6 Reasons Your Phone Is So Slow—and How to Speed It Up

Is your smartphone dragging? Find out the common reasons iPhones and Androids slow down, as well as the easy things that can give them a boost.

Sick and tired of constantly wondering, Why is my phone so slow? You’ve come to the right place. Turns out, a slow-running device is not always one of the telltale signs it’s time for a new phone. “Factors such as storage space [and slow internet] can play a role” in your smartphone’s speed, according to Thomas Reed, director of Mac and mobile at Malwarebytes.

Fortunately, there’s a wide range of easy fixes for a slow device once you know the issue. Here’s the lowdown on the common culprits causing your phone to drag and the best iPhone hacks to speed it up again. For another iPhone trick to troubleshoot your device, find out how to restart a frozen iPhone—which just might help speed things up too!

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Why is my phone so slow?

Before you can fix your slow phone, you need to figure out what’s causing it to slow down in the first place. Here are some of the most likely reasons your device might be lagging.

You’re low on storage space

Downloading and storing too many photos, videos, podcasts and games on your smartphone can eat up the phone’s memory and overload its computer processing unit (CPU), leading it to run slowly. If your phone’s storage space is running low, try these hacks to free up space on your iPhone.

Your Wi-Fi connection is bad

If your phone is working more slowly than usual and you’re connected to public Wi-Fi or free Wi-Fi, check the network’s signal strength. A bad Wi-Fi connection can cause your phone to lag as it tries to refresh apps and webpages. “In this case, it’s not really the phone that’s slow,” Reed says. “But because the apps are trying to load data over a slow connection, they respond slowly.”

Your phone’s operating system is outdated

When was the last time you updated your phone’s operating system? If your answer is “never,” experts say you should hit that update button—stat. Operating system updates often provide fixes for issues or bugs that might be slowing down your phone, as well as improve the phone’s processing functions to get it working faster. FYI, putting off device updates can also shorten the life of your phone.

Your phone’s cache or RAM is full

The more you use your device, the more pieces of data get stored on your phone’s cache and RAM from apps and web browsing. Eventually, those tiny bits of virtual information will accumulate and grow bigger, taking up more memory space and causing the processor to work overtime. All these factors can slow down your phone, Reed says.

You have too many apps

Holding on to apps that you aren’t using or no longer need can take up valuable storage space and slow down your phone. Even when you delete them, remnants of their data might continue to lurk on your device if you don’t take the proper steps.

Pro tip: Close any apps that are running in the background to save battery life and use less data.

Your phone’s battery is old

On certain smartphones like iPhones, an aging battery might be to blame for a sluggish device. Older batteries cause the operating system to slow the device’s performance and processing speed. While some people believe this happens to convince customers to buy a new phone, that’s actually a smartphone battery myth, according to Reed. In reality, this trick helps the phone last longer by reducing power consumption and protecting the battery, he says.

How can I speed up my slow phone?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for speeding up your smartphone. Instead, the right fix will depend on the underlying cause of your phone’s slowness. Once you’ve diagnosed the issue and answered the question “Why is my phone so slow?” using the guide above, you’ll know the most effective way to speed it up again.

Follow this list of steps you can take to fix your slow phone, based on what’s causing it to drag in the first place.

Free up storage space

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When you’re trying to figure out how to speed up your smartphone, getting more storage space is one of the best places to start. Delete storage-hungry apps and files to reduce the pressure on your phone’s CPU and free up processing power for other activities. Although you can’t make space on your device with the click of a button, the Storage feature on iPhones and Androids can help you decide what to cut.

On iPhones

  1. Go to Settings > General.
  2. Tap on “iPhone Storage” to view a graph that shows which files are taking up the most space on your phone. It will also provide suggestions so you can get more storage, such as offloading unused apps, enabling iCloud Photos Library and deleting iPhone photos.

On Androids

  1. Go to Settings > Storage.
  2. Tap on the “Free up space” button to see the top apps and other files you can remove to make space on your device.
  3. Select what you want to delete, or consider cloud storage for Android to offload files from your phone.

