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Why Is My Phone So Slow? 7 Tips to Fix Slow Phones

two toy robots working to fix a cell phone

It’s pretty noticeable when your phone is running slower than usual, not to mention frustrating. You try to pull up Google Maps to find your route home, but it takes much longer to load than you'd like. It’s a real issue, but luckily it’s a fixable one if you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and do some troubleshooting.

In this article, we’ll tackle the many possible reasons your phone is slow, as well as how to fix your phone whether it’s an iPhone or Android phone without breaking the bank. As a bonus, many of these steps will extend battery life, too.

And if you get to the bottom of this list and your phone is still moving at a glacial pace, it might be time to spring for a new cell phone. We can help you with that too. Just try our free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder to find the best deals on the latest phones you qualify for at your current carrier and competitors.

1. You Have Too Many Apps Open

We love apps as much as anybody, but when you forget to close your apps, they can cause slowdowns whether you're on an Android device or an iPhone. Leaving apps open and letting them run in the background when not in use drains on your phone’s memory, storage space, and CPU. Therefore, closing out apps that you currently use can significantly speed up your phone's performance, regardless of age.

How To Fix

Google’s recommendation for Android phones is to start your phone up in safe mode. If it’s noticeably faster, then the problem is most likely a recently downloaded app. Delete apps one by one, restarting your phone in between each deletion, until your phone is back to its normal self. This can significantly speed up your phone's performance, regardless of age.

The process Apple recommends is similar for iPhones. Just hold each troublesome app with your finger until it starts to vibrate and press the little X in the corner. This will uninstall the app, and hopefully give your slow iPhone some new legs. 

2. Your Phone Needs a Software Update

From time to time, Android and Apple release operating system updates to improve the performance of your phone. If it’s been some time since you last took advantage of the updates, it may be time to do so now. 

How To Fix

Fixing this is relatively simple. Phone manufacturers are good about letting you know when there’s an update available, but if you haven’t yet received a notification, you can manually check your phone for updates by:

  • Going into your phone’s settings. This works for both Android and iPhone devices.
  • Then tap About Phone or a similar button
  • Tap on the phone version. It should have a sequence of numbers, such as 12.5.4 or something similar
  • Once you do this, your phone should allow you to check for updates. Tap that button, then accept any updates that pop up

3. Your Phone’s RAM Is Being Overused

RAM, or random access memory, is the part of your phone that stores the operating system and where apps and data currently in use are kept. The more apps you use, the more software code fills up your phone’s RAM capacity. Over time, this can result in RAM overuse, slowing your device.

How To Fix

You can fix this problem on both iPhones and Android devices by doing a soft reset, which is distinct from a factory reset and does not delete any of your files or preferences. All a soft reset does is close apps and clear any data in your phone’s RAM, which will free up space. You might lose some unsaved data from apps in current use, but data stored on the hard drive, applications, and settings won’t be affected. 

If you have an iPhone:

  • Push and hold down both the Home and Power buttons at the same time until your phone shuts down
  • Keep holding down those buttons after the screen goes blank until the Apple logo shows up once more
  • Then just release the buttons and continue using your phone as normal

If you have an Android phone:

  • Look at the back of your phone to see if the battery is removable. If it is, remove the back of the phone
  • Pull the battery out of the back of the phone and put it back in
  • Hold power and volume buttons simultaneously if you don’t have a removable battery. Do not release them until the phone reboots and the screen lights up

4. Your Cache Is Full

Another reason why your iPhone or Android phone may be slow is a full cache. The cache is where temporary files are stored on your phone. Over time, as you open websites, every website will deposit files in your cache. 

There’s a good reason for this – if you ever go back to the website, it will be able to load a lot faster since your phone basically has a version of that website stored locally. But this cache can become full, slowing your phone’s performance to an absolute crawl.

Luckily, this one is an easy fix. You can simply clear your phone’s cache.

How To Fix

For Android devices, follow these steps:

  • Tap Settings, then Apps
  • Then tap the drop-down menu next to Your Apps, then choose Size and OK
  • Tap any of the apps whose caches you want to clear, then tap Storage and Clear Cache on each

Meanwhile, if you have an iPhone, follow this sequence of steps instead:

  • Tap Settings, then Storage
  • Tap Other Apps
  • Then pick the app with the cache you want to clear — each app will have its own cache. Whatever app you use to browse the web will most likely have the biggest cache
  • Then just tap Clear Cache

5. Your Phone’s Storage Is Full

If you open your phone’s storage space right now, you may be surprised to see just how much space is taken up by your photos, videos, apps, messages, or downloaded movies. 

Having a full storage makes your phone run slower because it doesn’t have any room to store any temporary data items it uses to make background processes faster. Think of it like hosting a dinner party in a small kitchen. If your kitchen counters are cluttered with appliances, dishes, and groceries, you'll find it challenging to prepare the meal. Your phone is the same – it needs space to do its best.

How To Fix

The solution is simple. First, open your phone’s storage to see what the main storage-hungry culprit is. Then, decide whether you want to keep those files or get rid of them. Delete anything you no longer need and enjoy a faster phone.

Android has a great built-in tool for finding and removing unneeded files. Follow these steps:

  • Select “Storage” in your phone’s settings. There you’ll get all the details on how much space is in use
  • Tap the handy “Free up space” button
  • This takes you to Google’s Files app, which gives you suggestions to delete like unused apps, junk files, deleted screenshots, or unusually large photos
  • Inside “Storage,” you can also see all your apps, along with how much space each is taking

For iPhones, it’s a similarly simple process.

  • Go to Settings, then General, and then iPhone Storage
  • You’ll have a color-coded bar that shows you what is currently taking up the most space
  • Below the bar, you’ll see a list of your apps in order by how much space they take. You’ll have to tap into each app to see how much of that space is the app itself, and how much is the app’s deletable Documents and Data
  • From there, you can go into the worst storage offenders and take action to free space up on your phone

6. Your Phone’s Battery Is Dying

Phone batteries age no matter what you do. While the age of the battery doesn’t affect your phone’s performance directly, as your batteries lose their capacity to hold power, they can cause your phone to heat up. This affects your CPU, which is very temperature-sensitive, and in turn results in your phone running less optimally.

If your phone no longer holds power like it used to, a dying battery could be the cause of your phone running more slowly overall.

How To Fix

Take your phone to a local phone store and see about replacing the battery. At the time of the writing of this article, you can expect this to run around $100 or less.

7. Your Phone Is Infected With Malware

There’s no shame in accidentally getting a virus on your phone – it can happen to anyone. You only have to click on one suspicious link and suddenly your device is infected with performance-draining malware.

Malware is any kind of software that is created to damage or compromise your device. This can be by stealing your personal data or installing unwanted programs. Not only do phone viruses affect performance, but most are malicious and will put you at a great security risk, too. Malware can take the form of spyware, which tracks your web browsing habits; adware, which displays ads on your phone without your consent; and ransomware, which encrypts files until you pay a  ransom.

How To Fix

Certain free or paid antivirus software programs, such as Avast, can run a full scan and delete any malware they find, but at that point, some damage might be done already. Unfortunately, prevention is the best cure in this case. Download antivirus software before your phone is infected, and keep your firewalls engaged to prevent malware from affecting your phone.

The Bottom Line

There’s a lot you can do to optimize your phone’s performance. However, even with the best care in the world, old phones sometimes have to be replaced. When the time comes to trade in your old phone for a new one, be sure to try Navi’s Phone Deal Finder below. It lets you quickly search over 3 million phone deals to find the best offers based on your needs in a matter of seconds.

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