Thursday, 7 April 2016

16 Tips to Improve the Speed of Your Android Smartphone

Android smartphones are becoming cheaper and more powerful each year. However, the constant thing is that they all slow down eventually.

Image by mammela-686310 [CC0] via Wikimedia Commons

There are usually a lot of factors involved, such as outdated hardware, lack of software patches, storage and more. Fortunately, there are still some things a user can do to speed up their Android smartphones.

Update to the Latest Version

Most flagship phones are well-treated to several updates before the manufacturers officially drop support. If you own one of them, it's a good idea to check the OTA updates if your phone is up-to-date. Software updates often have fixes and optimizations to further make the phone faster. Security patches are also crucial so that the phone is not vulnerable to hackers and other malicious parties.

Before updating, make sure to make a backup of your phone. This way, you'll still have all the files you need if the phone runs into a problem while updating. Worst-case scenario is that your phone might get bricked. If you own a flagship phone such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 or the LG G4, chances are that the development community will already have posted fixes and tutorials on what to do if something goes wrong.

Remove Bloatware

One of the main reasons why Android users root their phones is because they will be able to remove all the bloatware, which is basically all the unnecessary pre-installed apps from the manufacturer. These apps can range from forum apps to separate camera effects. If you won't really use them, you should get rid of them to save up on storage.

In addition, some apps can still eat RAM in the background even if they are not really used. Some bloatware can be those apps and removing them can speed up your Android phone by freeing up RAM space. Root your phone at your own risk. Rooting an Android phone often voids the warranty from the manufacturer or store where you bought it from.

Once rooted, you will be able to freely remove and uninstall any bloatware app through Settings > Applications. If you aren't rooted, you can still choose to disable them which may keep them using RAM in the background but they will still be installed in the storage of your phone.

Update Your Apps

For those apps that you really do need or use every day, make it a habit to update them if available. As usual, updates can add performance optimizations for the app which can translate into an overall speed improvement for the phone.

These updates also usually fix performance problems. If an app usually crashes, an update could fix that. It can also fix some cases where the app runs really slow on a certain device. Updating installed apps is easy to do. All you need to do is go to your Google Play Store app and go through the Installed apps tab.

If there is an update available for your apps, it will show. Alternatively, you can also choose to bulk update the apps instead of having to tap them one by one. Of course, do note that updating apps usually means they could take up more space in your phone. If your phone does not have that much space, it can be something to consider first.

Upgrade Your External Storage

Most low-end phones often have low internal storage spaces as well. It can be one of the main problems on why the Android phone is so slow. To remedy the situation, a microSD card is usually used. Try to choose a high-speed memory card which is usually Class 10 on all brands.

Before going out and buying a microSD card, make sure to check your phone specifications to see up to what storage space on the memory card it can support. Some phones can only support up to 32GB for the expandable memory, while others can go as far as 128GB. Once the microSD card is installed, it's better to put all of your media files in the external storage instead of the internal storage. This way, it will have more leeway when it needs space.

There are also some apps that can allow the Android phone's system to automatically install downloaded apps on the external storage instead. It can be useful but sometimes it can cause problems for the apps themselves.

Free Up Space

If you already have external storage but it keeps on getting full, it may be time to clean up your Android phone. You can usually do this by going into the Settings > Storage section. That section will also give you a brief summary of what kind of files are hogging all the space. It can show how many MB or GB pictures and videos eat up, or how much cached data is already used. You can choose to clear up cached data to free up some space if it eats up too much of your storage. However, it can mean that you would need to re-login your profile in some apps.

For a more detailed approach, you can choose to download storage analyzers. They can show the user a more detailed breakdown of which files and folders eat up most of the space in the phone, including the external storage. Be careful in deleting folders. Accidentally deleting a crucial part of the Android operating system itself on your phone can lead to it being bricked.

