Android phones have a habit of getting bogged down after 6 to 12 months of use (or do they?). A phone that was once a speed demon starts to feel a bit sluggish; apps don’t load as quickly, the keyboard takes a while to pop up, and animations become laggy. Many people put this down to the realities of their phone getting older, and start thinking about upgrading to something new.

But before you hand over some hard-earned cash for a new smartphone, there are some things that can be done to speed up your phone experience, and some things that do utterly nothing.

What Doesn’t Work

Clearing apps from the app switcher

Some people seem to think if they clear the apps from the app switching screen, which shows the apps you’ve been recently using, that this will free up system resources like RAM. However it’s no longer 2008: Android has been managing RAM usage and system resources extremely well for years now. The OS automatically suspends and closes apps you’re not using, freeing up RAM for whatever apps you are using. The process requires no user intervention and consistently works away in the background.

In fact by closing apps in the app switcher, you can actually slow down your phone. Apps suspended in RAM are much faster to resume than apps you’ve closed entirely. If you keep closing everything, your phone will have to spend more time slowly re-launching apps from scratch, and you’re not actually freeing up system resources as Android already does this in the background.

The only legitimate reason to close an app in the app switcher is if it’s not working correctly. Boot it from the app switcher, relaunch it, and the system will have to load everything from scratch, hopefully correcting whatever issue you were experiencing.

What Works

Uninstalling and/or disabling junk apps

Many Android apps like to run background processes. The more apps you have installed on your smartphone, the more background processes you’ll likely be running. Background processes consume CPU cycles, potentially slowing your phone down and reducing its battery life.

The best way to resolve this problem is to uninstall any apps you don’t regularly use. Go through and remove all those games you played once or twice, and all the apps you installed as a test. If your phone is only running background processes for apps you actually use, you’ll have a smoother experience.

It’s also worth disabling any system apps or bloatware you don’t use. Did your phone come with Evernote, Microsoft Word, or Facebook installed but you never use these apps? Head into the ‘apps’ menu in the settings screen, find whatever apps you don’t use, then click on the ‘disable’ button to rid them from your life.

Disable animations

One way to make your phone feel faster to use is to remove all system animations. You’d be surprised how much of a difference this makes, as many phones use long and attractive animations to improve the visual feel of their software implementation. Speed demons will want to remove these animations to make loading apps and screens feel faster.

To do so, you’ll first need to activate the developer options. Head to the ‘About’ section of your phone and find the build number. Tap on the build number seven times to unhide the developer menu.

Then head into the developer options, and find the following three options: window animation scale, transition animation scale, and animator duration scale. Set all three options to ‘off’, and without much fuss your phone will feel a good bit faster to use.

Free up storage space

If you’re running low on internal storage space, your phone can start to slow down as flash storage performance typically degrades when the storage approaches capacity. And flash storage performance can be the biggest limiting factor in how fast apps load, and how fast your phone is in general.

On top of that, lots of Android apps rely on data caches to speed up the experience; if apps are fighting for cache space, you’ll also see slowdowns.

It's typically a good idea to keep 10 to 15 percent of your phone’s storage free at all times. But even if your phone isn’t that full, removing junk can help performance at times. The best way to free up space is to uninstall apps you don’t use (as we talked about earlier) and offload your captured photos and videos to a PC or to the cloud. If you’d rather not do either of those things, you can clear out your cache data. Those with plenty of storage space probably shouldn’t clear out cache files that do help performance at times, but those struggling to keep that last bit of storage free can swiftly start fresh.

To clear your cache data, head to the storage section of your phone’s settings menu. From there, tap cached data and click clear or OK to wipe away the cache for every app. Often this can free several gigabytes of storage space.

Use a fast microSD card

Installing apps on your microSD card is a bad idea, and almost always leads to a slower experience. But sometimes apps themselves store data on the microSD card automatically, rather than on your phone’s faster internal storage. To speed up these apps, you should install a fast microSD card in your phone if you wish to expand its storage.

For the best performance, you should opt for a microSD card with a UHS Speed Class of 3. This is denoted on the card by a U icon with a 3 in the middle. U3 microSD cards are rated for 30 MB/s sequential writes, and that’s typically fast enough for smartphones.

Remove widgets

This tip is straightforward. Home screen widgets can hog system resources and keep apps open in the background. If you have a ton of widgets, remove them and you should see better performance in some circumstances.

Use Chrome’s Data Saver mode

This is a tip that can not only speed up your phone, but also save you valuable mobile data. Chrome’s Data Saver mode compresses web pages by approximately 30 percent, reducing web page loading times on slow connections, especially on handsets with fast processors. It’s a handy feature to enable if you use Chrome as your main web browser.

To enable Data Saver, head into Chrome, open the settings screen, find the data saver menu, and turn it on.

Resetting your phone

This is a last resort option. Before you get frustrated and throw away your slow phone for something newer, it could be worth giving it a factory reset to see if it speeds up again. Often this works wonders, and restores your phone to how it operated out of the box. The downside? It deletes all your apps and (optionally) your data as well, so be sure to back up everything before you proceed.

The factory reset feature can be hidden in a variety of settings menus, however on most phones it’s under the Backup and Reset heading. In there, you’ll find the factory data reset function. Click on it and follow the prompts to wipe your phone, then set it up from scratch once more.

5 days, 5 killer tech tips is a TechSpot monthly feature

On the third week of every month, we'll publish 5 killer tech tips, one for each day of the week for a given app, service, or platform. This month we're covering Android.