Why do smartphones become so slow?

Why do smartphones become so slow?

Just like your computer, a smartphone can become slow over time causing frustration and sometimes leaving you ready to fling it out of the nearest window.

So if you are ready to speed up a smartphone and say goodbye to apps which take an age to open, slow loading web pages and the never ending battle with lag then it is time to read on and discover exactly what makes your smartphone slow.

Cached data

Just like with humans, the things we do often are easily remembered while the things we do rarely are much harder to recall.

Smartphones mimic this behaviour to improve performance with a special high-speed storage mechanism called a cache.

When your smartphone carries out an action it first checks the cached memory for data associating to that action that may be stored there from a previous reading. Things that are stored in the cached memory on your smartphone includes thumbnails, the browser history, form data and your download history.

Complex algorithms decide what is stored in the cache based on what is most likely to be accessed next. So when you view an internet page, elements don’t need to be downloaded every time and when you open an app the processor doesn’t need to scan the whole memory for the data needed to run it.

Instead, the smaller cached memory is scanned first, followed by the whole memory if the parts needed are not in the cache. The bigger the cache, the faster the smartphone performs, and the latest smartphones have a series of sequential cache memories, each larger than the previous to ensure maximum performance.

While cached data is a good thing, when the memory becomes full your smartphone may slow down as the data it needs is no longer stored in this special memory.

Outdated Web browsers

An issue that could be affecting smartphones that run older versions of Android such as Gingerbread may be a slow web browser. Android operating systems only update these if you download the latest version of Android and this isn’t possible for many older smartphones.

Instead, you can tackle this issue by downloading a new web browser that is right up to date with the latest performance enhancing features. There are several that will transform your experience such as Chrome for Google fans, Opera Mini and Firefox for Android.

Behind the scenes

There are many things that happen behind the scenes that can cause your smartphone to slow down. Two common elements that may slow older smartphones down include live wallpapers and too many widgets.

These not only affect performance but also drain the phone’s battery much quicker.

Is your battery performing poorly? Check out our 4G phone battery life tips.

Apps working in the background also consume valuable processor resources and include apps left open indefinitely during multitasking. Your phone’s Task Manager may identify apps that are misbehaving or an app like Watchdog Task Manager may highlight the issue. Saving lots of photos and videos can also cause severe lag as the phone’s memory becomes full.

Fragmented storage

Fragmented storage occurs when parts of a single file are stored in different locations of the memory as opposed to being in a contiguous space. Contrary to popular belief, fragmentation is not an issue for smartphones and defragmenting can cause damage to the memory which can only be rewritten over so many times. Apps promoting defragmentation may be malicious in nature and are best avoided.


Rooting a smartphone opens up the possibility of actually changing the way the smartphone is designed to run. For all but the most technical this process should be avoided, which incidentally voids the warranty and can leave the phone useless.

A rooted smartphone can have its processor overclocked for higher performance but this can cause overheating and reduce battery levels fast. Rooted phones can also install a custom ROM. This is an open source operating system that contributors have developed for older smartphones that cannot be updated to the latest versions of an official operating system in order to take advantage of the latest performance enhancing software and techniques.

However we believe that the risks of rooting outweigh the benefits so instead follow our guide to speeding up a smartphone safely:

How to speed up a smartphone

  1. Delete unused apps to free up memory as you can always download free apps again
  2. Disable unused apps that cannot be deleted
  3. Install a new web browser
  4. Clear the cached data periodically
  5. Free up more memory by moving files onto the SD card or onto your PC
  6. Close apps not being used
  7. Update the OS if possible for the latest bug fixes
  8. As a last resort backup your data and reset your smartphone

Performance enhancing apps

If you need a little help then you could download popular apps to automate many of these processes. A good Antivirus app will scan your smartphone for viruses and malware while a start up manager app will give you control over which apps are activated as part of the boot up process which occurs every time you turn you smartphone on. You can also find apps to clean the cache or move apps over onto to your SD card.