iPhone memory hacks

Does Spotify seem to take forever to load on your iPhone? Did it close abruptly (crash) when you hit 'play',  act sluggish or is just not as responsive as when it was new? It may have bonked. Here's how to nurse your prized device back to life...

Wikipedia describes bonking as

In endurance sports such as cycling and running, hitting the wall or the bonk describes a condition caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, which manifests itself by sudden fatigue and loss of energy. Milder instances can be remedied by brief rest and the ingestion of food or drinks containing carbohydrates. The condition can usually be avoided by ensuring that glycogen levels are high when the exercise begins, maintaining glucose levels during exercise by eating or drinking carbohydrate-rich substances, or by reducing exercise intensity.

Your iPhone, or other portable device, can experience the bonk as well. No, not because the battery is low, or you haven't fed it enough GU, but from a depletion of available system memory (RAM - Random Access Memory). This results in slow operation, freezing / crashing Apps and mysteriously frustrating actions that have you wondering why you're not using CD's anymore 🙁

Two types of fuel

As a fitness professional you no doubt are aware that your body stores two types of energy; sugars (glycogen) and fat. Regardless of your fitness level, during a long period of exercise the limited amount of stored glycogen you have is consumed. If you don't eat carbohydrates before they are exhausted, you'll bonk. Interestingly, your body can't access the energy in your stored body fat quickly enough to prevent bonking, even though you have all the fat calories needed to keep you going for days. Yes, with proper training you can improve fat usage, but watch the Tour de France next month and you'll see very fit cyclists eating frequently during each stage.

The energy that fuels your iPhone is memory:

  1. System memory (RAM) which runs all of the phone's operations - a small amount @ 512MB (one half GB)
  2. Storage memory - that's the amount of memory you choose when you bought your iPhone;  8GB, 16GB, 32GB, etc... that holds your offline Spotify music files, iTunes tracks, videos and pictures.

Your iPhone bonks when it runs low on available RAM - none of the 32GB of storage memory you paid extra for is available to help out. You don't see it, but there are a bunch of processes running continuously on your phone, eating small bits of RAM. Typically this happens when you have multiple Apps running in the background or you have too many Apps looking for updates (push notifications) or GPS location updates. You can't add any additional RAM - so the solution to prevent bonking is to free up RAM - by closing unused Apps and turning off unneeded functions will free up some additional memory.

Step one - Close Unused Apps

Did you know that clicking the Home button doesn't actually close an App? It doesn't. There's a good chance that every App you've ever downloaded and opened is still quietly running, consuming the much needed RAM to run Spotify properly. Powering down your iPhone doesn't close them either - each App needs to be closed manually.

Double click the home button and then swipe up to close Apps.

Double click the home button and then swipe up to close Apps.

Here's how...

  1. Double click the 'Home' button quickly and you'll see thumbnails of the Apps currently running.
  2. Scroll left/right to select an App to close.
  3. Swipe the thumbnail up to close it - there's no reason not to close all of them. 

Step two - Do you talk to Siri?

Besides it being annoying, Siri is a bit of a RAM hog. If you're not on speaking terms, turn her off. Settings>General>Siri

Step three - Reboot Regularly

Whenever you're tired, does it seem like your mental processor doesn't operate as sharply as it does after a good night's sleep? After a long day your brain's RAM has a bunch of "stuff" running in the background that it collected during the day; problems at work, anxiety about a future event, what to get your dad for Father's Day... stuff.  The best way to clear it is an 8 hour horizontal reboot.

Computers are no different. They collect "stuff" as they work, reducing the amount of RAM needed for Spotify to crossfade between songs. NOTE: cross-fading streaming tracks is actually a very neat (and memory intensive) trick.

So when was the last time you powered down your iPhone and give it a rest?  I've asked people this question and mostly been told that the only time they've rebooted their phone is when the battery goes dead. Same goes with your computer, Mac or PC - they all benefit from regularly being turned off. Wait until it has completely powered down and then bring it back to life 🙂

Step four -Turn off unneeded services

Every neat little thing your iPhone does requires RAM...

  • Do you really need to instantly see every new FB comment displayed on your home screen? Turn a few off: General > Settings > Notification Center.
  • Location tagging is a bit creepy. Does Shazam really need to know where I am? I don't think so. Turn off all of the nonessential location tags: General > Settings > Privacy > Location Services and scroll down to see who's tracking your location. I only have Facebook (for checking in) and Google Maps turned on.

There are multiple ways to reduce RAM usage beyond this list - these should be a great start to prevent your iPhone from bonking anytime soon!




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