Disable Fancy Animations

Some Android phones have fancier animations compared to others. However, it can be the cause of a slowdown in the long run. If those effects and animations don’t really matter to you that much, it would be wise just to turn them off. They can often be found under the Developer options section. There is a list of Animation options that you can turn off. This will significantly improve Android phones in the lower-end of the spectrum.

Turning the animations off makes it easier for your phone's CPU and GPU to render the screen. The slightly less pixels and effects also mean that your battery won't be drained as much too. Besides the main transition animations themselves, you can also try to disable the lock screen animations under the Lock Screen section of your Android phone. It can drain resources such as RAM, processing power and battery quick.

Instead of having to render the effect, your GPU can focus on rendering other more important details on the screen. Animations tend to make a phone go slower as the system has to work harder to show those effects with consistency.

Only Use the Stock Launcher

It can be tempting to use third-party launchers to try out a new look for your Android smartphone. However, having two launchers at the same phone often leads to conflict. The third-party launcher would also add up to the RAM usage as it tries to render its own effects and icons on the home screen. It would also add more load to the GPU and the CPU if you try to use fancier effects and transitions.

While that may be okay for a high-end smartphone, low-end phones' performance can suffer from using third-party launchers. All of the added effects will only slow the phone down. In addition, slow transitions are also not attractive to look at. Most free third-party launchers also have ads that show up frequently. These can also slow down your phone's performance and Internet as the ads are downloaded from their servers as well.

Close Recent Apps to Save RAM

While some may argue that freeing RAM can actually be counterproductive, killing the piles of recent apps can be an answer if the phone suddenly slows down. All of the apps loaded in the background can be too much for your phone as it tries to keep up with everything. You might notice that the game will start to stutter and lag, but it can be quickly remedied by closing other apps in the background.

You can also view which apps are using the most RAM in the foreground and background through the Settings > Applications > RAM section of your Android phone. There will be an option to disable such apps, but be careful as you might accidentally disable a crucial background Android OS app.

Avoid Widgets as Much as Possible

Just like third-party launchers, widgets also suck battery power and RAM. They can impact the performance of your phone. These widgets sometimes take a heavy load on the GPU and CPU of the Android phone. If you have five widgets on the home screen and all are animated, they may most likely be the culprit on why your Android phone is so slow in the first place.

If you can't really avoid to get rid of all the widgets, at least try to keep the ones that are useful to you instead of just having them being all flashy and attractive. For instance, another clock widget can be removed seeing as you can already view the time on the top of your phone's screen. Some widgets are also much harder to render because they are animated. It would be significantly lighter for your phone's CPU and GPU if they won't have to render the widgets and animations every time you go to the home screen.

Don't Use Live Wallpapers

Similar to widgets, Live Wallpapers can also be taxing on the phone's hardware. Live Wallpapers are mostly animated and they can also move based on where the user touches on the screen.

For instance, a Live Wallpaper of a body of water would most likely be twice as hard on the CPU as it can have unique animations depending on where a tap was placed. While they may be attractive to look at, they serve no real purpose and they just make your phone drain the battery easier and make the system run slower.

Use Lightweight Apps Instead of the Main Ones

You can choose to download lighter versions of apps that you are using. Sometimes the developers know the ordeal of keeping Android phones running fast and they roll out a lighter version of their app. Of course, not every developer has thought of making a light version. In fact, there aren't many apps that do have a light version counterpart.

The main Facebook app was reportedly slowing down phones and draining the battery faster. Fortunately, there are other light versions of Facebook from third-party developers. Metal for Facebook is one such app that opens up the mobile version of the site on your Android phone. It still functions like the main app with some limitations, but it doesn't eat that much RAM and battery compared to the main FB app.

If possible, you can also choose to just login your social media accounts using the phone's mobile browser instead. Not only will this increase the free RAM and storage, it will also improve the performance and speed of your Android phone by not having to check for updates every once in a while. However, do note that using a mobile browser instead often means that social media notifications will be off. It could cause a problem for those who are waiting on notifications for their social media accounts. There are also lighter versions of music and video players. They can be used instead of the stock apps which can eat up more ram and battery.

