As with any computer, Android phones have the unfortunate habit of growing slower with age. For the first few months after you take your phone out of the box, everything is great—apps load fast, cached data is easily accessed, and loading everything from local files to games to apps is done in the blink of an eye. But, over time, your device naturally grows slower, and that feeling of shiny new tech begins to wear away. Your phone’s RAM begins to get oversaturated with installed and active apps. Those same apps take up more and more room on your phone’s internal storage. You keep thousands of photos, videos, and screenshots saved on your phone, and after a while, loading anything, from a web page to pulling up your email, can take an excruciating long amount of time.
The first thing to keep in mind is that you are not the first person to experience this. Nothing is wrong with you or your phone. In fact, there are plenty of fixes for your memory and speed problems, and most of them are quick and easy to accomplish. Android is an operating system that can be stretched both thin and wide and still return to its normal, speedy state. No matter how slow your phone has gotten, one or more of our tips are bound to help your phone return to its speedy state. So, let’s take a look at how to speed up your slow Android phone.
- Quick Fixes
- Changing How Your Device Runs
- Advanced Options for Speeding Up Your Phone
- One Last Tip on Your Phone’s Hardware
- What You Shouldn’t Do
Your phone might be acting slow, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need a multiple-step process to fix the issues causing the slow down. Sometimes, the simplest solution to your problems is also the correct one, so we’ll start by taking a look at some of the easiest ways to fix the speed of your phone or tablet. While you might be tempted to do a full factory restore of your device, there are quite a few steps you should take before resorting to such drastic measures. So, in no particular order, here are some quick fixes for your Android device.
Restart Your Phone or Tablet
Yes, this is an obvious tip, but you’d be surprised how long people go without restarting their phones, tablets, and other Android devices. Just as with standard computing devices like your Windows-based desktop or your MacBook Pro, hardware running Android requires the occasional restart, just to cycle out applications running in the background of your device. On most Android phones a restart can be accomplished by holding down the power button and selecting “Restart” from the popup menu; if your phone doesn’t have a restart option, simply power off your device and then power it back on.
For the best performance on older devices, let your phone sit for a few minutes after rebooting; typically, startup applications can slow down your device while everything initializes. Newer phones like the Pixel 2 XL, however, should be up and running in no time.
Uninstall Unused and Outdated Apps
Remember when you downloaded Candy Crush Saga, only for it to sit unused for months on your phone? Though it might seem like those old apps and games on your phone aren’t doing anything to slow down your Android phone or tablet, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. In actuality, Android apps have a bad habit of running in the background even if you haven’t actively opened the app in months. They sit there, updating data and checking for updates without your knowledge. And while it might seem okay to leave that couponing app you downloaded around the holidays on your phone, the truth is, it’s probably best that you dump it, unless you use it every day. A lot of us might like to think we keep our phones clean and clear of all unwanted or unused apps, but even the most tech-savvy of us have a couple apps on our device we don’t use anymore.
If you aren’t sure what you’ve got hidden on your phone or device, newer versions of Google’s Play Store make it pretty easy to check which apps have and haven’t been used in a while. Open up the Play Store from your app drawer or from your home screen, and slide the left menu open (or hit the menu button in the top-left corner). At the top of the menu, hit “My apps and games” to open the list of all your apps. By default, this page opens on your recently-updated apps—however, we need to view your installed apps. Swipe to the right or select the “Installed” tab from the top of the menu. Google Play will display every app you have installed on your device, along with sorting options shown off to the right of your device. Typically, Google Play shows this in “Alphabetical” mode but we want to select “Last Used,” which will show your apps from most-recently opened to least-recently opened.
From here, you can view the apps most recently used by your device. You’ll probably see apps like your texting app, your camera app, your launcher (if you use a third-party launcher), and even your email app up top, but the father down your list you scroll, you’ll begin to see apps you haven’t used for months. Some of the apps at the bottom of your list might be system apps that can’t be uninstalled, and don’t worry, we’ll cover those further down this list. Continue scrolling up this list from the bottom and you’ll find applications taking up space and system resources on your phone that you might’ve forgotten were ever on your device. When you find an app you don’t want to keep installed on your device, tap on the application name in your menu. This will bring up an option at the bottom of the screen to open or update, but simply tap the name one more time, then hit “Uninstall” on the app page inside Google Play.
