Is your iOS device going slow?

iPod/iPhone running slow? Here’s how to fix it!

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Is your iOS device going slow?
Is your iOS device going slow?

OK so I’ve noticed I’ve been getting a lot of hits on a post I wrote months ago that mentioned speeding up iPhone (except that particular post was really only focused on speeding up an extremely slow upgrade to iOS version 4.0). So, to be more helpful — and because I know it has been super helpful to me since I learned this trick — I’d share how to speed up your iPhone or iPod when it’s running really slow!

First of all, I’d like to get to the root of the problem, and that is memory. People get confused about this, but it’s really quite simple once you get the hang of it. Just like on your desktop/laptop/netbook computer your iPod/iPhone has two different types of memory*. One is called RAM (Random Access Memory) and the other we’ll call Storage. Here is an example: I have an iPhone 3G and it is the 8GB model. The 8GB stands for the Storage capacity of the device, meaning it has the capacity to store 8 gigabytes of data — well it’s actually more like 6 and 3/4 GB as the iOS software takes up a bunch of space and the whole rounding/approximation thing, but moving on… The amount of RAM my iPhone has is standard for all iPhone 3G models and is 128 MB (megabytes). *note: I said two types, but there is also ROM, but no need to talk about that here…

I’ve heard it described like this (skimming AM stations, I heard this from a woman hosting a tech-help program answering a call from a woman wanting to know how to impress her husband with computer knowledge):
RAM is like a man’s memory… He’s pretty good at remembering things for a short time, but he can only handle so many things at once. Once his memory is full he’s gotta let stuff go to make room for new stuff…
Storage is like a woman’s memory… She never forgets anything. Her and her husband have an argument and he thinks he’s got the upper-hand until she reminds him about that one time — 10 years ago — when he forgot the anniversary of the first time they kissed…

Or you could think of it like this: you’re taking a math exam (no, you’re not really, calm down) and you use RAM — in the form of scrap paper and a pencil — to work out the problems until you’re comfortable with your solution, and you record that in the Storage — in this case the actual exam you will be submitting.

So to recap real quick: RAM = short term, Storage = long term.

Why does this matter? Because if you iPhone/iPod (or computer or whatever) is running much slower than it would normally operate, chances are that your RAM is at max capacity and the device is out of room to process data. When you have programs running on your device, they use RAM during their operation, when the programs are closed, they no longer use RAM — or at least they shouldn’t. And there is the solution to our problem!

You can blame poor programming! Why? Well it’s easier that way… that and you’re memory is probably being eaten up by a poorly coded program that has memory leaks (that just means they didn’t properly clean-up the memory they used before the program closed). Although if you are using a device that allows multitasking (3rd generation devices and newer), you may want to make sure you don’t have a bunch of apps running in the background…

Enough about memory, how do I fix it already?! OK, fine, I’ll get to the point: you need to free up the memory! But how you ask? Well there are a few ways… one is to turn the phone off and back on again. This will free up all the memory as the device powers down and leave the regular available memory once it’s finished booting. OR you can get an app that will free up the memory for you!

I’ve had an app for some time called “Memory Sweep” which I cannot seem to find in the App Store anymore, but I did find one similar called “Free Memory for iPhone and iPod Touch”… I didn’t buy it since the old app works just fine for me, but I would assume this one works based on the reviews and such…

Basically all you do is run the app, it tells you how much memory is being used, and try to free some up. It works like a charm for me!

Anything else I need to know? Yes… Keep in mind the amount of RAM you can free-up depends on the device (see chart below) and also know that some of that (a good amount actually) is being used up by the operating system — iOS.

iOS Device Specs Chart
iOS Device Specs Chart

But what about… removing apps, deleting old text messages / emails / voicemails, removing music/videos that aren’t needed, etc.? Won’t that help speed things up?! Those things all have to do with Storage memory and not RAM (well not directly). Freeing up storage memory will not really fix your RAM usage problem, but it will help speed up an update/upgrade of the device operating system (keep in mind as 4.3 is supposed to be released this Friday) since the less storage space being used by the device means the less time it takes to back it all up on the computer before the upgrade…
I hope this was helpful. Please leave a comment if you have any questions. Thanks!

**Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any harm or damage done to your device by any app you use, including ones I mentioned above. You are a human being capable of thinking and making decisions for yourself, so use your best judgment. If something happens to go wrong — which it shouldn’t — you need to contact the app developer and/or Apple.**




Alex is a professional web and mobile developer. He loves spending time with his wife and kids, and is still very much a kid at heart. He enjoys reading comic books, watching TV/Movies, playing video games, playing with action figures and Legos.

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27 thoughts on “iPod/iPhone running slow? Here’s how to fix it!”

  1. I hav tried all this but it is still slow and i want it to b faster it is freasing up on me right now as i am trying to write a comment please email me and help please

    1. What kind of iPhone do you have? If it’s older than a 3GS, you might as well get a new phone. I gave up on my 3G. You could try wiping it out and reinstalling the OS again… Have you tried removing apps you no longer use? sorry i’m not much help.

  2. thanks so much alex! my 4th gen ipod (running on 5.1.1) has been so much faster; and better than the laggy hell i know it for. i tried the apps you suggested, and a couple more and found a perfect app for your system, called system status. it gives battery life, the state/ condition of your battery, specifics on you wifi address like i.p, cpu and disk usage status, along with a list of processes and RAM/ storage status. (commented so people who read this article could also hear about another app i used)

    1. Thanks Wyatt, I don’t use iPhone anymore (I’m on Android now), but I appreciate your feedback. This page gets a lot of hits, so I’m sure your feedback will help others. I cannot vouch for the “System Status” app you mentioned since I don’t have an iOS device to test on anymore, but I’m sure there are reviews for it on the App Store that people can see when they go to download it.

      Thanks again.

  3. Hello, I have an app called Showcase Jewellers available to download now. It runs fine for me in South East Asia, but it seems to be running slower than normal in Australia. Can you please take a look and advise me what may be the issue?

  4. Thank you for the info. You explained it very nicely and I think that just about anyone could understand and use this information. Well done!

  5. Well , same lame ass problem with the slow mo performance of my 32 GB Ipod .
    This Mac products only look nicey from outside but skeptically non performing device .
    The apps in particular which crash are FB , Gmail , Subway Surfer …etc. to name few .
    I happen download a freeware app called ” SystemZ “to moniter system RAM consumption and it puts up some stats like PID , Process name & Priority for CPU .
    Under Memory tab : we have
    Active Memory : 65 mb
    Wired Memory : 50 mb
    Inactive Memory : 32 mb
    Free Memory : 6 mb

    So there should be approx “Approx remaining : 100 mb ” where is it ? trying to fix it 🙁

  6. My ipod 4g has a problem ………. When i minimize app like temple run 2 it does’t minimize smoothly and with camera also and some time with other app

    Please help me about this

    1. Hi Angad, I’m sorry I was unable to help. I have not used an iphone for several years now (switched to android) and I have been too busy with other areas of my life (career and family mostly) to keep up with this blog. I hope you were able to find assistance.

  7. Thanks for the article, it was really useful. I couldn’t find either of the apps you mentioned but I found an app called “Memory 100 Pro.” I find it works quite well for me.

  8. hey alex… I have an iphone 3gs that have 256 mb ram. On Ios 5.1.1 I had 130 mb free with only tweaks like sbsettings, activator, androidlockxt and last auxo.. but I have updated it with ios 6.1.3 and now I have only sbsettings,activator and auxo with only 50mb of ram free.. why is this happening.. please suggest me how to free up atleast 100 mb . from apps like Skype and facebook app..

    1. Hi Taha, I do not use iphone anymore so I am not much help in this area. iOS has changed a lot since the last time I used it so I cannot advise. If I had more time I’d look into it for you by searching the internet, but unfortunately I am very busy with my career and family at this time. Perhaps you have found a solution by now anyway since it has been months since you posted your comment. Sorry to have replied so late. Best wishes.

  9. It is in reality a great in addition to practical part of information. Now i’m happy that you simply distributed this helpful information around. Remember to remain united states well informed like that. Many thanks for discussing.

    1. Hey Joe,

      Sorry it’s not working for you. This is a very old article (which I will be taking down soon) and was written for a 2nd generation iOS device. It very likely will not work with any of the newer generation devices. I switched to using Android a long time ago. Good luck getting it to work and sorry I couldn’t be any help.


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