Rescuing an old or cheap Android phone, keeping it out of the waste stream, avoiding the impulse to always buy new: it feels good.
Actually using that phone with an Android version two or three versions behind, waiting for apps to load, feeling it shudder a bit as you simply scroll down a feed: it feels like trying to run a 5K after taking too many Benadryl.
Some things you cannot change about that old phone you pulled out of a drawer: The processor, the camera, the on-board memory, and, in some cases, the storage space. But there are many things you can swap out, software-wise, to make up for its hardware inefficiencies.
I and fellow iFixit writer Whitson Gordon wrote approximately 850 kadzillion blog posts involving Android customization and optimization during the early days of Android phones. Most were written when every phone was low-spec, in some sense. These days, even the cheapest Android phones can do the basics without serious tuning. There are many, many other search results for “how to speed up android” or “fix slow laggy android” that offer drastic measures (like rooting or installing unofficial ROMs) or unproven “tricks”. We wanted a shorter list of things that really work.
To make that list, and prove it worked, we grabbed a cheap, old phone. Specifically, a Moto G4. First launched in September 2016 in the U.S., the phone has 2 GB of memory, 16 GB of on-board storage (along with a microSD card slot). It was stranded at Android 7.0 (“Nougat”) when Motorola stopped updating it. I used this phone for a day, growled and glared at it, then improved it step by step. I had my far more modern Pixel 2 handy for comparison.
By the end, the G4 went from a Crud Phone I Can Barely Stand to a Phone I Could Actually Use—it’s still next to my computer as this post is published. I wouldn’t use it for augmented reality games or live-streaming events, but it’s fine for email, mindless social scrolling, and group texts about lunch. Here’s what made the most difference.
P.S. – It’s hard to capture the difference in feel, but I did some screen recordings of this G4 before and after I made the changes listed below. The “After” video has visual taps enabled, and generally shows off this software-tuned 2016 phone.
It’s weird to start off with a Jedi Mind Trick that doesn’t really speed things up inside your phone, but trust us on this. Watching your overburdened phone try to make a folder burst open or an app glide away, skipping frames as it goes, makes it feel unreliable and slow. But you can set your phone to just show you things when they’re ready, and your brain likes it much, much better.
You’ll first need to enable Developer Options on your phone. Go into your phone’s Settings, scroll all the way down to “About phone,” and then scroll all the way down on that screen to the “Build number.” Tap that Build number a total of seven times—after three taps, it should start showing you messages that “You are now X steps away from being a developer!” (Who needs school or certifications?) Once you’ve enabled Developer Options on your phone, go back to your main Settings menu. If you have a search function available, search for “animation,” and tap one of the results. Otherwise, head into the Developer Options, then scroll down until you see “Window animation scale.”
Tap on “Window animation scale” and choose the “Animation off” option. Do the same for the Transition and Animator options. Head back to your home screen, and start tapping around to see the difference. Things just appear instead of gliding in now, and you can’t feel the metaphorical engine struggling up the hill.
Switch Your Launcher and Start Fresh
An Android “launcher” is an app that manages the home screen, organizing the wallpaper, app shortcuts, a tray with even more apps, and whatever widgets you or the phone-maker or cellular carrier have put there. Some launchers are light and fast, some are stuffed with junk that cause the home screen to lag and stutter. The good launchers we recommend here are efficient, and have features that help you do other steps in this guide.
We won’t walk through the particulars of each launcher, but you want to make sure the launcher sets itself as your default home page. Installing a new launcher gives you a fresh start to organize your apps, avoid unnecessary widgets, and hide the pre-installed apps you never asked for.
Open this article on your phone and click the following links to install each app. Alternately, if you’re signed into your Google account on your computer, you can follow these links and click “Install” to push the app to your phone. If any of these launchers don’t suit you in their paid versions, be sure to get a refund from within the Play Store within 48 hours.
- Nova Launcher: An extremely versatile launcher that looks a lot like standard Android. You’ll have to pay for Prime to hide app icons, but its extra features are well worth the price.
- Apex Launcher: Similar to Nova, but with a blocky aesthetic and more emphasis on icon and theme customizing.
- Smart Launcher 3: If you want a much simpler home screen, this is the way to go.
Despite having more features than Google’s stock launcher, these launchers tend to be a bit smoother, especially if you’re willing to tinker with some of their more advanced settings.