Clear your phone’s cache

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Your smartphone’s cache stores tiny bits of data from apps and web browsing, which can build up over time and hog storage space. By clearing the cache, you can free up memory on your phone and improve its processing speed.

On iPhones

  1. Go to Settings > Safari.
  2. Scroll down, and select “Clear History and Website Data.”
  3. Follow the same steps for any other apps whose cache you want to clear.

On Androids

  1. Go to Settings > Storage.
  2. Tap “Apps.”
  3. Choose the app whose cache you want to clear. You can see which apps are taking up the most space by tapping the three-dot icon in the top right-hand corner and selecting “Sort by size.”
  4. In the app’s menu, tap “Clear Cache.”

Do a soft reset

Like clearing your phone’s cache, performing a soft reset on your phone can clean out the RAM and get it back to running faster and more efficiently. You can also try to factory reset your iPhone to speed it up, but keep in mind that doing so will erase all the data on your phone, including apps and settings.

On iPhones

  1. Press and hold the Home and Power buttons at the same time until the iPhone turns off.
  2. Continue holding the buttons until the Apple logo appears.
  3. Release the buttons, and the phone should reboot to your home screen.

On Androids

  1. For Android phones with a removable battery, remove the battery from the back of the phone and then replace it.
  2. For Android phones with a non-removable battery, hold down the power and volume buttons at the same time.
  3. Release once the boot-up animation appears on the screen.

Update to a new operating system

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On both iPhones and Androids, staying up-to-date with the latest operating system can protect your phone from viruses and keep it running smoothly. And yes, despite what you may have heard, iPhones can get viruses!

On iPhones

  1. Go to Settings > General > Software Update.
  2. Tap “Automatic Updates.”
  3. Flip the switches next to “Download iOS Updates” and “Install iOS Updates” to the “on” position.

On Androids

  1. Go to Settings > About Phone.
  2. Tap “Check for Updates.”
  3. If your phone’s operating system needs to be updated, an “Update” button will appear.
  4. Tap on the “Update” button, then tap “Install Now,” “Reboot and Install,” or Install System Software,” depending on your phone’s OS.

Delete unused apps

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First, identify any unused apps that are eating up memory and causing your smartphone to lag. Permanently delete them to get more storage space and improve your phone’s processing speed.

On iPhones

  1. Press and hold the app you want to delete.
  2. Tap “Remove App” in the pop-up menu.
  3. Select “Delete App.”
  4. Tap “Delete” to erase the app from your phone.

On Androids

  1. Press and hold the app you want to delete.
  2. If you have a Samsung or OnePlus phone, tap the “Uninstall” or “Disable” button. Other Android users must drag the app to the upper-right corner of the screen and release it over the “Uninstall” option.
  3. Tap “OK.”

Check your battery’s health

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The health and age of your smartphone’s battery can take a serious toll on its processing speed. To confirm whether the battery is the culprit for your slow phone, you can check its health on your device.

On iPhones

  1. Go to Settings > Battery.
  2. Under “Battery Health,” you will see your battery’s maximum capacity. The older your battery, the lower the percentage will be.
  3. Tap on “Peak Performance Capacity” to learn more about your smartphone’s battery, including whether it has degraded or is not functioning properly.

On Androids

  1. Download the AccuBattery app from the Google Play Store.
  2. In the app, you can learn your phone’s current battery capacity, as well as the battery’s consumption and estimates for how long the phone can go between charges.

Is an aging battery slowing down your phone? Rather than purchasing a new phone, Reed recommends simply replacing the battery itself. But, he adds, “keep in mind that an older phone will get slower when trying to run a newer system, so at a certain point, you’ll still have to replace the phone anyway.”

If you’ve asked yourself “Why is my phone so slow?” one too many times and you’re due for an upgrade, consider investing in one of the most secure phones to guard against malware and cybercriminals.

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Brooke Nelson
Brooke is a tech and consumer products writer covering the latest in digital trends, product reviews, security and privacy, and other news and features for RD.com.