Continue uninstalling any apps you feel comfortable removing from your device. You’ll be surprised how many apps on your device go unused for months on your phone, especially if you’ve had your phone for more than a year.
Uninstalling Multiple Apps at Once
It can be a pretty frustrating experience to try to remove multiple apps from your device. Uninstalling through the Play Store works well enough, but it can be frustrating to move back and forth between the list of apps to uninstall and the actual information page for each app. Removing apps from the app drawer on your device is even more frustrating, as you have to move your finger between apps, dragging them to the uninstall shortcut on your display and then having to find the next app to uninstall in a full list of content.
Here’s the good news: uninstalling can be made a whole lot easier on Android with the help of a shortcut application from Google Play. App uninstallers exist in spades on the Play Store, each offering an “easy” way to uninstall the apps from your devices. They act like the Control Panel interface on Windows, allowing you to select apps to uninstall from a list that can be sorted to your heart’s content, but without the slow and tedious uninstall process that still plagues Windows to this day. With all the choices available to Google Play users, it can be tough to figure out which uninstaller is the right one to use—especially when some of the uninstaller applications come with ads or other processes that can slow down your phone even more.
If you want to try out a bunch of app uninstallers, you’re more than welcome to browse the list. But for those looking for a single recommendation, we’ve spent the last few months using NoAd Uninstaller. That app, unfortunately, has been removed from the Play Store, but you can find an APK of it right here. However, for those looking to stick purely to the Play Store for their applications, you might want to check out Uninstaller – No Ads, No Pain on the Play Store, which offers the same functionality as NoAd Uninstaller but with a better, more intuitive interface. Whichever you choose to install on your device, they both make uninstalling multiple applications at once a breeze. This app also does it without interrupting the uninstall process with ads like most of the apps on the Play Store.
Once you’ve uninstalled the apps on your phone, you might want to restart your device simply to clear out any additional files still being using your memory. But what about the apps that shipped with your phone, the ones you can’t remove? Don’t worry, we have advice for those too.
Disable Unused System Apps
Even though Android manufacturers (and, to a lesser extent, carriers) have scaled back their inclusion of bloatware in the more recent versions of Android, it’s still a problem on Google’s operating system. And unless you’re running a Nexus or Pixel device—and, in some cases, phones from Motorola and OnePlus—you probably have a decent amount of bloatware on your phone. This could be pre-installed apps, system applications, or your carrier’s sponsored apps (Verizon is a particularly bad offender in all this, including music and navigation apps that charge for features you can get for free from Google and other app providers).
Luckily, most system apps not required by the operating system to function can, at the very least, be disabled within your system settings. A disabled app will still take up space on your phone, but it won’t be able to run in the background, saving your phone from the toll of too-many system apps using your phone’s CPU at once. To disable pre-installed applications on your device, head into your settings menu either by using the Settings icon within your phone’s app drawer, or by accessing the Settings shortcut from the quick settings at the top of your notification tray. This screen may look different, depending on which device you have, but the process will be largely the same.
Scroll down your settings menu until you find “Applications” from the list of settings. Depending on your version of Android and your phone’s manufacturer, this menu might also be called “Apps.” Once you’ve opened this menu, tap “Application manager” from the top of the list, and you’ll be able to view every app installed on your phone. System apps, or at least the ones required to run Android, will be hidden away from the user, but can be easily revealed by tapping the triple-dotted menu icon in the top-right corner of the screen and selecting “Show system apps.” Most of the apps hidden under this menu won’t be able to be disabled by default, so you’re better off leaving these apps alone anyway.
But while we’re viewing that menu, it’s important to note a few other selections for sorting our apps. While our system apps list is sorted by alphabetical order (as we saw above in Google Play), you can also sort by both size and memory usage. Sorting by size doesn’t matter too much for our current goal of speeding up your phone, but it’s good to know you can do this in the future if you’re looking to free up room on your device.