Use Google’s Go Apps
Even if you never install another app, Google’s own default apps can feel like big, slow data hogs on an older phone. Fortunately (but also, weirdly), Google makes smaller, lighter versions of many of their own applications. They just reserve them for Android Go phones, which they mostly license to budget phone makers outside the U.S. But you can install some of Google’s Go apps from the Play Store, and grab the others with a little side-loading trickery.
For the apps that aren’t available on the U.S. Play Store below, we’ve included a link to APK Mirror, a trusted site for grabbing security-scanned apps. Once you’ve got the APK on your phone, you can enable “Unknown Sources” in your phone’s Settings and open the APK file to sideload it.
Be careful, though: APK Mirror’s website contains a number of links that look like download buttons, because they need to make some revenue, however distasteful those ads are. The only download link you want to click, after navigating to the latest version, reads “Download APK.”
Many of these apps require Android 8.0 or later to install, even if you can find the APK file—which is, sadly, a limitation you can’t get around without some more drastic measures we’ll discuss later. For now, here are the apps, the minimum version of Android they require, and where you can pick it up:
- Google Maps Go (Android 4.1, Play Store)
- Navigation for Google Maps Go (4.4, Play Store)
- Google Go (5.0, APK Mirror)
- Google Assistant Go (8.0, APK Mirror)
- GBoard (keyboard) Go (5.0/8.0 versions, APK Mirror, look for the downloads with “lite” in the filename. You may have to try a few versions before you find the right one for your phone)
- YouTube Go (4.2, APK Mirror)
- Gmail Go (8.1, APK Mirror)
- Gallery Go (photo organizer, Play Store)
There’s a good chance Google has made even more of these if you’re reading this post; check the Play Store to find them.
Use Lite or Web Apps
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram would all love you to install their full-size apps, allow them to constantly update in the background, and engage with their many features nobody uses. But they, like Google, want people everywhere to use their apps, so they offer lighter versions, or mobile web versions that are essentially apps.
Nearly any social app you use will have a mobile website that offers most of the features of a full app. Head to that website in Chrome on your phone and select “Add to Home screen” from the browser’s menu. That gives you an app-like container to use, where you’ll stay signed in.
- Facebook Lite (2.3, Play Store)
- Facebook Messenger Lite (4.0, Play Store)
- Twitter Lite (5.0, APK Mirror)
- TikTok Lite (4.1, APK Mirror)
- Skype Lite (4.0, Play Store)
- LinkedIn Lite (4.4, APK Mirror)
- Uber Lite (4.4, APK Mirror)
Also keep an eye out for third-party apps that can provide a lighter, and sometimes better, experience for using your favorite sites. We prefer Reddit is fun and BaconReader for browsing Reddit over the official app, for example.
Uninstall Apps You Don’t Need or Use
This one is kind of obvious, but it needs to be mentioned. If there’s an app on your phone you don’t use, remove it, usually by long-pressing on the shortcut to get to “App info,” or in the Apps section of your settings. Apps can do things in the background you don’t need, eat up data and storage, or (rarely but occasionally) go haywire with memory or CPU use. Be ruthless.
Turn On Data-Saving Modes
Old, cheap phones are often using slower networks. Even if they have fast connections, big webpages or feed refreshes use up your phone’s resources while they’re streaming in. You can mitigate some of these with data saver modes, tucked into the settings of some major apps. For example:
- Chrome: Settings > Lite mode
- Twitter/Twitter Lite: Tap your profile picture, then head toSettings and privacy > Data usage > Data saver
- Facebook: Tap the overflow button (three dashes in the upper-right corner) and head to Data Saver.
- YouTube: Settings > General > Limit mobile data usage
Phones with Android 7.0 and above also have a Data Saver mode built into Android itself, usually accessible from the pull-down settings tiles. Turning this on severely limits background data usage by apps, and even reigns in the app you’re currently using. A great Computerworld guide by JR Raphael walks through Data Saver and many other options for limiting data usage by a slow phone, including Google’s own Datally app.
Clear Out Your Storage (or Add More)
Older and lower-cost phones usually have less storage as part of those cost savings. When your phone runs out of internal storage space, it will struggle mightily to find some, or else scramble to read and write from what little there is left. This is the equivalent of your phone trying to pull a single branch out of a house-size brush pile.
Some easy ways to clear up storage on an overstuffed Android phone:
- Files by Google is tiny, efficient, and will recommend ways to clear out space, including backing up to the cloud and removing stuff you never use. It’s also a generally good file managing and sharing app.
