I’m occasionally asked by clients what maintenance they should do on their Android devices. The question gives me a wry smile; it’s great that people are planning to look after their handset or tablet. The reason why a little maintenance here and there is useful is because it can help prevent, or at least minimize, the device slowing down after weeks or months of use.
The more recent devices, those running Android Ice Cream Sandwich or later, do not tend to suffer from the same slowdown as those devices running Android Gingerbread and older. Also, the cleaner the user interface compared with stock Android, again the smoother things tend to stay. Heavily skinned Samsung and HTC ‘phones often feel sluggish after a year of use and for many people, this is half way through their contract. So how best to keep things running smoothly?
It’s worth spending a little of time understanding what can cause things to slow down. Most of the time, it’s a blend of current and old data. Over time, we tend to install more applications or services. Some of these we keep on the device, others we will remove. Occasionally, when we remove an application, not quite everything is removed: there may be a directory here, a few files there. If you install and remove many applications, it means that there could be many installation remnants left on your device. This can slow the handset down in two ways: one, it has more stuff to sort through and two, the device will slow down when it has less memory headroom. And of course, if you keep the installed application on the device, this also takes up space.
Removing surplus junk from the device can be something of a chore but there are several cleaning applications available from the Google Play Store that can make things easier. I've used Cleaner Master on several of my devices to remove some junk files; there are others available, but this has worked as well as I need it to.
The other key area where an Android device can slow down is databases, typically messages, stored emails, pictures, videos and music tracks, perhaps even the call log. If you can set the number of messages to keep in the call log, then do so. You can use applications such as SMS Backup & Restore to archive messages that you may need later. Or you can use Delete Old Messages to remove messages based on time rather than quantity, too. Sometimes after deleting a large number of messages you’ll need to restart your device.
Having a few thousand music tracks and pictures may slow down access to and from your internal storage or MicroSD card, although in my experience this is not too big of an issue.
Reducing the number of email messages that you keep on the device is another useful trick. You can go into each account settings to reduce how long it keeps the email on the device. Reduce the number of days kept to the minimum you can tolerate.
It is sensible to ensure that your device is running the latest version of the software. Most of the time, there’s little real world impact on performance and smoothness of your device, but newer builds of the software should improve things.
And there are times when if a device is struggling to perform, it’s sensible to back up whatever you need, give it a factory reset and then restore your data, accounts and applications. If you do go down this route and the handset or tablet feels much quicker after the factory reset, I would recommend taking a few days to add everything back on. You may find that an application or account might slow the device down, in which case you can decide if you really need it or not.