Smartphones are now well established as the main way most of us connect to the internet. It’s a trend that looks irreversible. And it means getting the fastest possible internet speeds on your mobile devices is more important than ever.
But sometimes this doesn’t happen. There might be problems with the way you’ve set up your home router, or with the quirks of public Wi-Fi, or even issues with your carrier.
Your phone’s processor and RAM can affect connectivity speed. But outside of your smartphone, Internet speed depends on a lot of factors such as mobile carrier and WiFi speed. It’s important to understand that all these factors have a role to play.
Let’s take a look at the main reasons why you have slow internet on your phone, and how you can fix them.
1. Poor Router Position
So, if you’re a distance from the router — like in the furthest bedroom in your house, or even outside — and there are obstacles between it and you, the speeds you get may be a lot slower than you’d expect.
There’s a quick way to test. The Wi-Fi icon on your phone’s status bar gives you a rough indication of the signal strength.
- When the icon is full, you’ve got a strong signal. This suggests your slow internet has a different cause.
- When it’s empty your signal is weak, and other Wi-Fi devices like your laptop should also be affected. Move closer to your router and your signal strength — and internet speed — should improve.
If your connection strength doesn’t improve even when you get closer to the router, you may have other problems you need to fix.
2. Congested Wi-Fi
This can be a problem especially in apartment blocks, where you have a lot of routers crammed into a relatively small area.
To fix this, you need to use software that can scan all the nearby Wi-Fi networks and find which channel they’re using. This will tell you whether you need to change the settings of your router and help you find the least congested channel to switch to.
3. Wi-Fi Noise
Wi-Fi is also susceptible to noise from other appliances in your home. Things like microwaves, wireless doorbells, and cordless phones can interfere with the signal from a router running on the 2.4GHz band.
This is the next thing to check when you’ve ruled out the router’s position and channel as the cause of your slow internet.
Before you do it, though, you need to make sure all your connected devices support 5GHz, or they’ll no longer be able to connect. Unless you’ve got a dual or tri-band router, it won’t be able to switch between the two. You have to choose either one or the other.
If you’re sticking with 2.4GHz, make sure you don’t have any other devices near your router that could cause interference. And prepare for possible disruption if you’re streaming Netflix while standing in the kitchen making microwave popcorn.
4. You’re Connected to a Slow Network
One of the most obvious reasons why you’re getting slow internet speeds on your phone is that you’re connected to a slow network.
On public Wi-Fi, the speeds you’ll get can vary wildly, and you shouldn’t rely on getting a superfast service from something you aren’t paying for. However, even after checking your expectations, you might still end up getting a lot worse performance that you could.
There are so many public Wi-Fi hotspots, and your phone is liable to latch onto one of them at random. It’ll even stay connected after you’ve moved into range of a closer or better one. It means that while your favorite coffee shop might have fantastic Wi-Fi, there’s no guarantee you’ll actually connect to it every time.
The other thing to consider is that a 4G connection will very often be faster and more reliable than public Wi-Fi. If your free service becomes intolerable, then turn Wi-Fi off on your phone and use mobile data instead. Just keep an eye on your data usage while you do so.
5. You’re Using a Slow VPN
But did you know that your choice of VPN can have a significant effect on your internet speed?
Free VPN apps are notorious for offering terrible performance, along with a host of other questionable downsides. If you’re already using a VPN and are getting slow internet speeds, try disabling it temporarily to see if that improves things.
6. Poor 4G Coverage
What about slow internet when using mobile data rather than Wi-Fi? Most of us switch to Wi-Fi whenever we can. It’s cheaper and less heavy on a phone’s battery.
There are so many things that can affect your phone signal. You’ll see it often in crowded places, like at a sporting event or concert, where tens of thousands of people are trying to connect to the same cell tower at the same time.
And there are other things, too. Your distance from the nearest tower. Whether you’re indoors or outdoors. Even the weather can have an effect. Some of these things can cause you to fall back to a slower 3G connection, and some might leave you with no internet connection at all.
In addition, some smaller carriers, like some of the virtual mobile networks in the UK, might have much more limited bandwidth. You might never get up to top speed on those.
Speak to your carrier if you have ongoing problems. If there’s no solution, it may be time to change.
7. Your Phone Is Slow
The resource requirements of apps and websites creep up all the time. So even when your actual internet speed is good, you might still perceive it to be slow. The phone’s hardware might be taking its time rendering a web page, for example, or be struggling to handle the graphics in an online game.
You can see this on older phones especially, since they all tend to slow down over time. Lower-end Android phones, with slower processors and less RAM, might also be affected.
And even if you’ve got an up to date, high-end device your choice of apps can still have an impact. Too many apps downloading and syncing in the background can hog too much of your available bandwidth.
Older or poorly written apps can just slow your phone down generally. Make sure to keep your apps up to date, uninstall those that you don’t use, and keep an eye on which are allowed to run in the background.
Yes, those ads that pop up in your websites or apps actually use up a lot of resources, much to many developers’ dismay. Not just processing power, but they chew through a bunch of your mobile data each month too.
Installing an ad blocking web browser can help make it slightly faster. This will become your default web browser and it will keep your webpages ad-free.
9) Unused apps and widgets.
Apps and widgets on your smartphone can use up a tonne of data while they run in the background. An example is Facebook.
This in turn will slow down your internet speed. So it’s best to remove any widgets from your home screens that you don’t use. These are usually the biggest offenders and are easy to ditch.
Just tap and hold on the widget to drag it up to the ‘remove icon’ at the top of the screen. This will not delete the app from your phone but merely remove the widget from the home screen and make it inactive.
10. Too much in your cache.
Apps and services slowly build up caches that over time can eat up precious system resources. It’s easy for us to build up megabytes of cached data in multiple apps.
So an easy way to combat this is by going through and cleaning them out individually or downloading a cache cleaner app to properly get rid of all the useless data. This should at least make your apps run smoother upon booting.
Speed It Up
Internet performance can be unpredictable at the best of times. By getting to grips with some of the main causes of problems you’ll be well equipped to make sure your phone is always running at full speed.
Have you experienced slow internet speeds on your phone? What did you do to solve it? Share your tips and questions in the comments below.