- Using Google Photos allows you to automatically back up your phone photos to Google’s cloud and clear them off your storage, at pretty generous rates (free for up to 16 MP photos or 1080p videos), with scary-good search capabilities and face recognition. If you’re okay with the advertising giant having your photos, it’s an easy fix.
- Buy a microSD card, such as Wirecutter’s 128 GB or 64 GB picks, if your phone has a slot for it. In your storage settings, and in each app you use regularly, set as much data as you can to be put on the SD card.
- Newer versions of Android (8.0 and above) have built-in tools to free up space. Look in the Storage section of the Settings app and find recommendations there.
All the Other Stuff You Might Do
The suggestions above will make the biggest difference to your day-to-day experience of a lower-spec, non-modern Android phone. But there are other measures you might take, which either have slim returns or are mostly untested. Venture forth with that knowledge.
- Disable live wallpapers and remove widgets: Switching to a new launcher should already do this, but if your moving, glittering wallpaper or quirky weather widget stuck around, they do take up some resources.
- Enable “Force GPU Rendering” in Developer options: Some guides mention this as a way to trade some battery life for a smoother experience. Android developers say it shouldn’t do much these days, but it’s maybe worth testing for a day or two.
- Remove any “task killers” or “RAM savers”: These absolutely do not work and usually make things worse. If you had one installed previously, or someone installed one to “help” you, get rid of it.
- Rooting and ROMs: Many Android sites recommend this as an option for an out-of-date phone, or one saddled with permanent bloatware. Whitson wrote an old but mostly still valid guide to rooting (I told you we have a kadzillion of these) that explains the process. Having installed ROMs on more than a dozen phones and tablets in my life, I can say that it is not easy for newcomers, that you really can dig yourself into a hole (or a bricked device) if you follow bad advice, and that you’re trading more control and newer software for strange bugs and uncertain app compatibility. There was a one-month period, for example, where people couldn’t hear my end of phone calls, because of my CyanogenMod ROM. But if you’ve got a nothing-to-lose device, and you’re a pretty advanced user, it might be a weekend project.
What did we miss? What worked for you and your old but good phone? Let us know in the comments.
- A Simple Restart Can Bring Pace To Your Android Device.
- Keep Your Phone Updated.
- Uninstall and Disable Apps That You Don't Need.
- Clean Up Your Home Screen.
- Clear Cached App Data.
- Free Your Internal Memory.
- Try To Use Lite Versions of Apps.
- Install Apps From Known Sources.
If you find your older phone slowing down, you might have a low-performing battery. Even newish batteries can act up, especially if they're defective or if they've been overused.Why is my phone very slow to respond? ›
Restart your phone normally and check apps
Restart your phone. One by one, remove recently downloaded apps. Learn how to delete apps.
- Update your operating system.
- Replace your battery.
- Delete apps you don't use and free up storage space.
- Increase your storage space.
- Create a new home screen (Android only)
- Replace your actual screen.
- Looking for more old phone tips?
- Plug it into the wall, not your computer. ...
- Turn your phone off. ...
- Don't use your phone while it's charging. ...
- Switch to airplane mode. ...
- Get a heavy-duty fast charging cable. ...
- Invest in a portable charger.
Greenify is one of the most efficient apps to boost phone performance that helps devices run smoothly for a very long time. As it helps the devices to identify and put the misbehaving and battery-consuming apps into hibernation, the Android app performance helps lagging devices rejuvenate to new life.How do I deep clean my Android phone? ›
- Take off your phone case, and turn off your phone.
- Use a microfiber cloth with a mild cleaning solution, like a 50-50 mixture of water and alcohol.
- Spray the cloth—never your tech—and wipe down both sides of your phone, taking special care while cleaning the screen.
Droid Optimizer deserves to be at the top of the list for specific reasons. The app got everything that you need to boost your phone's performance. It's one of such apps that improve your Android's performance. It can free up space, clean RAM, limit background apps, etc.How many years should an Android phone last? ›
Samsung – three to six years. Huawei – two to four years. Xiaomi – two to four years. Oppo – two to three years.What is the lifespan of an Android phone? ›
The Consumentenbond estimates the average lifespan at 2.5 years. Other sources indicate that a new smartphone will last 15 to 18 months. The lifespan of your smartphone depends on how you handle your device. Yet, however economical you are on your device, there are several factors that affect lifespan.
