Smartphones and tablets tend to slow down over time, and for good reason. What once were cutting edge specifications soon become yesterday’s technology, and updates to both operating systems and apps can place extra strain on processors, memory and storage space. Components that can’t be upgraded, course.

That’s not to say the only solution is to buy a better model and there are steps you can take to ensure your smartphone or tablet, (whether you own an iPad or a Tesco Hudl) lasts for as long as possible. So if a simple restart hasn’t restored your gadget to its usual speedy self, here’s what to try next.

 

iPad and iPhone (iOS 8)

Tip 1: Turn off visual effects

Each new version of iOS brings new visual effects that look marvellous on the very latest iPhones and iPads, but they have a habit of making older models grind to a near halt. Fortunately, most are easily disabled.

Most lurk in Settings - General - Accessibility. Start by tapping Reduce Motion to enable the option and disable the 3D effect on the lock screen and Home screen wallpaper — you’ll just see a static background image, instead.

Turn off iOS visual effects

Next tap Increase Contrast and turn on the toggle to disable the see-through effect for iOS. It won’t looks quite so pretty, but it will run faster.

 

Tip 2: Turn off background searching

iOS has a few tools that run in the background to make your iPhone or iPad a little slicker to use, but turning them off will increase performance.

Go to Settings - General - Spotlight Search and tap every ticked item in the list to untick it. This will disable the search option that appears when you pull down on the Home screen, but it’s worth it for the extra performance you’ll gain.

Turn off iOS background searching

Still in Settings - General, now tap Background App Refresh and switch it off at the top of the screen. This will prevent apps from updating when you’re not using them, so you may no longer get notifications for certain apps. All will work normally once you open them, however, and you’ll get better battery life, as well as improved overall performance, as a result.

 

Tip 3: Increase free storage space

Insufficient free storage can also slow down an iPad or iPhone, so check how much you have left. Go to Settings - General - Usage and look under the Storage section. If Available is less than 1GB, you may run into problems, so tap Manage Storage and look down the list of apps to see which are taking up the most space.

iOS increase storage sapce

You can tap Music, Photos & Camera and Videos to delete individual files within each, but the only option for the rest is to delete the app and all the data it uses. Unless you’re very careful with your app downloads, you’re bound to have a few you never use (despite your best intentions), so get rid of them.

 

Tip 4: Reset all settings

As a last resort, resetting your iPad or iPhone settings can work wonders. This will undo any changes you’ve made to iOS and usually helps fix any issues with responsiveness. It won’t affect your apps or data (but make a backup just in case), but it will wipe any wi-fi passwords you’ve entered, so you’ll need to re-enter them to connect to those networks.

iOS Reset all settings

Go to Settings - General - Reset and tap Reset All Settings. You’ll need to enter your passcode to continue, if you have one, and then follow the on-screen instructions. The whole process only takes a minute or two.

[Related story: Apple unveils iOS 9: Multitasking, a cleverer Siri and improved battery performance for your iPad]

 

Android smartphones and tablets

As with all things Android, differences between versions and manufacturers make it difficult to give definitive instructions to suit all smartphones and tablets, but the steps below should work for everyone — although some minor changes might be involved.

 

Tip 1: Increase free storage space

Many Android devices have a memory card slot, but the operating system can only use internal storage for many of its functions. To free up internal storage, go to Settings - Apps and tap Internal Storage at the top of the screen to see which apps are using internal storage.

Increase Android storage space

Tap an app and you should see buttons to Deinstall it, or to move it to external storage (sometimes shown as Move to SD Card or Move to phone). It’s also worth checking the Cache size for all apps at this point and tapping the Clear cache button for any with very large stores of these temporary files.

 

Tip 2: Limit visual effects

Android also has a range of visual effects to make it appear more sleek and sophisticated, but these too can affect performance.

Go to Settings - Developer options. If you can’t see this, instead go to Settings - About phone (or similar) and find the Build number section. Tap this section seven times and you should see a message along the lines of “You are now a developer”.

Enable Android developer options

In Developer Options, tap Window animation scale, Transition Animation scale and (if you have it) Animator duration scale in turn and set each to Off.

Limit Android visual effects

[Related story: Don't lose your stuff: How to backup your Android smartphone and tablet]

 

Tip 3: Remove widgets and live wallpapers

Widgets and animated ‘live’ wallpapers are a key feature of Android, but they can affect performance dramatically — so turn them off.

How you do this depends on your version of Android, but you can usually tap and hold a widget on the Home screen to remove it. Tapping and holding a blank area of the Home screen usually brings up the wallpaper options, too, so select a static image to remove a live wallpaper.

Remove Android widgets

 

Have you found any other tips and tricks to make Android and iOS run a little more quickly on an older smartphone or tablet? Let us know in the Comments.