Make your old Android smartphone as good as new

Make your old Android smartphone as good as new

Summary: The last week of the year is a good time to wipe your Android phone clean and make it as good as new.


The year is racing to a close and if you didn't get a new phone for the holidays there's no better time to do some simple housekeeping to make your old smartphone lean and mean as it used to be. We smartphone owners are notorious for installing lots of apps on our phones, no matter the make or model. Some of us even suffer from that smartphone-specific malady of "app fatigue", with multiple apps that do the same thing.

The last week of the year is the ideal time to clean off that app glut that is clogging our phone storage and fighting for our attention on a regular basis. There is an easy way to clean everything off the phone and start with a clean slate to get the new year off to a good start.

Since Android is the primary smartphone platform, this article will focus on those phones. Android makes it easy to wipe everything and start over. Since the purpose of doing the big wipe is to get rid of stuff that has been loaded on the phone but is no longer (or rarely) used, before we get started spin through the apps currently on the phone and with a critical eye make a list of those you use regularly. Be brutal and if it's been a few weeks since you last ran a particular app, leave it off the list.

List in hand, with a fully charged battery (or the phone plugged in), go to Settings on the Android phone and look for the Factory Reset option. In typical Android fashion, this can be in one of several different places, depending on the phone model. A good place to look is the Privacy or Security settings on most phones. Once you select the Factory Reset option and have confirmed the choice, your phone will wipe itself clean and revert to its state when you took it out of the box brand new. All your settings and apps will be gone.

When the phone resets, sign in just like you did when it was brand new. It will quickly bring all your data over from the Google cloud. Since the point of this exercise is to get rid of apps we don't need, do not select the option Google presents to back the phone up to the Google servers. If you do, all of those apps you don't want will be automatically installed, which defeats the purpose. Don't install your listed apps either, as there may be system updates that need to be applied first.

Since your phone is now running the OS version as shipped, check for System Updates on the phone to bring it up to date. This setting is usually buried under the About Phone section in Settings. Manually check for updates and download/apply them as presented. If your phone is very old there may be more than one.

Once your phone shows no more available updates, go into the Android Market and install the apps on the short list you made earlier. You will need to sign in to each app as required, and manually configure your settings as desired.

This seems like a lot of work but in reality it doesn't take much time nor a lot of effort. The benefits of streamlining the phone operation are well worth the effort, and your new year will start with the equivalent of a new phone. This works for Android tablets too, although if you have a Wi-Fi only model be sure and connect to your network at each stage to get updates.

Topics: Smartphones, Mobility, Telcos

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  • Good Advice

    I try to do this with all my devices on a yearly basis.<br>It gets rid of the junk no matter what the OS.<br><br>btw: good idea for tablets also.
    • RE: Make your old Android smartphone as good as new


      Have you noticed any system performance decline over time with Android tablets? I really haven't noticed any adverse iOS performance issues (over time) on my gadgets. Just curious. (I can't see how Android tablets would suffer over time but I just don't have any experience with those issues.)
  • RE: Make your old Android smartphone as good as new

    This was a great article, James. Hope you had a great Holiday with treasured family times.

    BTW, the much maligned iTunes/App Store combo makes restoring an iOS device and it's applications a little easier than this procedure. Not much easier but still easier, IMO.
  • RE: Make your old Android smartphone as good as new

    I can't believe we're talking about wiping phones to restore the performance. It is plain ridiculous.
    • RE: Make your old Android smartphone as good as new

      @TheCyberKnight It is the same principle as rebuilding Windows PCs occasionally. Cleans out the crud.
      • RE: Make your old Android smartphone as good as new

        @JamesKendrick The comparison with the Windows desktop is apt. Two other commonalities Android shares with the Windows desktop:

        2. Crapware is installed on most mobile device models by the mfrs (and carriers).

        3. Malware is downloaded and installed by users (directly from the Android Market, no less, and other sites). Of course Google can and has removed malicious apps remotely from customers mobile devices, after being notified of the malicious apps by security researchers. Just like Microsoft removes malware from Windows desktops on patch Tuesday with their Malicious Software Removal Tool. The concept of an app repository similar to those available with GNU/Linux distros was tossed right out of the window by Google.

