Wednesday, 27 April 2016

10 Reasons Why Android Smartphones Slow Down

Android devices are known for slowing down after a year or two. Some users say it's inevitable, while some believe that it is just a myth. Still, there is growing evidence that more smartphones become slower as time passes by and there are several factors as to why it happens.

Image (c) Google

Too Many Apps running in the Background

When an Android phone is first opened, there are just some several apps that are installed. Some of them may run in the background, including the system apps from the platform itself.

It's not enough to slow down the phone. However, it can increasingly slow down as the user installs more apps over time. Some users don't even know that the apps they install can still eat RAM even if they are not actively using it.

Some famous examples of such apps are the social media ones. Facebook has been widely criticized for having their app eat so much resources even for low-end phones. Twitter's app can also eat too much RAM as well as the Gmail app from Google itself.

These apps run in the background because they need to constantly check if there are updates or notifications. For instance, the Gmail app would need to check every few minutes or so if there is a new email that has arrived.

The constant checking means that they need to stay on the background as they automatically sync. If they are stopped from syncing in the background, the user won't be able to receive notifications about new emails unless he or she manually syncs the app. With more apps running in the background, each of them could eat resources leaving only little for the foreground processes. The user can choose to just delete the apps and look for alternatives.

Another possible way to minimize the impact of such apps is to turn off the automatic sync. While the option is not always available for all apps, the Gmail app allows the user to turn off the option. There are also some apps that can hibernate other apps in the background. This allows the user to have more RAM which can prevent slowdowns in the Android smartphone. However, it should be noted that hibernating apps can lead to trouble if system apps are touched. Users should be careful in choosing which apps to hibernate.

Too Much Junk in the Cache

Android devices have a cache partition where some items from apps are stored for supposedly faster access overall. Like all storage partitions, it can also be clogged. Once the cache partition is full, the overall performance of the Android phone can start to slow down. Users can choose to wipe the cache partition once in a while to prevent slowdowns. The Wipe Cache Partition command can be seen from the recovery console of the Android smartphone. Methods to access the console varies from phone to phone. However, the universal way seems to be to shut down the Android smartphone first. The user should hold down the volume and power button at the same time. It would be useful to install a custom recovery mode first as they include more options to tweak the Android phone overall. One of which is the option to wipe the Dalvik Cache, which can also speed up the phone's speed.

Internal and External Storage May be Filled Up

Android smartphones have solid-state drives as their storage. As the storage fills up, they operate more slowly. It can be one reason why an Android phone may slow down over time. The internal storage may be full of photos, videos apps and other files, which could explain the slowdown.

Low-end smartphones are particularly guilty of this. Most low-end models have only about 4GB or 8GB for their internal storage which is too small for today's standards. One Full High-Definition movie with a pixel resolution of 1920 x 1080 can already reach more than 1GB in file size. A 720p movie can also reach 800 MB.

There are also mobile video games that can easily reach more than 1GB as well. With a combination of those files, a 4GB internal storage capacity can easily be filled up. The Android operating system itself also eats up part of the internal storage which means that the user doesn't really have all 4GB or 8GB. An app's cache files can also eat the internal storage. It would be wise for a user to just move the app files onto the external storage if the phone has one.

Most Android smartphones allow the user to install a microSD card for the external storage. This is especially useful for those with 4 GB or 8 GB internal storage capacities as they would be able to install more apps and download more movies and music files without having to fill up the internal storage. It can prevent further slowdowns for the phone, but it can have an impact on the performance. Since the files are not on the internal storage, the system would have to read them from the microSD card which can take more slowly.

Solid-State Drive TRIM Support

TRIM support allows SSDs, such as those in smartphones, to run at tip-top shape even if they are used every day. The latest Android smartphones have automatic TRIM support for their storage drives. However, smartphones running Android 4.2 and below has no TRIM support. It was actually one of the reasons why the original Nexus 7 tablet slowed down in a couple of months, according to How to Geek. So the tip would be not to own a smartphone or a tablet running older versions than Android 4.3. That would not really be a problem considering that most smartphones in the market today run at least Jelly Bean 4.3 and above.