What’s more interesting to this guide is the ability to sort by memory usage (Samsung only; our test Pixel 2 doesn’t seem to have this option). Just tap “Memory,” and then tap “Memory usage” to view the apps using up your memory. Unsurprisingly, you’re going to see Android OS and Android System at the top of your device, but look through your list of apps and see if anything is using up more resources than it should be. Apps like Snapchat and Facebook are notorious for being memory hogs, so if you don’t use them often—or you can live without those apps installed on your device—you might want to consider uninstalling.
Back to disabling unwanted system apps: on your application manager, you’ll want to find and select the app you wish to disable. We don’t have any specific suggestions, since each phone includes different included applications, and what you use in your daily life is up to you. On our test device, we disabled apps like Slacker Radio and NFL Mobile—apps that couldn’t be uninstalled, but we had no use for. Just find the app you wish to disable, tap the “Disable” button at the top of the display,” and confirm “Disable” upon the pop-up warning about errors in other apps. Though the app will still take up room on your phone’s internal storage—Slacker, for example, uses 40MB of our phone’s storage—you’ll be satisfied to see that the app no longer can update, push notifications, or run in the background.
Clear Your Cached Data
Another app-centric trick, one well-known to the Android-enthusiast community, is clearing your cache. This simple process can help boost your performance on Android by cycling and cleaning out any cached data leftover from unused or rarely-used apps, as well as system apps that can’t be uninstalled from your system. Most apps manage their cached data well enough, knowing when a cache-clear will be necessary for the system to continue running at a smooth and steady pace. Some applications, however, have absolutely no self-control—they’ll eat your system resources for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and this can create some serious speed problems on Android.
So, to clear our app cache, we’ll want to head back into our system settings menu, and this time look for “Storage” along our menu settings. If your phone uses an external storage option, like a microSD card, make sure you select “Internal Storage.”
Once your phone has fully loaded the menu displaying the list of apps using system memory, we want to find our “Cached data” option. This is typically listed towards the bottom of the display. Tapping this option will bring up an option to clear cached data for all of your applications. Though you can clear your cached data on an app-by-app basis, this will wipe all your cached app data in one swing, making it much easier and faster than going through and individually selecting every single application on your device.
It’s worth noting that some devices, including Google’s newest phones, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, lack the option to clear cached data for all apps all in one go like this. Instead, you’ll have to rely on using the All Apps menu to manually clear out content from your device as need be. It’s frustrating that Google didn’t build this obvious tool into Android Oreo straight out of the box, but considering only two percent of Android users have even received the update yet (and that most US-based Android users have Samsung phones with the capability built-in), it’s not too much of a concern.
Other Miscellaneous Tips
Not everything fits neatly into a category like our suggestions above, so if you’re still looking for some quick fixes for your phone’s speed problems, try some of the following:
- Open the Recent Apps menu on your phone by hitting the square icon at the bottom-right of your navigation bar (for Samsung phones prior to the Galaxy S8, it’s the left hardware button). Swipe away all your recent applications to clear them from your memory.
- Try clearing some of the widgets kept on your phone if you don’t use them very often. Widgets can use up unnecessarily large amounts of RAM on your device, and most phone owners only use widgets on occasion. Since most widgets are constantly refreshing and updating with new content, you’re using RAM, data, and a big chunk of your battery. Clean out the widget closet and give your phone a needed boost.
- Check the speed of your SD card. If you’ve moved a lot of your apps over to the SD card, but you’re running on an older style of card, it might be too slow to reliably play files or load apps and games from the card. These days, even Class 10 cards are a bit too slow to access data—you’ll want to look for an SDXC card or better. Luckily, these fast cards have actually gotten pretty cheap: a 32GB microSDXC card can be grabbed on Amazon for only $14, and a 64GB version of the same card is just $22 (these prices fluctuate regularly, so don’t be surprised if the cards are more or less expensive when you click on the links.
Changing How Your Device Runs
Our quick fixes will, overall, help you speed up your phone when you’re having the occasional speed hiccup, but sometimes the phone literally feels a bit too slow in your hand. Android is full of flashy animations and transitions, and while they can be pretty neat when you first get the phone, eventually you’ll want to move away from the slow animations and just get right into the app.
Well, we have good news for you. While most standard launchers don’t have the ability to turn off app animations and such, other third-party launchers like Nova Launcher can customize and even alter the speed of animations, all within the settings menu of the launcher. We’ll be demo-ing the feature using Nova, but other launchers on the market also have this ability. You’ll also want to grab the Prime license from the Play Store in order to be able to change the transitions within the application.