        Funny how Android, the Linux winner for the masses (neither WebOS nor MeeGo made it to the finish line), has so much in common with the Windows desktop. Even funnier how many Linux zealots are fervent supporters of Google and its myriad proprietary apps (Gmail, Google Docs, etc). This represents the con job of the century.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
      • RE: RHMonkey. You have to be kidding. Part 1.

        @RHMonkey ... <br><br> [i] "Funny how Android, the Linux winner for the masses (neither WebOS nor MeeGo made it to the finish line), has so much in common with the Windows desktop. Even funnier how many Linux zealots are fervent supporters of Google and its myriad proprietary apps (Gmail, Google Docs, etc). This represents the con job of the century." [/i] <br><br>Fact: Microsoft smart phones are being pounded into the ground. They have nothing in common with Linux. If anything, you should have studied the market, which reveals the reasons for their failure. That includes issues between the carriers and Microsofts' Iron Hand.
      • RE RHMonkey. You have to be kidding. Part 2.

        Fact: Installing an untrusted app on any computer may result in additional (secret) commands being installed at the same time. This is true for any computer because no computer can tell the difference when valid commands are used. If you want to stop it 100%, don't allow any installation of programs by the user.
      • RE: RHMonkey. You have to be kidding. Part 3.

        Fact: The Linux is not affected by external malware and even the Linuxmint website officially declares Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware is not required.

        [i] "It's safe and reliable. Thanks to a conservative approach to software updates, a unique Update Manager and the robustness of its Linux architecture, Linux Mint requires very little maintenance (no regressions, no antivirus, no anti-spyware...etc)." [/i]
      • RE: RHMonkey. You Have to be kidding. Part 4.

        Fact: Linux (itself) does not have slowdown problems, even after years and years of use without cleaning, defragmenting, or any of the functions needed when someone uses CCleaner on Windows.<br><br>Google is absolutely fantastic. Period. Do you have an equivalent to Google Earth, Google Maps, GIT, Gmail, Picasa, and especially Google DNS? You are just aligned with Microsoft and Google is a big competitor. Name some things wrong with those applications, please. Or are we supposed to just believe you because you say so. You are probably one of those people who complain about Google privacy, but have absolutely no concrete examples of any transgressions that affected you personally, In other words, it's just parroting other comments thrown around, with no proof.<br><br>No, Android and Linux is nothing like Windows.<br><br>Maybe sometime, you can show me where Microsofts' website declares AV and Anti-Spyware are not required with Windows like the Linuxmint website does. Big difference.<br><br>I can't begin to tell you the dozens of times someone posted a negative comment about Google. Be it privacy, spying, tracking or some other problem, but never provides any examples or proof of how they personally had an issues. Read the Google privacy statement and that's it. if you write an email about a red Corvette, you see 4 text ads advertising Corvette parts or related products and services. It's not a high price to pay for their services. Google is just completely outclasses Microsoft and their supporters can't stand it. I have over 68,000 emails instantly available in my Gmail since 2005. <br><br>Colleges and Universities are dumping Outlook and replacing it with Gmail like crazy. They certainly don't have any problems with Google privacy, security or reliability.
      • RE: Make your old Android smartphone as good as new

        @JamesKendrick: It also gives you back valuable storage space, that gets eaten up over time.
      • RE: Make your old Android smartphone as good as new

        @Joe.Smetana I have to say, I have never experienced Windows slow down either - although OS X and iOS have both ground to a halt!