Try Using Custom ROMs

Again, you should try this at your own risk. Improper installation of custom ROMS is one of the usual suspects in bricking an Android smartphone. You should follow every step on the tutorials properly in order for a custom ROM to be properly installed and initialized. Also, you should also have a backup before trying to flash a ROM. Having a backup means that you can always try to turn your phone back into the regular version if you don't like the new ROM. It will also be crucial if the phone is suddenly soft-bricked.

Custom ROMs often offer different experiences. Some ROMs offer a more visual experience instead of the vanilla stock themes, while some offer performance tweaks. These ROMs change how your Android phone works on the inside. There are some legit tweaks, but there are also others that only cause more harm so it's up to you to do the researching and to find if there are any negative feedbacks regarding a ROM.

Another caveat is that not every Android smartphone has custom ROMs. It would still depend on how large and active the developer community is for that phone. If you have a local Android smartphone, the change can be very limited. For some, there are no ROMs at available at all. There are some ROMs that can increase the battery life as well. Flashing a ROM is a great risk. If the ROM is not compatible with the phone, it can also be bricked. So always try to see if the ROM matches your phone or if it supported.

Try Task Killers

If you don't want to go through all the trouble of disabling apps one by one, there are some free task killer apps on Google Play. They will be able to show the user which apps are running in the background. Within that app, they can also choose to disable or stop those apps. However, the free ones usually also have ads which can make your phone slower as well.

There are also apps that try to "hibernate" the unused apps in the background, which means that they do not necessarily eat up any resources for the time being. Always be careful too in using such apps as they can also damage your smartphone's Android system.

Increase the Memory Limit of the Mobile Chrome Browser

This tip comes from Toms Guide. If you are an avid user of Chrome on your Android phone, this can make the browser run faster. The default RAM usage of Chrome browser on Android is just 128MB. If your phone has more to spare, you can change that limit from within Chrome.

First step is to navigate to chrome://flags/#max-tiles-for-interest-area on the address bar. Alternatively, you can also just go to chrome: // flags and try to scroll down to spot the "Maximum tiles for interest area" tab. Tap on the "default" drop down arrow and you can then choose to allocate more RAM or less RAM depending on your situation. The choices include: 64 MB, 128 MB, 256 MB and 512 MB. After making any changes on that page, you should tap "Relaunch Now" for those changes to apply and to be set.

Chrome is also useful for those who already use the browser on their laptops or desktop computers. They will be able to browse through other devices' recently visited webpages and use the bookmarks and stored passwords as well. Ultimately, it can be a faster experience as you won't have to type the entire address or password as Chrome can remember it for you. You can also transfer to another device knowing well that you can continue your browsing on a website.

Do a Factory Reset

If you don't want to do any of the things mentioned above, you can just do a Factory Data Reset on your Android phone. This will reset all the data and settings, which means you'll start from scratch. Doing a factory reset often solves performance problems on a phone. This is because all of the data would be deleted, all apps would be uninstalled and all the clutter would be gone.

Of course, this should be a last resort. Consider if you really want your files gone or just make a backup of them just in case. Do note that factory reset won't delete the data on your microSD card. However, you can also choose to format the card or wipe the contents off of it.

Upgrade Your Phone

Finally, if you really want a faster Android phone, the best choice would be just to buy a new one. Check the current specs of your Android phone and try to look for something faster in the market. For instance, try to buy a smartphone with a quad-core processor instead of your old dual-core one. Try to buy a phone with 2GB of memory instead of your 512MB one.

The performance improvement will be noticeable. You'll also have a cleaner-looking smartphone. In addition, the software would be updated. Instead of trying to make your way from your old Android Ice Cream Sandwich, you can just buy a phone with the newest Android 6.0 Marshmallow instead.

Of course, this option is for those who have money to spend. The tips mentioned above can be universally applied to any mid to low-end Android smartphone.

Author: Lord Marin