It seems almost Vista-esque: Apple rushes its iOS 5 update to all compatible iDevices -- iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S, iPad 1 and 2, iPod Touch 3rd and 4th generation -- with a revamped notification system, iCloud integration and tons of new features and bugfixes.
Now, many users wish they'd never updated to iOS 5: While iPad 2 and iPhone 4S owners are (mostly) unaffected, "older" devices such as the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPad 1 suffer from massive performance losses and reliability issues. After being affected myself, I did some research on the issue and was surprised by how widespread the problems are. Apple forums and the official Apple Discussion boards are filled with users complaining about horrible problems, the most common being:
Springboard: Annoying stuttering when scrolling through your home screen. App startup: Noticeably longer app load times (up to 10-15 seconds, depending on the App) Apps: Delays while working with built-in apps: for example, the "Photos" app would take a lot longer until it displays your pictures. Safari: Switching from one tab to another in Safari would cause the tab to reload the website every time. Multimedia: Stuttering video (and sometimes even audio) Overall sluggishness: Hitting a button in any app or the iOS 5 settings would be accompanied with a significant delay. Battery Life: The battery would run dry 30-50% quicker than usual. Keyboard: Typing delays of one to five (!) seconds. Crashes: Apps unexpectedly crash to the home screen.
You get the drift.
The problem seems to be that iOS 5's new features consume so much memory and CPU resources that the older devices simply can't handle it, and even the newer A5+512 MB RAM chipsets found in the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 seem to struggle with it sometimes. For example, playing a simple MP3 file and having one Safari tab running in the background causes the iPad 1 to hit its memory limit immediately. Unfortunately, I'm not kidding. I used a tool called "System Status" to determine current RAM usage. Performing even the most basic tasks caused the iPad's performance to go south. It was unbearable.
Also, the iOS 5 log files confirmed what's going on. You'll find them under "Settings\General\About\Diagnostics & Usage\Diagnostic & Usage Data":
See those "LowMemory" logs? The moment the iDevice hits a memory limit, such crash/diagnostics reports are being generated that show which process (Safari, for example) was responsible and at what time the memory limit was reached. Browsing through my iPad's file system, I found over 400 such logs generated within just the past few weeks.
The only way to get some (or even full) performance back, is to slim down iOS 5's footprint on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Yes, that means sacrificing a lot of features. Essentially, disabling the heavier features will cause iOS to consume less memory and reduce CPU activity, which will then be available to all your other Apps. Here's a list of tips that'll help you get things going again:
Turn off Notifications: Things get slower with each and every app that's allowed to send notifications. Go to "Settings\Notifications" and hit "Manually". Then, go through the list of apps and disable notifications where you can. For example, there's little value in having all your games sending out notifications if you rarely play:
Just switch the "On/off" slider on each app and you're done. If performance means all to you, turning off ALL notifications speeds things up significantly.
Turn off Location Services: Do you need GPS? Do you want your apps to access GPS data? If not, go to "Settings\Location Services" and either turn off Location Services completely or at least disable apps that you don't need to access your GPS information.
Turn off indexing: "Spotlight" keeps a growing index of all your files and objects, such as contacts, apps, music and mail. Obviously, keeping such an index in RAM puts a burden on your machine. If you rarely use the search feature anyway, you may want to turn off indexing altogether or at least turn off indexing for items you rarely use. You'll find the indexing settings under "Settings\General\Spotlight & Search".
Multitasking Gestures: Some users reported that performance issues were somehow resolved by turning off the "Multitasking Gestures" on their iPad. You can do that under "Settings\General\Multitasking Gestures".
Disable iCloud: Apple's iCloud puts a heavy burden on your device and turning it off seemed to help almost all users with performance issues. If you can live without it, I suggest you try disabling it temporarily and see if it helps you. Hit "Delete Account" under the "Settings\iCloud" page.
iMessage: Another seemingly RAM-heavy service that keeps slowing things down. If you never use iMessage, simply turn it off under "Settings\Messages".
It's obvious that turning some (and especially ALL) of those features off is painful, but it will also improve performance massively. If you use these features heavily, there's of course no way to get rid of all them. But users who tend to just browse the web or play a little game, will find that they can live without these extras until Apple finally comes out with a more polished and performance-tuned version of iOS (hopefully).
This article, "iPhone problems solved: 6 tips to speed up your iOS device," was originally published at ITworld. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.