Check for updatesWhich updates? All the updates. If you don’t have automatic updates activated in the Play Store, or you’re not connected to Wi-Fi very often, you should run through all the app updates available to you before taking more drastic measures. It’s possible some app or other had a bad update and is causing mischief in the background. Getting the newest version might solve your problems in mere minutes.
You should also check for system updates in the About phone menu in Settings. You’ll likely get a notification when over-the-air updates are ready, but not all carriers keep pushing them after you dismiss the alert. If there’s an update available for your device, make sure you install it. You can probably find horror stories about OS updates if you look around, but these tales are in the extreme minority. Usually you’ll get security fixes and (importantly) performance improvements.
Remove and disable appsIf you’ve been using a phone for a few months, you’ve probably accumulated quite a collection of apps you rarely open. Maybe you think you’ll use them at some point, but let’s be real, you’re not—ever. You should go through your device and remove anything you don’t absolutely need.
Android allows apps to start up and run in the background. That’s usually not a problem, but some apps (as mentioned above) can misbehave. Micromanaging background tasks is a recipe for disaster as any services you kill will only restart themselves and drag the system down and waste more battery in the process. Fewer apps installed means few background tasks for Android to juggle. Simply removing apps you don’t use could solve your problem. You might also be seeing sluggishness if your phone is nearly out of space, so clearing it out can help in that respect.
For unwanted system apps that you can’t uninstall, you should disable them from the main app settings (here’s how). This hides them from the app drawer and prevents them from starting up in the background. If these apps are bogging down your phone, problem solved.
Clean up your home screenMost device makers have their own home screen, but there are also various third-party alternatives and Google’s own Now Launcher in the Play Store. One thing they all have in common is widget support. Widgets are great, except when you get a little carried away and they make the phone sluggish.
If you’re feeling a little too much lag, consider scaling back what’s running on the home screen. It might just be one or two widgets causing issues, so look for things that scroll or refresh often. Live wallpapers can also cause a device to suffer poor performance, so switch to a static one to see if that fixes anything.
Be smarter with power saving modesIt’s 4PM, is your battery dead yet? Depending on the phone you’re carrying around, you might have to answer in the affirmative. The power saving modes included in virtually all phones can save a bit of juice and extend usable time, but they come with drawbacks. For example, they’ll slow the clock speed of your processor, and reduce the rate at which the display is drawn. Unsurprisingly, that makes the phone feel slower. It can be noticeable if you’re already dealing with performance issues.
There’s a place for power saving modes, of course. When you’re actually low on battery and longevity is more important than performance, sure, turn it on. Most phones even have a setting to automatically enable power saving modes at a certain threshold. Just don’t leave these modes on all the time like some people do.
A full factory resetDespite how amazing smartphones are, they aren’t perfect. Sometimes you just don’t know what’s wrong, and no amount of tinkering settings and apps will return a device to like-new performance. If all else fails, you should consider doing a full device reset. This can solve any problem you’re having with apps, but it can also cure bizarre and impossible to diagnose system issues. It’s a bummer that this sort of thing still happens, but if there’s some sort of deep-down error or misconfiguration, this is probably the only course of action you have.
Before you reset your phone, make sure you’ve got all the important data saved elsewhere. You can save files in cloud services like Dropbox or Google Drive. App data is harder to take care of, but Helium Backup is compatible with most devices and doesn’t need root.
You can initiate a device reset from the main system settings in the aptly named Backup and reset menu. You can also boot into recovery mode and reset from there, but that’s only necessary if your phone isn’t booting to Android properly. If you do need to reset, hopefully you at least end up with a snappy Android device at the end of it.