And no, software updates do not necessarily slow down your phone.
Software updates are a natural process of keeping your phone more secure and to lengthen support of apps. Some updates only focus on keeping your phone more secure and less vulnerable to malware attacks (security updates) while there are also updates that overhauls your phone and even updating to the latest version of the OS (major updates). Depending on the brand and type (e.g. budget, midrange or flagship), smartphones tend to have at least 1 or 2 years worth of major Android updates. iPhones usually have five or six years, making them more economical in the long run.
However with every update, there are also blunders. For instance, Apple and Samsung have been accused of throttling their phones’ performance every time a new update hits. Both of these companies were find in the EU for intentionally and deliberately slowing down their phones, in which they call “planned obsolescence”.
Since the release of iOS 12, Apple has been fixing this problem and has also revealed that they are indeed slowing down older iPhones. Their main reason for this was to prevent sudden shutdowns, as the older the phone gets, so does its battery, therefore it does not perform as well as it used to. This is natural as batteries will always run out of juice and cannot produce more electricity the more it is charged and used. For more info, please see our battery guide here.
While it may seem that updates are a way for companies to reduce your phone to rubble to force you into buying a new phone, there are other major reasons for why updates happen and why they seem to slow down phones.
Updates help keep your phone more secure and up-to-date
We already tackled before the main reason a phone updates: it’s to keep your phone more secure and prevent malware infections. This is also the main reason why newer versions of Android are more secure than older ones and why Google is pulling the plug for older versions. For instance, Google has just recently stopped supporting Android Jellybean and has since stopped providing services for Android Gingerbread, which are Android 4.1.2 and Android 2.3.7 respectively.
Updates also lengthen the time you can use your phone since more apps will be supporting new versions of Android and iOS and will soon stop supporting older ones, but some developers take more time than others for them to stop supporting a certain version of an OS.
Updates cost space, and sometimes heaps of it.
Have you noticed that, when updating, you suddenly have lower internal storage? Updating apps require more storage and so do updating your phone’s software. A security update often costs lower storage but updating to a newer version of an OS, say updating from Android 10 to Android 11, requires large space, sometimes reaching to GB levels. Upgrading to a newer version of Android or iOS also requires more power and is more demanding in performance hence older models that are upgradeable slow down while those who ship with the newer ones have tip top performance, because they are made for that new OS. This still depends on the internals though, but flagships usually have this guarantee.
As time passes, apps and software updates become more demanding as app developers gain access to better hardware, optimizing newer smartphones while leaving the older ones in the dust. This does not apply to smartphones alone, but also to computer programs. In addition, newer apps and updates require more resources to run.
The phone’s battery worsens. It’s not evil, it’s science
Since we’re on the topic of slowdowns, we can’t forget one of the main culprits… battery! Battery dying down over time is just natural, and as we all know, batteries will die at some point in their lives no matter how big the capacity.
We have a battery guide, but we’ll summarize how a battery works
Basically, a battery has three parts: Cathode, the positive charge; Anode, the negative charge and the Electrolyte, an ion-filled substance. The electrolytes react with the atoms in the anode to create electrons, which are negatively-charged molecules. Now, these electrons would naturally want to react with the cathode but are unable to do so because the electrolytes are in the way, so now it has to find a different way in. When a circuit is connected through the battery, the electrons flow, causing them to react with cathode and thus generating electricity. When your charger is plugged, this process is reversed, and repeated charging cycles will normally wear down a battery, eventually electrons can’t pass through the cathode anymore and thus no more electricity can be produced.
In short, battery ages every time you charge it, as well through time. The battery is also the one powering up everything from your phone, be it the screen, the processor and even the cameras. When the battery wears down, it can no longer handle the same performance it did when you first bought it, but the phone’s components are still requiring the same amount of power from the battery as if you just bought it. To prevent sudden shutdowns, companies will often throttle a phone’s performance, thus making processing weaker and causing significant slow downs, but could also save some battery life.
You probably have installed multiple apps and forgot to close them. Some apps run during startup especially when you permit them to (you did read the permissions right?). Some of these apps run in the background as processes and they consume RAM. If your phone has low RAM and uses regular Android instead of Android Go, you might experience some slowdowns
Depending on the device, you can check your total memory usage by going to the settings. In my phone’s case, it’s in Developer Options >Memory. In case yours is not stock Android 10, kindly check your manual or dig through your phone’s settings manually. For iOS users, you can do this by going to Settings>General>Storage
Another thing that consumes RAM and battery is live wallpapers. These wallpapers are constantly moving. They may be fascinating but they require a lot of power to run in comparison to a normal wallpaper. There’s a simple fix to reduce RAM usage, simply run the task manager (usually a square button) on your phone and press “Clear All”. You can also change your live wallpaper to a static one.
Easily one of the most common causes of slowdowns. Some games like Call of Duty Mobile and Genshin Impact require huge storage because they constantly update. In case you don’t know, if you buy a phone with, for example, 128GB, you’re actually not getting 128GB, a portion of that storage is spent on the OS alone and Android itself can be as big as 8GB, and with every update, this number gets bigger and bigger. Unfortunately, without root access, you can’t just remove or modify the files, cause many of these files are required for the OS to run properly, doing anything can actually cause you more harm than good… if you don’t know what you’re doing that is.
Videos, photos and games can also take a lot of storage. However, unlike updates, you can remove them. If you no longer need the app, simply uninstall them. There may be residues, and most recent versions of Android already have a built-in cleaner so you don’t have to download one yourself. Third-party cleaners will just take space on your phone and are nothing more than placebo, sometimes they will push annoying notifications and ads that could just hog your phone, defeating the purpose of a cleaner.
You can access your storage settings by going to Settings>Storage or Settings>Apps>Storage depending on the device. For iOS, going to Settings>General>Storage will also check how much RAM you’ve used, including a graph on how much time this amount of RAM was used during when it was open as well as on the background.
Probably the least natural situation in this entire scenario. Both Android and iOS are susceptible to malware, however Android is more susceptible because it’s open source and lets you easily sideload apps outside the Play Store if given the permission. Google Play, while safe, is not immune to malware attacks. Some apps might still slip through Play Store’s thorough. As a matter of fact, Play Store is often the bridge that lets malware get through someone’s phone and about 67% of Android malware attacks came from the Play Store.
To avoid such a situation, sideload apps only on sources you 100% trust, from brain to heart. Multiple APK downloaders often include downloadable paid apps which users can obtain for free, or apps that are region-locked. Please be sure that you are 100% trusting this source before downloading.
Another thing, carefully read the permissions before downloading an app from the Play Store or App Store. Think twice, maybe ten. If you see a permission that’s suspicious, then don’t download it. If you happen to download a calculator app and see one of the permissions is accessing your contacts, think to yourself “why does a calculator app need to see my contacts?”. Failing to read permissions is what malware makers hope you would do. If malware gets through your phone, then your credentials and sensitive information are vulnerable to being stolen.
Updating your phone to a more recent security patch also helps in keeping your phone more secure
So we hoped you found our guide to be useful. If you can, please spread the word to your friends so they won’t be misinformed