Once you’re up and running with Nova—or if you were already using it as your launcher—open your app drawer and tap “Nova Settings” in your list of apps. This will open a pretty intimidating list of possibly unfamiliar settings, but we’re looking for two specific ones. Starting with our animation settings, head into the “Look and Feel” category, which has plenty of fun options for us to mess with. If you haven’t taken a look through the “Look and Feel” settings before, it can be a bit overwhelming to the first time. While there’s a lot under this category, we’ll start with our main three: Scroll speed, Animation speed, and App animation.
- Scroll speed controls how fast your experience feels when scrolling through pages on your desktop and inside your app drawer, if you’re using the older card-based layout. By default, it ships with the “Nova” setting applied, but there’s a few other suggestions we can grab here. Stock is what you’ll see on the Pixel Launcher or Nexus phones; it feels fast enough, but slower than the standard Nova speed. Relaxed is even slower, allowing for animations to play out for your enjoyment. But that’s not what we want—we want fast. And the Fast setting will do just that for us, speeding the animation up and giving it the priority over animations. If you want your desktop to basically forget animations ever existed when sliding between different pages on your desktop, select Faster than Light.
- Our next setting, Animation speed, controls the animation of things like the app drawer opening and closing, along with the notification tray, notifications, and the like. These are measured in the same settings we saw in Scroll speed: Relaxed, Google, Nova, Fast, Faster than Light. They all still have the same ramifications, with Relaxed and Google allowing the user to experience animations, Fast and Faster than Light placing emphasis on speed over animation quality, and Nova meeting a happy medium.
- App animation controls how an app opens, and this can have just as much of an impact on the feel of your phone as the first two settings. This setting changes how each app from both your desktop and app drawer in Nova changes, and each animation has a different feel and speed. Each animation is taken from a different version of Android: Circle is taken from Android 7.0 Nougat, Reveal from 6.0 Marshmallow, Slide Up from Lollipop, Zoom from Jellybean, and Blink all the way back from Ice Cream Sandwich in 2011. And despite its age, we actually found Blink to be the fastest animation of the group if you’re looking for as little “pizzazz” and as much speed as possible.
The other setting to check out in Nova is under the Desktop category, and it’s the Scroll Effect menu item. Just like with the animation settings above, Scroll Effect changes the transition between pages on your desktop. There are some funky animations here—cube, card stack. revolving door, etc.—but for the sake of speed alone, you’ll want to keep it on “Simple.” It’s just the fastest animation of the bunch, and it keeps your phone feel fast and fresh.
Advanced Options for Speeding Up Your Phone
Everything we talked about above is good and all, but at the end of the day, they’re all temporary solutions to a major problem with Android. It isn’t a perfect operating system, and especially after a couple years of system and security updates, things can start to feel a bit slow. And as with most problems on Android, there are really only two solutions to every problem on Android: clearing your cache partition, and wiping your phone entirely clean. And while clearing your cache partition is a fairly-simple solution to speed up your phone, we really only recommend wiping your phone clean if the above steps didn’t help fix your speed problems.
Clearing your Cache Partition
We start with clearing the cache partition on your phone, which is a bit similar to clearing your app cache as we did above. Clearing the entire cache partition can iron out some of the problems often caused by an app or system software update, without the drastic measures of completely wiping your phone (don’t worry—we’ll get there). While simple, clearing your cache partition does involve booting into your phone’s recovery mode, which can be daunting for those users new to smartphones or boot menus. Don’t stress too much though—we’ll walk you right through the boot process.
This can be a bit specific for each individual Android phone, so you might want to search Google to make sure you have the right combination of buttons. Most phones use the Volume Up and Power buttons, held down at the same time, before pressing the volume down button on the boot screen to access the recovery menu. For phones like the Galaxy S6 and S7, using a combination of the Home, Power, and Volume Up keys do the same thing. Like we said, search for your specific phone and the phrase “boot into recovery” on Google to ensure you have the right steps; once you’ve reached the recovery menu itself, these steps will apply to every phone.
