iOS 4 on iPhone 3G: How to make it snappier

Xavier Verhoeven
26 July, 2010
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A few weeks ago, I updated my iPhone 3G to the latest and greatest iOS 4. Like many other people who have installed this software update, I soon found my phone had slowed to a crawl that rendered it near-useless, especially if I wanted to send an SMS. The keyboard lagged so badly that it was faster to call people – or send them a letter, for that matter. If you’ve experienced the same slow-down, you may enjoy this iPhone ad parody:

Having been too daunted by the idea of trying to downgrade (and frankly, never having the time to try it), I stuck with iOS 4. But over the weekend, I saw from Daring Fireball’s link to the same clip as above that restoring from DFU (Device Firmware Update) mode makes matters somewhat better, so gave it a try (thanks to iClarified’s guide). To my surprise, it actually worked. Though I upgraded to iOS 4.0.1 at the same time, so it’s difficult to say exactly which aspect of the update helped.

If you’re finding your iPhone 3G painfully slow, and aren’t planning on getting yourself a shiny new iPhone 4 this Friday, it may be worth a DFU restore, via the following steps:

  1. Plug your iPhone into your Mac, and ensure you make a backup.
  2. Once backed up, press and hold the Sleep/Wake and Home buttons together for ten seconds.
  3. Release the Sleep/Wake button, but continue to hold the Home button for another ten seconds.
  4. If done correctly, iTunes will show a popup that it has detected an iPhone in Recovery Mode, and your iPhone’s screen will be blank. If you hold the Sleep/Wake button too long, you’ll see an Apple logo on the screen, and later, a connect to iTunes image. Confusingly, this is called Recovery Mode, but we want DFU mode for this update. It might take a number of tries before you get it right. (If you change your mind once you’ve entered DFU mode, restart it by unplugging the phone and holding down the Sleep/Wake and Home buttons until an Apple logo appears on your screen.)
  5. Now that you have the iPhone in DFU mode, click Restore, and “Restore and Update”, and it will do a fresh install of the latest iOS version. (Note: If you wish to install an older version of iOS, pressing option while you click restore will allow you to choose your iOS install file. These are available online if you want to try keeping 4.0.0 or reverting to 3.2.1. Check out this article for more information.)
  6. Once that process is finished (it will take some time, and show a status bar in iTunes with messages including “Verifying iPhone restore with Apple” and “Restoring iPhone software”), you can restore your apps, contacts, messages, calendars and other settings from your backup. (Note: Many of my apps were re-arranged by this process, so if you’ve spent hours arranging them just how you like them, you may not want to attempt this restore.)
  7. Hopefully you’ll now find your iPhone working as well as it did before the iOS 4 upgrade.

And that’s all there is to it. There are, however, a few things to note:

  • I can’t guarantee that this will fix your iPhone 3G’s problems, or even that it won’t make matters worse. Proceed with caution.
  • The iPhone 3G still won’t support multitasking or wallpaper images, which both require an iPhone 3GS or above.
  • The speed increase might simply be a result of upgrading to 4.0.1, so upgrading without the fuss of going into DFU mode may also do the trick (though this release does not note any speed increases in its support notes).

One Comment

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  1. Paul says:

    I’ve found a disturbing problem with my iphone 3G. I have installed the latest software update 4.0.1, and all my images in iphoto have become low-res, so bad in fact the iphone wont even allow me to e-mail them! These images only exist on my phone and are not on any other device…..please does anybody know if these images can be repaired, or are they damaged for good?
    Paulo M

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