How to speed up iOS 7 on an older device

Reject some of iOS 7's eye candy and stop some background processes and your older iOS device may run more quickly and smoothly.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops, desktops, all-in-one PCs, streaming devices, streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
4 min read

iOS 7 caught me close to -- but not at -- the end of two product cycles. My current Verizon contract isn't up until January, so my iPhone 4S will have to suffice until after the holidays. And I hope to replace my iPad 2 with whatever new iPad Apple is expected to roll out next month. Until then, I'm stuck with my current devices, which are acting a bit sluggish after upgrading to iOS 7.

Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to improve an old iOS device's performance somewhat. Before we begin, a disclaimer: These tips won't make it feel like a new iPhone, and they involve disabling some features you might find attractive or useful. But, taken together, they might improve your iPhone's performance to where you won't throw it out a window (or trade it in) until after your current contract is up.

Clear some space
Did you heed our advice and properly prepare your device for iOS 7? If not, the first of the five things we suggested was to delete any unwanted or unused apps. If your device's hard drive is near capacity, reducing the amount of data stored on it could result in a speed boost. To see how much free space you have, go to Settings > General > Usage. At the top of the page under the Storage header, you will see how much available and used space you have and a list of your apps and the amount of space each occupies. To delete an app, find it, tap and hold until it starts wiggling, and tap the X in the upper-left corner.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Kill background processes
iOS 7 runs more processes in the background to make your life easier. For starters, apps now update in themselves in the background, which saves you from having to stare at an ever-increasing number in the badge alert on your App Store icon and before updating a huge slew of apps. On the other hand, updating apps in the background is still a process that occupies your iOS device's CPU (not to mention battery). You can turn off this feature and update your apps via the App Store as before. To do so, go to Settings > App Store and scroll down to the Automatic Downloads section and flip the toggle switch to off for Apps and Updates. And if you want to cut out all background processes, turn off automatic downloads for Music and Books, which means you'll need to sync purchases across devices manually.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Apps also refresh their content on iOS 7 in the background. For example, your Facebook news feed will update without you needing to do so when you open the app. Helpful, to be sure, but it occupies CPU cycles. To turn it off, go to Settings >General > Background App Refresh and flip the toggle switch off.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Reject parallax, transparency, and blur effects
iOS 7 introduced new animations, which quickly lose their luster when they result in a choppy motions and lag. If this describes your experience with iOS 7's parallax and other motion effects, you can turn them down a notch. Head to Settings >General > Accessibility and tap on Reduce Motion. On the next screen, flip the slider to on, which will "reduce the motion of the user interface, including the parallax effect of icons and alerts. This setting was available on my iPad 2 but not on my iPhone 4S, which doesn't support fancy motions of any kind.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Before you leave the Accessibility area of settings, there is one other setting to investigate. Just above Reduce Motion is an item called Increase Contrast. Tap on it and then turn its toggle switch on to "improve contrast on some background to increase legibility." Now, you aren't enabling this setting to make words easier to read. What is does it turn off the transparency and blur effects that some windows in iOS 7 feature, such as the Control Center. On my two old devices, I didn't get the cool blur effect anyway, so all I'm losing in this deal is some transparency effect. With it disabled, the theory is your iOS device's struggling processor will have more resources to deploy elsewhere.

For more on Apple's latest mobile operating system, please see CNET How To's complete guide to iOS 7.

Is your old iOS device moving more slowly after upgrading to iOS 7? Have you found any way to improve its performance? If so, please share in the comments below.

(Via OS X Daily)