After your phone has reached the boot menu—which will look something like the display in our photo above—you won’t be able to use your touchscreen to control the menu on your display. Which, if we’re being honest, is probably a good thing—those menu bars are a bit too small for our fingers. Instead, this menu uses your device’s volume keys and power button to scroll and select on the menu. Use your volume keys to scroll the blue highlighted line down to “Wipe Cache Partition” on the menu above—it’s the one below the highlighted blue line in the picture above. Once you’ve selected “Wipe Cache Partition,” hit the Power button on your device to select the option, and then use your Volume keys again to select “Yes” on the confirmation screen. Hit Power to confirm your selection, and your phone will begin wiping the cache partition. This doesn’t wipe your storage or your SD card, so every application and photo will be safe on your phone. Once the process is complete, select “Reboot Device Now” on the following screen, and hit Power to confirm. Just like with a reboot, give the phone a few minutes to sit and reboot its main processes, then try using the phone to see how fast or slow it feels in your hand.
Changing the Animation Speed on Your Phone
You might be wondering, didn’t we just talk about this with Nova Launcher? And while yes, we did cover changing the speed of animations above by using something like Nova Launcher, what we’re focused on here are the animation speeds powering your phone. Sure, the hardware powering your phone determines how fast apps and games load on your device, but to an extent, software also has a major impact on our daily experience. Companies like Google and Apple build their operating systems with a sense of fluidity and animation designed to make things look good, but sometimes an overuse of animation can cause your phone to feel slower than it really is.
If you’ve owned your Android device for a few months now and you’re rather tired of all the animations and the slow transition times between apps and programs on your phone, you can use the developer options inside Android to change the speed of your phone. To start, scroll down to the System menu in your Settings and select “About Phone.” Find the Build number of your phone’s software inside the settings menu and tap on it seven times to activate the developer settings on your phone. Head back to the main menu inside Settings and reselect “System.” Inside the System menu, a new option labeled “Developer options” will appear, with two brackets as the icon.
Inside the Developer options menu, you’ll find a large list of menu options, almost all of which you should leave alone unless you’re working on actively developing apps for Android. By far, this is the longest menu in the settings menu in Android, and it is filled with plenty of options that can totally screw up your device if you aren’t careful. This is why the menu is hidden by default on Android. Still, we don’t have much to do here except find the correct options for our device. Scroll through the list of options until you find the animation scale settings—they’re under the “Drawing” category.
You’ll find three animation scales here: Window Animation scale, Transition Animation scale, and Animator duration scale. All three, by default, are set to 1x, which is the default setting for animations and generally strikes a balance between flashiness and usability. Tapping on any of these options will display options to change the scales from 1x to something faster or slower. If you want to keep the animations on your device, but want them to speed up (recommended), set all three scales to .5x. If you want to eliminate the animations all together, you can turn off all three animations. To test the speed before deciding to keep a change, try tapping on home, then tap on the recent apps icon, and select settings. The difference in speed will be readily apparent in these animations, giving you an idea on how each option changes your device.
The other options, from 1.5x to 10x, will slow down your device’s animations. These aren’t recommended, especially once you get up to the higher numbers (though it is pretty funny to watch your device run on 10x animation speed, where everything moves in literal slow-motion.
Overclocking (Root Only)
We won’t be covering this in detail, but if you happen to have a phone with root access and an unlocked bootloader, you can take advantage of these features to completely change the power of your phone. Overclocking is the process of raising the clock speed of your processor, in order to gain some extra performance from your CPU. It’s typically referred to in the PC enthusiast market, but rooted Android devices have long had the power to boost their processor speed as well. Some custom roms allow for overclocking, while third-party apps also exist on the Play Store to increase your speed.
If none of these words made sense to you, it’s probably best to leave this option alone. Frankly, we don’t recommend overclocking your phone unless you absolutely think it’ll make a massive difference in your everyday usage. Overclocking doesn’t add a ton of increased speed to your processor, and what you make up in speed, you lose in battery efficiency (not to mention, you’re likely to feel your device get pretty warm). If you’re interested in learning about overclocking on Android, you can find a 2015 guide from XDA Developers on that here, and our guide to rooting Android devices here.