Smartphone is Too Old

Sometimes, the most obvious reason why an Android smartphone slows down is because it is too old. This can be a combination of all the factors mentioned above. If a smartphone has been running constantly for more than five years or more, chances are the materials inside could be worn out already. Even if the storage device is not mechanical, it can still deteriorate over time especially if the smartphone is made from cheap parts.

Another possible reason is that the updated operating system cannot really run well on the smartphone. It was talked about earlier that the older versions had problems in the software part. While it can be remedied by a software update, the fragmentation of the Android operating system makes it hard for non-flagship phones to expect updated software every time. Locally made or rebranded smartphones often have this problem as they do not have enough engineers or software developers that can come up with updates for their smartphone models.

If there is an update, the added software code and features could eat up more space and resources. Low-end smartphones often have this problem as software updates can actually make their problems worse in the long run because the hardware cannot handle the software.

In those cases, the user can choose not to update their smartphones or tablets. However, it will still slow down over time. Sometimes the only choice is to upgrade a smartphone especially if it has been used heavily.

Weathered Damage

There are uncommon cases where physical damage from the outside causes the Android phone to slow down. It could be because the phone was once splashed by water, or it has been dropped several times from a considerable height. Whatever the reason is, it could definitely lead to the slowdown of the smartphone. One tip is to use heavy duty cases and don't really place a smartphone near a wet surface or object.

Too Much Heat

Another possible reason on why the Android smartphone runs slow is because it might be overheating. Most smartphones today have intelligent software that allows them to adjust the processing frequency whenever they need to If a phone is deemed too hot, the software could clock down the frequency to compensate with the heat. Since the frequency is lowered, the performance of the phone is also throttled. This happens every time the phone detects that the temperature is too hot. There are a couple of things that can heat up a smartphone such as playing graphic-heavy video games, watching movies at full brightness and using all of the radios (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC) at the same time.

If the user is already in a hot environment, the aforementioned activities should be avoided to prevent the slowdown of the smartphone itself. If possible, the user should refrain from using the smartphone until he or she is in a cold environment.

Bad Custom ROM

Android smartphones are known for being open for customization. One of the common customizations that users do is to try and change the ROM that it runs. Most smartphones run the stock Android vanilla ROM, which can sometimes be boring. Custom ROMS are coveted because of their added features such as tweaks, new themes and capabilities that would otherwise be absent on the stock ROM.

One problem that inexperienced Android users face is choosing and flashing a bad ROM. If it does run, it does so poorly. It impacts the performance negatively and the features would be ultimately useless. Users should properly read the instructions and notes before installing a custom ROM. They could be installing an incompatible ROM or sometimes a ROM is still unfinished. There are some Android smartphone models that have different variants. It can be confusing to know which ROM version should be used for which variant.

Bad Flashable Tweaks

For users who do not want to flash a whole custom ROM, they often choose to flash tweaks instead. These tweaks are customized versions of some parts of the operating system itself, with changed values and such. In order for them to work, the user would sometimes need to completely replace some of the sensitive files of the operating system. If the tweaks are also incompatible or unfinished, it could lead to performance issues and it could even brick the smartphone.

Paranoia and Envy

Seeing a friend's new smartphone run fast could give a user reasons to think that his or her phone is running slow. Sometimes it can just be the brain thinking that it's running slower than usual because there is a point of comparison. The user's phone could be running normally but the user can think that it's slow just because he or she saw an ad for the newer model. One tip is to run benchmarks or to keep track of app loading times just to see if the phone is really running slow compared to a few months ago.

With that said, there are a lot of possible reasons as to why an Android smartphone can run slow. The last resorts would be to do a factory reset or just to buy the newest smartphone, which would be able to last for several years if it is taken good care of.

Author: Lord Marin