One of the great things about an iPhone is that they often last a long time (although users typically update iPhones more frequently than iPads and Macs). While this is a hallmark feature of a quality product, your iPhone performance may also decrease as it ages. Follow along for some ways to make your iPhone faster.

One notable difference as we look at what can be done to improve a slow iPhone compared with a Mac is that hardware upgrades aren’t really an option.

How to make your iPhone faster by updating software

In most cases, staying up to date with software (both individual apps and iOS) will help your iPhone perform best. As with all things though, there are exceptions. If you have the oldest iPhone or iPad that is supported by the current iOS version, you may notice slower performance. This is because at a certain point Apple can’t optimize a device’s performance with 4.5-5 year old hardware any further. You can find the list of supported devices on Apple’s website.

Launch the App Store to check if you have available updates to install and navigate to Settings → General → Software Update to check if you are up to date with iOS (read more here about updating iPhone software).

How to make your iPhone faster by freeing up storage

Low storage or no available storage is a common cause of a slow iPhone. For a detailed look at what is using the majority of your storage, navigate to Settings → General → Storage & iCloud Usage. You may also find our how to free up space on your iPhone article helpful.

Crashing apps, not receiving messages and emails, not being able to take photos or videos, and general sluggishness are often signs of low or no available storage.

While it’s not possible to upgrade the internal storage of your iPhone or iPad, there are good options now for external storage to easily move or save large files directly from your iPhone to another device. You can always fall back on deleting data and apps, saving to your Mac or PC, or saving to a cloud service, but it’s often handy to have an external drive with Lightning connectivity.

Background App Refresh and Low Power Mode

Using Low Power Mode is one way to reduce background app refresh activity and other phone features, which will reduce the amount of tasks your device is performing. Navigate to Settings → Battery → Low Power Mode to enable. Mail and other apps won’t automatically refresh or give you alerts like you may be used to.

You can also turn on and off individual apps to be allowed to refresh when they are not being used.

  1. Find and tap on Settings
  2. Tap on General
  3. Tap Background App Refresh

Image showing background app refresh settings

Tap the toggle to the right of each application to turn of the background app refresh feature. Alternately you can turn off all background app refresh activity at the top.

System resources

As iOS self regulates system resources very efficiently, you don’t really need to worry about keeping an eye on them too much. However, if you’re curious, there are some third-party apps that will provide a similar utility for iOS that Activity Monitor provides for macOS.

What to do with slow iPhone or iPad

Traffic Monitor is the app I use to get a more detailed look at my iPhone. At the bottom of the app are tabs to look at specific information for Data Usage, Device, Speed, Network, and Settings. This app includes an Apple Watch app and also works for iPad.

Depending on what iPhone you have you’ll notice between 1-3 GB (1,000-3,000 MB) of memory. I’ve included three images below:

  1. Memory usage with about 15 apps open, 21 Safari tabs, and hasn’t been powered off in 10 days (too long 🙃).
  2. Memory usage after closing out all Safari tabs and all apps.
  3. Memory usage after powering down iPhone fully.

What to do with a slow iPhone or iPad

This is an interesting experiment in that it shows a small amount of memory resources are freed up by closing Safari tabs and apps, and a bit more by powering down. However, these steps don’t have the same results as you’d see on your Mac (note that CPU usage is constantly changing, so the above screenshots aren’t an accurate representation of that metric).

All in all, it’s good a good idea to power your iPhone off once a week or so to give it a break, but this shows how efficient iOS is with system resources, and for the most part, apps in the background don’t use much (or often any) system resources.

On the whole, iOS is designed so you don’t have to worry about closing out apps, but in some cases like unresponsive/frozen apps or overall slow performance it can be worth giving a try.

Other handy uses for this app include tracking and setting alerts for cellular data usage (which can be set to follow your billing cycle), checking network speeds, and getting more in-depth system and network information.

To close out Safari tabs quickly, do a long press on the double square icon, you’ll then get the option to close all open tabs. Alternately, you can do a normal tap on the two squares and close out individual browser tabs with the “x” in the left corner.

What to do with a slow iPhone or iPad

You can can quickly close apps by either doing a 3D Touch (firm press on iPhone 6s/6s Plus and iPhone 7/7 Plus) on the left side of your display or by double-pressing the Home button, then swipe apps up to close them out.

What to do with a slow iPhone

 Still not faster?

A couple other things to try are reseting Network Settings or All Settings. You can find these by navigating to Settings → General → Reset. Give Reset Network Settings a try first. This won’t delete any data, except you will have to re-enter any Wi-Fi passwords that your device has saved. Use your device and see if performance has improved.

Second, give a try to Reset All Settings, this also won’t erase any user data except it will remove your Lock screen and Home screen wallpaper in addition to clearing stores Wi-Fi passwords, so make sure to save that beforehand if it’s not already. You may have to customize some of your settings preferences again.

In some cases if your device doesn’t seem to improve after addressing the above areas and the two minor reset options above, a restore may be the next best step. If you feel comfortable, this is easily done with your Mac or PC through iTunes (make sure you have a backup first). You can also contact Apple Support by calling 800-APL-CARE or visiting the support website.

Once you’ve restored your device with a fresh copy of iOS, you can try restoring from an iTunes or iCloud backup. If your device performance still doesn’t improve, restoring again and starting fresh without restoring from a backup may be worth testing out (although not fun 😛).

For more ways to get the most out of your Apple devices, check out our how to guide.

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About the Author

Michael Potuck

Michael is an editor for 9to5Mac. Since joining in 2016 he has written more than 3,000 articles including breaking news, reviews, and detailed comparisons and tutorials.