We all love ‘iOS update day’, which can feel like you got a free phone upgrade. However, newer functionality often puts a strain on older handsets, with everything taking that little bit longer and even noticeable lag creeping in when moving between screens. Although iOS doesn’t allow as much tweaking as Android, there are a few things you can do. Martin Bailey, author of The Useful Book of Gadgets, Gizmos and Apps shows you some little-known tips and tricks.
Lose that animated background
Apple supplies a number of dynamic animated backgrounds with iOS. While they look beautiful they are quietly hogging CPU power. Turn them off by going to Settings | Wallpaper | Choose New Wallpaper and then either select from the Stills option or the camera roll. Click Set and then choose if you want it on the lock screen, home screen and both.
Kill the animations altogether
In addition to the zoom in/out effect that occurs whenever you open or close an app iOS also has a ‘parallax’ effect, slightly moving the background to give the appearance of depth. These processes all tax the phone’s CPU more and add lag when navigating around screens. Disable it by going to Settings | General | Accessibility | Reduce Motion. The only down-side is that when opening/closing apps it will now simply fade in or out, but that’s a small price to pay for the speed enhancement it’ll deliver.
When you slide up or down to access Control settings or Notifications the background is semi-transparent. Again, animating this action as it slides over your wallpaper takes power away from what you’re actually doing, so disable this to make both actions smoother. Go to Settings |General | Accessibility | Increase Contrast.
Disable Background App Refresh
This one has the double-whammy of also extending your battery life. iOS allows apps to run in the background, but often this is for their benefit, not yours. As a rule of thumb only allow apps to run that you want to notify you when you’re doing something else or not using the device. You can disable this on a per-app basis, or, if you want to be extra frugal then switch the feature off altogether. Go to Settings | General | Background App Refresh.
Disable items from Spotlight Search
Sliding right in iOS10 brings up Spotlight Search, which often includes the ability to search many more apps than you might actually need. Generally, leaving contacts, SMS and emails, plus a few other apps that you regularly use is good enough. You can disable everything else by going to Settings | General | Spotlight Search. If you don’t want Siri to suggest apps then disable that immediately, and again if you don’t want Apple to suggest items when you use Search or Look Up (which is the replacement for the Define popup option when you select text within apps) then disable them as well. If you are not sure then try disabling them and see if you miss anything! Next, scroll down the list of apps and only leave ones enabled where you want to search the content via Spotlight. If, for example, you always search for texts or emails within their respective apps then disable those.
Switch off unused Widgets
Widgets provide snippets of information or functionality from the lock or notifications screen without opening the app itself. iOS10 saw a major upgrade with Widgets but you may have several enabled that you no longer need. Most of these will be downloading content or using other iPhone resources, so disabling all but the ones you actually use will help. To do this, swipe down and then right (to move from Recent to Widgets). Scroll down and click Edit, then click the red minus to remove each widget.
Turn off Big Brother (Location Services)
You may not want to disable this altogether, but many apps request access to the iPhone’s Location Services, not only slowing down your phone but sapping its battery. As with background access you can disable this per app. Go to Settings | Privacy | Location Services and then set any apps that don’t need to know where you are to Never. You may also want to change some apps that are set to Always to While Using, to further minimise the overhead that Location Services places on the system.
Reset the memory without a reboot
This is a little-known trick that will reset the RAM on your phone. Press and hold the power button until the ‘Slide to Power Off’ screen appears. Let go of the power button and then just hold the Home button for around 10 seconds until you are returned to your home screen. You will notice that the first time you reload an app it’ll take longer as it’s no longer cached but this technique is a quick way to get an immediate boost.
Notifications are the banners that appear, either over what you are currently viewing or on the lock screen. These are tied to the background app refresh features that you may have already disabled, but it doesn’t hurt to review these and switch off anything that you don’t want to be bothered with. Every little helps, right? Go to Settings | Notifications and then you can choose to disable the notifications altogether or be selective about how each app can notify you.
Disable the new Raise to Wake feature
On newer iPhones with improved motion control sensors iOS10 can automatically turn the screen on when you pick the phone up. You can disable this by going to Settings | Display and Brightness and flick the switch against Raise to Wake. Performance and battery gains are negligible but there are there to be had nonetheless.
Another consideration when looking to improve performance is making sure that you have plenty of free space on your phone – a minimum of 1GB is recommended, but the greater the better.
Here’s a few ways to claw back some gigabytes. Remember that you can check how much space you have available by going to Settings | General | Storage & iCloud and clicking on Manage Storage. This will display a list show what’s taking up the most space. You may be surprised by some of the culprits.
Clear browser cache
Constant use of Safari will build up a sizeable amount of files that are stored (cached) locally. Clearing these is simple, but note that you’ll also lose your browsing history and it won’t autocomplete previously typed web addresses. Your bookmarks will be intact though. You can clear the cache by going Settings | Safari and then scrolling down to Clear History and Website Data. Also, don’t have too many tabs open within the browser. Click on the icon bottom right (two squares) and close any open windows you don’t need.
Delete iMessages, WhatsApp and any other locally stored messages
Those pictures and short videos that you send and receive all mount up, and before you know it you’re hauling around several hundred megabytes. Deleting these not only frees up space but will make searching and generally even scrolling through your messages a faster and more pleasant experience.
Delete unused apps
As iOS became more mature apps were able to integrate further into it, with features such as ‘Send to’ or ‘Open with’. The fewer apps you have installed the less work the OS has to do. Take a few minutes out and have a culling session. Just press and hold the icon of an app you want to delete until all the icons start jiggling and then press the X to delete it. Carry on deleting apps you don’t use and press the Home button once done. With iOS10 you can now delete the stock Apple apps such as Tips or Stocks and Shares, freeing up even more space.
Transfer your photos and videos
Along with your messages your camera roll can quickly become unwieldy, and if you’re presented with several thousand photos to sift through it can be a soul-destroying task. Take Google up on their kind offer of unlimited storage forever for your photos. Download the Google Photos App and create/log in with a Google account. You can then sync an unlimited number of photos of up to 16 megapixels, which is greater than the iPhone can currently take. Once done you can safely delete them from your phone via your regular camera roll app.
Resetting Network Settings
Sometimes speed issues can manifest themselves as slow Wi-Fi or cellular data transfer rates. Resetting the network settings (Settings | General | Reset | Reset Network Settings). Note that your iPhone will forget all Wi-Fi networks and passwords though.
And of course, have you tried turning it off and on again?
A good old-fashioned reboot can often solve a multitude of ills, so if you’ve not powered down your phone in a while it’s worth a shot. It may be that an errant app wasn’t behaving, and a reset might be a quick fix.
Remember, you don’t have to completely cripple your phone, but selectively disabling features that you don’t use can make your handset feel like new. You can cherry-pick from the suggestions above, but if you don’t like the compromise that switching off a feature leaves you with then re-enable and move onto the next option.
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