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So it sucks a little less
First a rule of thumb: buy as much phone as you can afford, and then some. Splurge a little. Trust me, you will save yourself many a headache and frustration. (This applies to laptops and PCs, too.)
If you have a flagship phone, you can dispense with many of these. Any phone under $300 will see improvements in battery life and performance with these optimizations.
After the usual caveats: backup your data, update your phone, I’m not liable if your phone catches fire and burns your house etc, try these:
Uninstall as much bloatware as you can. Many apps come preinstalled by default. Unless you really use them, uninstall or disable as many as you can from the configuration menu.
Some examples: Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Amazon, OneDrive, LinkedIn, Booking.com, etc. From Google: plain Google (search), Gmail, Podcasts, News, Google TV, Duo, Hangouts (your phone must be getting old!), Google Home, Google Play Games, Google One. Keep Google Drive if you plan on printing PDFs from your phone, it’s useful that way.
Basically anything you didn’t install yourself but came preinstalled from the manufacturer or the carrier. Many can’t be uninstalled and it sucks, but in that case:
Disable apps that can’t be uninstalled. It infuriates me that vendors force their shit upon you, and then prevent you from uninstalling. But many of those can be disabled, such as Gmail & Google Search for example. So disable as many apps as you can.
(If you are using a Xiaomi Redmi device, search for an app called: "hidden settings for MIUI", it will give you access to disable more apps.)
In case there are a few apps that can’t be uninstalled or disabled, revoke their “running in background” privileges. Look for “battery” options inside every app, and switch to “restricted” or something that prevents the app from running in the background. They will nag of malfunction; ignore them. If you use social media that can’t do without, this will help your battery last longer and other apps run faster.
(Since you're at it, enable Battery Savings settings on your phone, you'll get some extra juice from those small batteries these cheap phones usually have.)
“But what about my emails in Gmail!,” you might be wondering a paragraph ago. First of all, you shouldn’t be using Gmail at all. But until you get a more private email solution:
Use the browser instead of apps. Amazon, Gmail, Google search itself, Facebook, Twitter, even Youtube (if you’re not going to download videos to watch later) can all be used from a browser instead of an app, without losing useful features. The pages will probably nag you to install the app, but fuck them, it’s your phone and you’re in control, dammit! So uninstall/ disable all those apps and use their mobile sites in the browser.
(If you really want to download Youtube videos to watch later even after you uninstalled the app, instruct the browser to open Youtube as desktop page instead of mobile; then you’ll have the Download video option available.)
Turn off all notifications. Ok, maybe not all of them, but most of them. Most notifications are not from real people, but really the app yelling at you: “look at me! Pay attention to me! Watch some ads!”. You don’t want or need that. Maybe just leave SMS & Whatsapp notifications (or whatever instant message app you use) on. Heck, disable those as well! If they really want to get in touch with you, they can always call you! Haha.
You really don’t care when youtuber or tiktoker whats-their-name uploads new videos; you’ll learn anyways when you open the app. When you want. On your terms, not because some app stole your attention.
Your phone will be more quiet and distract you less. You’ll like it more that way, trust me. The only notifications you’ll see are from real people that want to talk to you.
Ah! Also disable notifications from groups. Thank me later. Unless it’s a group from work, you can read your crazy uncle’s conspiracy rants at night, to have a chuckle before sleep.
Disable Chrome and install a new browser. Many boomers conflate “teh internet” with “Chrome” but you know better. Disable Chrome altogether and install a better browser. Even better, install many browsers, since there isn’t a “one mobile browser fits all” use cases.
I suggest a WebView browser for daily use. Without going into too many technical details — that I myself ignore — besides Chrome, Android itself has its own browser “inside,” and many apps use it, for example when you open links inside an app. So, resources being limited, why use another browser on top, if you already have one?
WebView browsers just add an interface on top of Android native browser, so they typically use fewer resources.
Right now I recommend Soul Browser (lightweight and chock full of features), Kiwi Browser (not WebView, but can install Chrome extensions!), Brave Browser (not WebView either, but if you can’t be bothered with customizations, extensions and stuff, it is very good out-of-the-box), Naked Browser (extremely lightweight, many features!) and SmartCookieWeb privacy browser (open source & lightweight!).
If you don’t mind being spied by the CCP, Opera browser is also very good. If you want to make the most of your data plan or if your phone really sucks, try Opera Mini, and enable data compression. It’s helped the poor for almost two decades now!
A page might look wonky in your favorite browser, but fine in another. That’s why it’s good to have a few browsers. Remember to restrict background processes for browsers you don’t use that often.
Disable the Play Store and Play Store Services. Install the apps you need and then disable these two! Your phone will feel snappier. Many apps and Android itself will complain, and some apps that rely on Services will refuse to work altogether; fuck them. Use the browser!
If you must use an app that relies on Services — such as many ridesharing apps — you can activate it for the time being and then disable it again, because it’s your damn phone and you’re in command, ffs!
(BTW music apps such as Spotify and Youtube Music can be accessed from the browser, and Soul Browser will allow you to listen in the background.)
The Play Store is useful as well to pay and support developers and artists with subscriptions. It’s virtually impossible to wean oneself absolutely from the tech giants, and aspiring to do so would take you into its own rabbit hole. Remember, this guide wants only to improve performance in your low-end phone.
Change the DNS. In simple terms, the DNS is “the address book” of the internet. There are many; your ISP probably has its own; Google has another; I recommend one that gets rid of ads.
Search for “DNS” in your Configuration/ settings, then look for Private DNS, and enter:
dns.adguard.com Then even though all the browsers mentioned block ads by default, your phone will not even download ads in the first place.
(Once in the few years I’ve used it, Adguard DNS stopped working for a day. Or you could encounter the rogue page that absolutely demands you see the ads, or else it won’t work. Then you’ll have to set the regular DNS, and disable ad blocking in the browser. Bear in mind, with this DNS your carrier’s “free pages that don’t consume your data” probably won’t work either.)
Try open source apps. Stock apps usually are bloated and many even show ads! (looking at you, Xiaomi) So install the F-Droid app catalogue from f-droid.org and look for replacements for your usual apps: photo gallery, calculator, calendar, video player (VLC), camera, file manager, notes, even the dialer-caller & SMS apps have open source & lightweight substitutes.
(You can also try sideloading older versions of apps you like. Usually apps launched around a year before or after when your phone was made, will work fine. These will probably demand fewer resources and run faster. Bear in mind, there could be security gaps, so don't use them for anything particularly important. And they will eventually stop working for sure; be ready to say goodbye.)
Stop automatic updates. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Newer versions of apps usually become bloated or drop features you like. So disable automatic updates in Play Store, and even better, disable the Play Store altogether.
Change the launcher. “Launcher” is the “desktop” of the phone, where you find the icons; it “launches” the apps. Odds are it is bloated, and in the Play Store or F-Droid you’ll find many lightweight and minimalistic replacements. Search for “launcher.”
And lastly, not directly related to optimizing or performance, but try to use slow charging. Modern chargers are all fast chargers (2A) and they deteriorate batteries over time. Slow chargers (0.5A) which take overnight to charge a phone, are now harder to come by; I have a couple from old devices, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to replace them. So whenever possible charge your phone by plugging it to the computer. It should take many hours to charge, for example while you work, but your battery will not deteriorate as quickly.
Are there any more simple optimizations you know of? (preferably ones that don’t involve rooting the phone or ADB command-line stuff!) Let me know!