Factory Resetting Your Phone
As with most troubleshooting guides, the best way to fix any software problems with your phone is a complete factory data reset. We understand this is typically preserved as a last resort—while it is one of the most effective troubleshooting routes, it also comes with the annoyances of having to fully backup and restore your devices, spend time reinstalling applications, music, photos, and everything else you keep on your device. If the above tips aren’t helping, and your phone has become completely unusable, your best bet is moving forward with a full factory reset.
Start by backing your phone’s settings, apps, photos, and everything else up to the cloud, using the service of your choice. Google has their own backup service built into Google Drive, but there are a ton of other cloud services to choose from, including Samsung Cloud, Helium, and CM Backup. For photos, we recommend using Google’s Photos backup service—it’s one of our favorite photos apps out there—and for SMS and call logs, check out SMS Backup and Restore on the Play Store. If you’re using Nova, you can even backup your home screen layout. All of these are great choices, and they’ll make sure your phone is ready to be restored once we’ve completed the data reset.
Open your phone’s settings menu and find “Backup and Reset” menu. Depending on your version and manufacturer of Android, these settings may be found in a different section of Android, so if you’re having trouble, just use the built-in search function inside settings. Once you’ve found the reset options, select “Factory data reset” from the list of options. The following menu will display every account you’ve signed into on your device, along with a warning reminding you that everything on your device—apps, etc.—will be wiped clean. The one thing this won’t wipe clean is your SD card, unless you select “Format SD Card” at the bottom of this menu.
We suggest making sure your device is either fully charged or plugged in before beginning the resetting process; it’s a fairly battery-intensive process, and this is certainly a situation where you don’t want your phone dying before the process has finished. Once you’re sure you have enough battery power to start the data reset, hit “Reset phone” at the bottom of the display, and enter your PIN or password for security verification. After you’ve done this, your phone will begin to reset. Just let the device sit and complete the process, which can take upwards of thirty minutes, and often involves a few restarts along the way.
Once the reset is complete, you’ll be returned to the original setup process for your phone. It might take a day for your phone to settle down after the reset, but once it does, you should see dramatically better performance in both speed and memory consumption. We advise slowly reinstalling the apps on your phone, and see if any of them create the same memory problems you had before. You might want to keep those specific apps off your phone in order to improve performance along the way.
One Last Tip on Your Phone’s Hardware
Most users accessing this guide are probably using relatively new smartphones, but if it’s been awhile since you upgraded to a brand new device, you might want to consider doing so. Phone’s have gotten a big boost in both RAM and CPU power lately, with even low and mid-range phones shipping with 3 or 4GB of RAM. Plenty of older phones only use 1 or 2 gigabytes of RAM, which, in many cases, simply isn’t enough memory to keep the device moving at a fast pace with the amount of applications and data used today. We understand this isn’t a great point of advice for everyone—and we don’t want to pressure a reader into feeling like their phone needs to be replaced, since even low-end models often run a couple hundred dollars off contract—but if you can afford to drop the cash on a new model, 2019 has been a great year for phones. Check out some of our recommendations here, with our best Android phones of 2019 list and our guide to the best cheap Android phones on the market.
What You Shouldn’t Do
This might sound like a strange suggestion, but we don’t recommend using any of the “RAM” or “Speed Booster” apps you can find on the Play Store. While these used to be great utilities to access back in the early days of Android, these days they’re more of a hassle for your phone than anything else. Android has gotten pretty good at handling its RAM management since the days of Froyo and Gingerbread, with the operating system coming into its own right around the release of Android 5.0 Lollipop and, to a lesser extent, 6.0 Marshmallow. The fact of the matter is, these apps just aren’t necessary in this day and age—in fact, they’re a hindrance to your phone.
When you use a RAM clearing or “speed boosting” app on Android, all it’s doing is cycling out the applications loaded into your RAM for Android to access quickly. And while this might present a quick speed boost in the moment, Android is smart enough to simply reload the apps into your device’s RAM again once it needs access—probably within a few minutes of you clearing the apps in the first place. They don’t present any advantages over simply letting Android do its own thing and clearing apps from your own Recent Apps menu, and can often harm your device’s battery life in the process. Needless to say, stay away from these apps if you can.
Do you have any tricks that have helped you extend the life of your Android phone? What are some of the strangest apps you’ve forgotten about, only to rediscover months later? Let us know in the comments!