Revealed: Why Your Smartphone Seems To Slow Down As It Ages

Revealed: Why Your Smartphone Seems To Slow Down As It Ages

Most of us slow down as we age. We’re similar to conventional machines, like old cars or hairdryers that run less efficiently as they get on in years.


But digital gadgets, particularly smartphones? We expect them to operate quickly. Forever!

In reality, smartphone performance eventually diminishes. Take my daughter’s experience with each of the iPhones she’s owned over the past several years. Once each was more than a couple of years old, they showed the telltale signs of age, including frozen screens, apps that would load slowly or not at all, and text messages that would not get delivered.

There are several reasons smartphones get sluggish. According to Mike Gikas, who has covered and tested smartphones for more than a dozen years, “The main reason why phones slow down over time is that operating-system updates often leave older hardware behind. Companies also update apps to take advantage of faster processing speeds and more efficient architectures.”

And for owners of older models of smartphone, says Gikas, “It often means that the new version of the app they loved will run slightly slower than the older version of the same app. What’s more, features they love may no longer be supported.”

[referenced url=”” thumb=”” title=”Why Battery Life Estimates Never Seem Accurate” excerpt=”Whether it’s a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone, battery life estimates always seem like they’re totally wrong. How-To Geek explains why.”]

In most cases, this process is gradual, yet continual. Gikas notes how hardware on older smartphones will lose capabilities, little by little, after updates of operating systems and apps. It might start with losing one feature on an app. Then, the entire app itself won’t run. Eventually, he notes, the phone itself will lose the ability to use the app store. At that point, you’ll be unable to load or update any apps.

Here are the most common ways smartphones slow down as they age:

Older phones have a lot of apps, which slow performance

Most new phones ship with just a few apps. But once you get your new phone, who doesn’t want to load every cool new app you see? According to Android Central, it’s best to remove the ones you’re not using to avoid having them use up precious processing resources on your phone’s CPU, whether it’s an Android phone or iPhone.

[referenced url=”” thumb=”” title=”Buy Laptops With At Least 50% More Battery Life Than You Think You’ll Need” excerpt=”You probably already know that the battery life rating for laptops, tablets and phones don’t often match reality. Laptop Magazine explains why and offers a sound rule of thumb for buying your next laptop.”]

Too many apps are running in the background

Another common culprit that slows older phones is having a lot of apps running in the background. It’s a surefire way to quickly drain your phone’s battery. suggests exploring the settings on an Android phone to find out which apps take the biggest toll on battery life. Double tapping the home button on an iPhone allows you to see which apps are currently running, and swipe up to close them out, though this process can be counterproductive as a means of saving your dying battery, as we’ve written previously.

Lack of storage space

As your phone ages, you inevitably eat up most, if not all of the available storage, unless you’re obsessive about checking how much space you have left on your phone and clearing things out accordingly. But says operating a phone with little or no available storage will result in a sluggish phone — something that’s true of computers as well. Here’s a tip: Be aware of how many photos and videos you’re shooting, since they eat up space quickly. If you have too many, offload them to your computer’s hard drive or to cloud storage to free up space.

[referenced url=”” thumb=”” title=”Three Science-Backed Tips For Extending The Life Of Your Phone Battery” excerpt=”If your smartphone’s battery isn’t lasting as long as it used to, it could be because you haven’t taken very good care of it. Here’s the science of how smartphone batteries work, and how you can keep them healthy for longer.”]

Mobile network updates only benefit new phones

You’ll often see commercials for networks with faster speeds. But they generally won’t affect your old phone. “Cell carriers continually tweak their networks to make them faster,” says Gikas, “And there are faster Wi-Fi standards.” But Gikas says only new phones will experience the bump in speed, perhaps making your older model seem slow by comparison.


Smartphone experts point to an additional reason we think our old phones run slowly. Many suggest that consumers’ expectations of new, more powerful phones actually influence their perceptions of their existing phones. “It’s psychological,” says Gikas. “The newer phones are, indeed, faster, even though it’s only by fractions of a second. But that’s enough for some people to notice that the phone in their hand seems slower than their friend’s cool new phone.”

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.

At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


2 responses to “Revealed: Why Your Smartphone Seems To Slow Down As It Ages”