Why is it that smartphones get slower over time? I can’t be the only one that has noticed my new smartphone slowly crawl to a halt as I use it for longer.
In this blog, I’ve delved deep into this topic to find out exactly what happens to cause our smartphones to slowly die of old age.
More Apps and Running Processes
As people use their smartphones more, their devices are filled with more apps. This often means more apps open at once and more applications running in the background. If you’re in this situation, you’ll often find that restoring your device back to factory defaults will make the phone feel new again. (Or at least close to new.)
source: youtube.comI think this is one thing many smartphone owners look past. When you first get your shiny new smartphone out of the box, it comes with very few apps. You’ll of course have some applications pre-selected by the manufacturer, but the majority of apps on the device won’t run unless you tap to open them.
As you start to use your smartphone for longer, you’ll start to download more apps. Eventually, more apps will run in the background and your RAM and processor will be stretched further, which will then lead to a strain on performance.
Newer Operating Systems
Whilst smaller system updates can bring optimisations, moving to a new OS update, for example, Android 7.0 Nougat to Android 8.0 Oreo, can bring a host of new challenges for the hardware in your smartphone. It’s not always the case, but sometimes updating to the latest operating system update can slow down older models.
source: digitalbounds.comI say this isn’t always the case because in some cases you’ll find that moving to a new OS update will actually speed up your device if the OS update has been optimised well.
However, eventually, your hardware will start to become outdated. Smartphone OS updates will start to focus around newer chipsets and the chipset in your older device won’t be able to keep up.
I still think it’s worth updating your device when your device receives them - smaller updates can help improve performance and they’ll also patch out any potential security threats.
If a new big OS update is available for your device, you may want to do some research to find out whether the update improves your device’s performance or decreases it before you upgrade.
Your Memory Degrades
So, the first two sections of this blog have been pretty obvious so far. However, this third section isn’t so well known. The storage that is used in your smartphone can start to degrade over time and this will affect how well your device can perform.
Firstly, there are two ways that cause your smartphone to slow down due to limitations in the internal memory used.
Firstly, the more jam-packed your internal storage is, the worse it’ll perform. Flash memory, or NAND, which is the type of storage used for smartphones, needs enough free space to be able to perform efficiently. If you’re all of a sudden noticing big performance drops, clearing up some space can often speed things up a little bit.
NAND memory also degrades over time. The type of memory used in smartphones only has a certain amount of ‘write cycles’ before the cells in the memory are worn out. Essentially, when something is erased from memory, a surge of electricity must be sent through the areas of the flash memory chip that contains that information. By doing this, the semiconductor layer on the chip erodes very slightly.
Eventually, if data is written and rewritten enough, individual areas, known as flash cells, are degraded to the point where they’re unusable.
Thankfully, software can be used to stop the flash memory from using degraded parts of the memory, but over time the degradation will continue and performance will start to decrease.
The performance will drop because as more flash memory cells are degraded to the point of no return, less free cells are available for the memory to perform the tasks it needs. These tasks can be absolutely anything. A couple of examples include opening the camera app and saving a picture to your gallery, or loading up an app that has been installed onto the internal storage.
The number of write cycles a flash memory chip has before it’s effectively redundant usually depends on the quality control during the manufacturing process. Unfortunately, flash memory in smartphones often wears out quicker than the same kind of memory used in super fast solid state drives used on modern laptops and PCs.
Are Manufacturers Purposely Making Smartphones Wear Out Over Time?
It almost seems too good to be true. Smartphones often slow down after roughly 2 years of use. They seem to run out just as a 48 month contract is coming to an end and after the manufacturer warranty expires.
Many believe that smartphone manufacturers purposely design their smartphones to degrade over time, specifically after this 2 year period, so that they can push smartphone owners into buying the latest models.
Whilst this may be true, I think it’s safer to say that smartphone manufacturers spend less on their hardware components, especially their flash memory, to help save on manufacturing costs. However, by saving this money, their smartphones essentially slow down far sooner than a device that may use more durable memory.
Choosing the cheaper option not only saves manufacturers some money on production costs, but it no doubt helps them to lure in more smartphone sales from repeat customers every couple of years, too.
Perhaps manufacturers designed it to be this way, or perhaps they’re just taking advantage of an awful coincidence. What are your thoughts on the matter?
Ollie (zerodudex333) is a big mobile/tech fan. He posts blogs on Monday and Tuesday Mornings.