iPhone replacements for more on your legal rights.
As we mentioned above, slowness can be a matter of perception, but if you’re sure something’s up, and you’ve tried all our tricks, you may wish to ask Apple if they can check for a hardware issue.
See our article on
booking an appointment with Apple for more. But bear in mind that there may not be an easy solution.
The last resort: Get a new iPhone
If Apple can’t help, or the company’s help is too expensive to be worth it, we reach the final option: give up on your older iPhone and buy something newer.
If you’ve reached that point, check out our
iPhone buying guide to help figure out the right model for you, read about the
best iPhone deals, or jump straight to the
Apple store and pick a replacement.