        I have seen as much malware on my Windows PCs as on my Linux PCs and my iMac over the years - none. It isn't very hard to keep the machines clean and running well - the trick with Apple kit is not to install the upgrades; I am seriously thinking of kicking Lion off my machine and going back to Tiger or Leopard (Snow Leopard and Lion both killed the performance of the iMac).
      • Reply to Wright_is. Slowdowns/Malware.

        @Wright_is ... I can't speak for Mac because I don't use it. I have tried Open-BSD several years ago on a Dell Dimension that I built for my sister-in-law. It worked OK, but I also discovered that the 60 GB HDD I ordered was really an 80 GB. The HDD analysis showed the first 20 GB was marked as bad sectors. This may not seem like a problem, but causes difficulty because the OS normally wants to be in the beginning of the drive or possibly there was some scanning going on in that defective area. So much for getting the lowest price on a hard drive. I guess it happens a lot and is not normally easy to see. Maybe that's the recycling we definitely don't want. It did cause some weird operations, including slowness.<br><br>Right now, I'm running Linux Mint 12 on a 8 GB Pico-C flash drive in my dual core HP (1.7 Ghz). It boots and runs as fast as a hard drive and is convenient since my family likes the Mint 11 on the PC's hard drive. It's not running in Live CD mode, but rather is fully installed using the 64-Bit DVD install disk.<br><br>I thought I would try the 16 GB Pico-C flash drive to get some more storage space and was expecting the exact same results. That wasn't the case, it was extremely slow to install and it worked, but was so slow you couldn't use it. My theory was that circuitry was used to switch between two 8 GB chips connected together to make the 16 GB. They make a 32 GB and a 64 GB which may work better.<br><br>If the OS runs properly and "fast" for other users, it should do the same for you. If you have speed issues, I'd say it was most likely caused by hardware or installation (partition) issues. My dual core HP always gives good performance, but it's by no means a "power user" machine with only 2 GB or RAM.<br><br>I don't have any issues with Linux in terms of malware or spyware and I've never used AV. It's important to note that I don't don't place any restrictions on browsing and neither does my family. The Linux Mint website states that anti-virus and anti-spyware do not have to be used.
      • RE: Make your old Android smartphone as good as new

        @Joe.Smetona The irony is, Vista running under BootCamp on the same iMac runs fast and smooth!
  • RE: Make your old Android smartphone as good as new

    ANYWAY.... if you want an additional way to breathe new lift into an old Android phone, install just one app - Tasker. Take some time to become accustom to what this single program can do for you (Google "Tasker Review" for examples) and it'll seem like you have a much more powerful device. It can literally replace dozens of single-use apps.

    Even though Google syncs everything automatically
    you should backup:

    Contacts, Messages (SMS), Apps.

    Contacts can be exported to an SD card from contacts menu.
    Messages can be exported with the SMS Backup & Restore App (free)
    Apps can be exported with the App Backup & Restore App (free)
    Everything can be exported with the MyBackup Pro App (paid)

    Even though you may never have to restore anything
    Backups should be done in case something goes wrong.

  • RE: Make your old Android smartphone as good as new

    One of my biggest beefs with Windows is that Microsoft's product activation procedures make it pretty much impossible to wipe your machine and do a fresh install every year or two. I guess you could do a fresh install, activate then create an archival image to restore from, but then you're restoring from an image that is expecting to find hardware that you may have upgraded in the meantime, meaning it's not as pristine a fresh install as one might like.
  • RE: Make your old Android smartphone as good as new

    Cyclical reinstalls, malware and anti-virus programs. Android is now truly Windows. The circle is complete.
    • Just like Windows?

      @dhmccoy ... except for the overwhelming popularity. What happened?<br><br>Windows throws AVG under the bus.<br><br> <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a><br>--winrumors, your complete source for unabated Windows propaganda<br><br>I can't avoid seeing ads for Android with the little green robot, but I would not have any idea where to go to buy a MS smartphone, I've never seen them. Do they have to be mail-ordered or something?<br>
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