iPhone 3G and iOS 4.0 slowness

(There is no music associated with this entry).

Like a lot of suckers, I’ve got an iPhone 3G. I was a little disappointed when iOS4 (stupid name, makes me think it runs Cisco IOS) came out and the lack of multitasking meant no screen rotation lock.

What really bothers me though, is how terminally slow the phone became under iOS4. I’m talking like slow to respond to touches to the screen, 5-10 seconds to start playing music/podcasts in the iPod application. Slow to scroll between the screens. Even when you bring it out of sleep and the passcode lock takes 20-30 seconds to respond to your key inputs.

I tried doing the backup/restore, to no avail. Same slug performance.

Following an offhanded tip which suggested the problem with the 3G might be that the storage is nearly full, I checked and found I had about 276 MB free space (as the phone reports). My 16GB 3G can’t hold all my music/podcasts, so I generally have it sync all the unplayed podcasts, a couple of dedicated music playlists, and then I have the infamous “fill up available space with music” check in iTunes set. This causes iTunes to fill up the rest of the phone’s free space with music. That sounded like a good idea to me so I’ve been using that since it was first available as an option.

So, unchecked it, and let the 3G resync. In this config I get about 4GB free. That’s a lot, but this was a test. I mainly listen to podcasts and my own music anyway (vain), so who cares.

Hot damn, sure enough the phone does not slug along nearly as bad as it used to. It’s still sluggish starting to play music/podcasts (I’m wondering if this is connected to the “show podcast info/lyrics” tickbox, since a lot of the pause is before the info appears on the screen), but the screenlock, scrolling between screens, and keyboard entry seem much better. Confirmation bias? I dunno. I mention all this as a public service message.

What I am happy about in iOS4 is that at last they seem to have fixed the “list of podcasts scrolls like crap” problem. Still not 100% smooth, but at least it doesn’t hang up and suddenly jump to the bottom of the list.

I don’t actually care about the wallpaper, the iOS4 can’t make the fixed-focus camera and no-video-recording any better, and I understand the no-multitasking, but damn I wanted that screen rotation lock.

The funny thing is, in a regular situation I’d think that this was a system that – when low on disk space – was having swap problems. Except that iOS4 isn’t supposed to use any swap. Hmmm.

TL;DR : A lot of the slowness was fixed by freeing up space on the iPhone storage, even though that shouldn’t affect it. YMMV.

Update: I have a field report from the genius that is Brad, who says “that freeing up 500mb of space on a 2nd gen iPod touch works wonders for ios4. Much smoother now.”.