Geek Foibles


iOS 4 is slow on the iPhone 3G
June 29, 2010, 1:54 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Like many people, I eagerly installed iOS 4.0 on my phone when it became available last week.  I have an iPhone 3G, so the most significant new feature (multitasking) wouldn’t work with my device, but I’d at least get some of the smaller bells and whistles, like the unified mailbox and home screen folders.

Well, I got the new features, but I also took a big hit in the performance department.  The iPhone 3G never performed very will in the first place, what with its 412MHz processor and paltry 128MB of RAM, but iOS 4.0 worsened things considerably.  I’ve long complained of the iPhone’s inexplicable and unexpected pauses when you tap buttons or try to scroll, but iOS 4.0 took things to a whole new level of unresponsiveness.  Those pauses occurred much more frequently, and for much longer periods of time.  The home screen seemed especially badly hit, with swipes between pages frequently resulting in my swiping over and over again without the image budging one pixel in any direction.  Additionally, app launch times increased dramatically, and in-app navigation also suffered.

Hitting the web, I quickly found I wasn’t alone in having this problem.  Numerous blogs noted similar problems, including Gizmodo.  One fellow even did a side-by-side video comparison:

I’d already installed iOS 4.0 via a restore (as opposed to an upgrade), so the first troubleshooting step was already out. I went ahead and restored again, this time not restoring from a backup on the off chance something in my backup was at fault. It seemed like it might have been a little faster at first, but after a day or two things were definitely back to being painfully sluggish. I cleared out most of my data to no avail. I tinkered for days, all without success.  As near as I can tell, this is just how iOS 4 behaves on the iPhone 3G.

When Apple announced that iOS 4 would run on the iPhone 3G but not the nearly-identical (same CPU, same GPU, same RAM, etc.) original iPhone, I was perplexed as to why the original iPhone was left out.  Unable to come up with a technical reason, my cynical nature led me to suspect that Apple was creating this arbitrary dividing line to force legacy iPhone users to upgrade if they wanted the new bells and whistles.  While this could still be correct, I now have an alternate (or perhaps even complementary) theory.  Perhaps Apple knew the performance of iOS 4 was bad on the iPhone and iPhone 3G.  Perhaps, knowing this, they didn’t want to support either of the first two generations of iPhones, but because they’d been selling the iPhone 3G as a cheap alternative to the 3GS right up until two weeks before the release of iOS 4 they couldn’t reasonably lock out devices that new.  So perhaps they locked out the iPhone because it hadn’t been sold in two years but warily let the iPhone 3G upgrade.  I admit this is a cynical theory and even I think it somewhat unlikely, but frankly Apple is no stranger to this sort of calculation.

Today I restored back to 3.1.3.  Everything is back to normal and the phone is consistently usable again.  While the new features in iOS 4 were nice, they definitely weren’t worth the performance hit.  I guess I’ll be sticking with iPhone OS 3 until I upgrade my device.

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1 Comment so far
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I have the EXACT same problem. I got the 3G when it had only been out for a week or two, so my two year mark is up. I have been considering an upgrade to the new iPhone, but with OS 4 I don’t have much of a choice. I really like all of the new OS features (minus the crashing).
Everything on my iPhone 3G is slower. My apps run VERY slow and often freeze completely or close themselves out. I perform a hard reset (by holding down both buttons for a few seconds) nearly a dowzen times a day because it completely freezes on my and there is nothing else I can do to get back to the home screen. Unfortunately I too will have to restore back to 3.1.3 where everything worked at normal slow 3G pace, but still functioned.
I agree with your theory as to why Apple didn’t allow the original iPhone and did the 3G. It didn’t make sense to me until I read this… and not I completely understand. I just wish Apple would have had some sort of warning or disclaimer anout OS4 with the 3G aside from the notice it will not have multitasking. This new update by Apple may have pushed me over the edge to shop for a product made by a different company.

Comment by Rod




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