- Make text more readable.
- Enlarge the on-screen keyboard.
- Configure the lock screen.
- Organize the Home screen.
- Set up favorites.
- Set up custom ringtones for special callers.
- Make it easy to find emergency and medical information.
Go to Settings > Memory > Memory Used Apps on your Android device. Tap on the three-dot icon, then choose "Sort by max apps" to see what apps are taking up most of your RAM. Tap "Force Stop" to clear the app that is taking much of your RAM.What happens when a phone gets too old? ›
As a result, Google and the phone-makers eventually have to cut off support for older handsets, usually once a device gets to be two or three years old. Those handsets then will no longer receive security updates, meaning that when a threat is detected on that phone, it simply won't be fixed.What can I do with my old Android phone? ›
- Use it as a wireless trackpad and controller for your computer. ...
- Turn it into a remote computer terminal. ...
- Use it as a universal smart remote. ...
- Let it power scientific research. ...
- Transform it into a free-standing security camera. ...
- Reframe it as a full-time videoconferencing station.
- Video Chat Device. Do you communicate via video chat devices, such as FaceTime, Skype, or Snapchat? ...
- TV Remote. ...
- VR Headset. ...
- Home Security System. ...
- Dashcam. ...
- Baby Monitor. ...
- DIY GoPro. ...
- Alarm Clock and Sleep Tracker.
Here are some of the most common ones: There are too many push notifications and alerts draining the battery. There are too many apps running location services. There are too many apps running in the background. The screen is too bright.Does turning off your phone make it charge faster? ›
Will turning my phone off make it charge faster? a commonly asked question that we will answer and explain in this blog for you all to understand! The simple answer is yes, yes it does make you phone be it android or IOS, charge faster. Even other devices like PCs, tablets and more charge faster.How can I charge my phone faster in 10 seconds without a charger? ›
Here are 6 ways to make your phone charge faster.
- Turn on Airplane Mode. ...
- Use a Wall Charger. ...
- Keep Your Phone Cool. ...
- Use Fast Battery Chargers. ...
- Turn Your Phone Off. ...
- Charge on the Go.
- Norton Clean.
- Files by Google.
- All in one Toolbox.
- SD Maid.
Go to Settings. Go to Additional settings. Select RAM Boost. Enable the slider button for RAM Boost.
- Smartphone Cleaner – Speed Booster & Optimizer. ...
- Phone Clean – Antivirus. ...
- Nox Cleaner – Booster, Optimizer, Master. ...
- CCleaner. ...
- Files By Google. ...
- All-In-One Toolbox. ...
- AVG Cleaner – Junk Cleaner, Memory & RAM Booster. ...
- 360 Cleaner – Speed Booster & Cleaner Free.
About this app. 🌐Nox Cleaner is a Smart Cache Cleaner & Effective Speed Booster for Android phones. If your phone storage is insufficient or slowing down, Nox Cleaner totally can clear junk files, remove cache, and release storage space hence boosting phone performance and speed.Is there a free phone cleaner? ›
AVG Cleaner for Android is a free maintenance tool that keeps your Android devices running at peak performance and speed by identifying and removing junk files, bloatware, and other unnecessary files and apps from your device.What makes phone fast? ›
The clock speed determines how many instructions the processor can execute per second. A processor with a 1-Gigahertz (GHz) clock speed can process 1 billion instructions per second. The general rule is that higher clock speeds make for faster phones. You can often see this with more expensive smartphones.When should I replace my Android phone? ›
- The Battery Runs Out Quickly. ...
- It's Too Slow to Use. ...
- It's Outdated and Lacking Updates. ...
- New Apps Won't Run. ...
- Apps Crash Frequently. ...
- It's Got a Poor Quality Camera. ...
- The Phone Shows Signs of Wear and Tear. ...
- You're Running Out of Storage.
Yes, It's Possible. - The New York Times. Personal Tech|A Smartphone That Lasts a Decade? Yes, It's Possible.Can androids expire? ›
The average smartphone can last a few years but towards the end of its life, a phone will start to show signs of slowing down. It's important to take stock of these so you can prepare for what comes next. Batteries in all mobile devices degrade with time.How often should you change phones? ›
Nonetheless, replacing your device every two years is still a good idea. Even if the phone functions well, the hardware and operating system are antiquated by the time the phone is two years old.Which Android phone is best for long term? ›
- Google Pixel 7 Pro. ...
- Google Pixel 6a. ...
- Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4. ...
- Motorola Moto G Power (2022) Best Battery Life on a Budget. ...
- Motorola Moto G Pure. Best Affordable Android Phone. ...
- OnePlus 11 5G. Best Flagship Alternative. ...
- Samsung Galaxy S23. Best Small Phone. ...
- Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4. Best Pocket-Sized Flip Phone.
4. Senior Safety Phone. The Senior Safety Phone is a popular Android launcher for elders because of its classic design. It is easy to navigate with the most common shortcuts like phone, SMS, and all apps at the bottom of the screen.
The Jitterbug Flip2 and Jitterbug Smart3 are two of the easiest phones to use, due to their simple menus, voice commands, and accessibility features. Additionally, the Alcatel GO FLIP 4 has a simple design that anyone could pick up and use.What is a good Android phone for seniors? ›
The Samsung Galaxy A11 isn't just our No. 1 Android pick for older adults who want the freedom to choose their own apps — it's one of our top cell phone picks of 2023. The $180 A11 also has a very large screen, in case you want to magnify your text, and all modern accessibility features.How do I turn my Android into an iPhone? ›
- Switch on your iPhone and follow the steps on the screen. ...
- Connect to the Wi-Fi. ...
- Set up Face ID. ...
- Once you reach Apps & Data, tap Move Data From Android. ...
- Download the Move To iOS app on your Android phone. ...
- Set up Move To iOS on your Android. ...
- Tap Continue on your iPhone. ...
- Enter the code on your Android device and tap Connect.
Android devices cannot be defragmented. Defragmenting an Android device does not improve its performance, since flash memory is not subject to fragmentation. In fact, defragmenting a flash drive (which is commonly used on Android devices) reduces its lifespan.What is better on Android than iPhone? ›
You Want More Freedom, Control, and Customizations. Since Android is an open-source platform, it offers more freedom and customization options than iOS. You can customize almost anything on your Android device, from how your home screen looks to how you interact with your phone.How can I increase my Android phone RAM free? ›
- Go to the settings app.
- Scroll down to 'RAM and storage space' option and select it.
- Now tap on the first option itself named 'RAM'
- Here you'll find the option to extend the RAM on your option. ...
- Once enabled, you might notice a better and smoother user experience on the phone.
- Restart Your PC. ...
- Check RAM Usage With Windows Tools. ...
- Uninstall or Disable Unneeded Software. ...
- Update Your Apps. ...
- Use Lighter Apps and Manage Running Programs. ...
- Scan for Malware. ...
- Adjust Virtual Memory in Windows. ...
- Try ReadyBoost to Add More RAM.
- On your Android phone or tablet, open the Chrome app .
- At the top right, tap More .
- Tap History. Clear browsing data.
- At the top, choose a time range. To delete everything, select All time.
- Next to "Cookies and site data" and "Cached images and files," check the boxes.
- Tap Clear data.
No. Newer OSs are built with hardware in mind which usually includes faster or more robust CPUs, more memory, updated GPU, and hardware in general. You may find it runs well but not faster.What is the best free phone cleaner for Android? ›
- Norton Clean.
- Files by Google.
- All in one Toolbox.
- SD Maid.
Clearing your Android app cache can help fix speed issues and free up storage space. If you need more storage, clear the cache of the apps that take up the most space. Clearing your app cache every few months will help streamline your phone and keep it from getting too full.Is it OK to clear cache Android? ›
Clearing unused cache files on Android is a decent way to free up space temporarily and comes in handy when troubleshooting app issues. But it's not something you should do often, or through unreliable third-party apps. Use it only as a specific tool when needed for device performance.What happens when you clear system cache on Android? ›
Clearing the system cache can help to resolve issues and improve the performance of your phone by removing temporary files associated with the Android operating system. This process will not delete your files or settings.How many years does an Android last? ›
Many sources believe that the average lifespan of smartphones is currently 2.5 years. However, other sources claim that it could be closer to 15-18 months for newer generation devices. However, a much clearer picture becomes apparent when we break up the life expectancy based on the brand.Which Android is the fastest? ›
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra becomes fastest Android smartphone in the world - SamMobile. Epic Galaxy S23 Ultra, Galaxy Book 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 deals at Samsung!Which Android version is fastest? ›
Based on its AnTuTu score, the iQOO 11 5G could be the fastest Android handset around. One of the new Android phones powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset is the iQOO 11 5G.