How to make your old iPhone as good as new

22nd Dec 2013 | 14:00

How to make your old iPhone as good as new

There's still life in your old iPad and iPhone

When Apple released iOS 7 it was surprisingly accommodating with backwards compatibility, allowing it to be installed on devices as old as the iPhone 4 and iPad 2.

This seems less generous and more practical when you remember that Apple still sells the iPad 2 as new, and until recently sold the iPhone 4 as new as well. So there are a huge number of older devices out in the wild that can run iOS 7, but that doesn't mean they will run it all that well out of the box.

Apple is known for prioritising newer devices when it updates iOS, probably because it wants you to buy a new iPhone. But that's not realistic for many people, so we're going to show you how to get the maximum possible performance out of your older device running iOS 7.

The good news is it doesn't involve as many compromises as you might think.

Cut back on the SFX

Make your old iPhone as good as new

Apple introduced some snazzy new visual effects in iOS 7 but these are especially taxing on older graphics hardware. If you install it on an iPad 2 or iPhone 4, you won't actually see many of these flourishes as Apple knows they won't render properly so it disables them.

On an iPhone 4S or newer device you can still get rid of them to preserve battery life and increase general interface snappiness. Go to the Settings app and locate the General > Accessibility section.

Here, turn on the Increase Contrast option, which will get rid of the blurring effects.

Then below it, turn on Reduce Motion. This stops the parallax effect on Home screens and as of iOS 7.0.3, also replaces the zooming effect when launching apps with a simple fade. As well as saving power, many people find this much more agreeable to look at.

My eyes!

Make your old iPhone as good as new

Believe it or not, screen brightness is a real battery hog and running the screen at a lower brightness can significantly save battery power, so we suggest you go into the Settings app again and find the Brightness and Wallpaper section.

Turning auto brightness on is good, but manually setting a lower brightness is helpful too.

In the Control Centre - which is accessed by swiping up from the base of the phone's screen - you can quickly get at the brightness slider and turn it up when you need to, then back down when you are in a darker environment.

In the General area of Settings, switch Auto-Lock to 1 minute if it isn't already as this puts your screen to sleep quickly when not in use.

Speaking of Control Centre, you'll find some other great power savers here as well. Turning Bluetooth and Wi-Fi off when you're not using them will save battery, and switching Airplane mode on when you're either unavailable or on the tube will stop the phone from continually searching for cell towers, which uses power.

Control Center

If you have a Siri-capable device, turning Siri off saves power as your phone will make fewer network requests.

Where am I?

iPhones have GPS location built in and that's really useful but it uses a lot of power, so limit the number of apps that are allowed to use it.

Go into the Settings app again and then the Privacy > Location Services section. Turning GPS off altogether saves power but severely limits the usefulness of a lot of apps, as well as meaning Maps won't work.

Make your old iPhone as good as new

So you'll want to leave a few switched on but limit these to things you really need like Maps, travel apps and the like. You can always re-enable location for any app if you decide you need it.

iOS7 is able to do more things in the background but this can use a lot of power so you need to set it up correctly. Go into the Settings app and find General > Background App Refresh. Here you'll see a list of apps that can make network requests when in the background.

Sometimes this is really useful, say for travel or mapping apps, but you should turn off anything that you don't need. Apple's Stocks or Facebook for example may not be vital.

The same goes for Apple's Mail app - push email can be really useful but it hammers your battery, especially on a cellular connection.

In Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data, turn Push off and consider switching Fetch to Manual, which means you have to physically check for new mail, but saves a decent amount of power.

Restoring features

With each generation of hardware Apple tends to introduce a new feature that is hardware-dependent, but that doesn't mean that your older hardware is left entirely out in the cold. Often, third party apps exist to restore similar tools to older phones and iPads.

Make your old iPhone as good as new

Siri for example only works on an iPhone 4S, iPad 3 or higher but apps like Dragon Dictation, Evi and Vlingo run on earlier devices and provide voice-based interaction of various kinds.

Only recent iOS devices support Airdrop, Apple's device-to-device file sharing system, but there are alternatives. There's Dropbox of course, which is an excellent file sharing solution, but also DeskConnect, InstaShare and Pastebot, all available from the iTunes Store.

These involve a little extra effort, typically signing up so that you can link devices, but generally work very well.

The iPhone 4S was the first model to directly support panoramic photo mode, but there are apps to let you do this on older phones. In fact there are loads, including 360 Panorama, Autostitch Panorama, Panorama Free and Pano. Many are free so you can check them out.

You will want to upgrade eventually…

You can't make your device as fast as the latest iPhone or iPad – there will come a point when the lure of that blazing fast new device simply becomes irresistible - but you can use some or all of the tips we have mentioned to minimize battery use and reduce the overall load on your processor and graphics hardware.

The good news is that these things really do make a difference and will help you to squeeze more life out of your beloved older phone or iPad.

By installing a few free or inexpensive third party apps you can also bring extra functionality in line with newer models so don't despair, help is at hand.

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