What Causes Slow Downloads on your Phone?

Nicholas Jones | July 26, 2018


Slow upload and download speeds happen all too often while we’re using our smartphones. It can be anything from an annoyance – like a video that starts buffering during playback – to something with potentially serious consequences – oh wow, did the investor proposal actually go through or did that slow connection time out?

We all expect to be able send and receive on our phones whatever we want, whenever we want and wherever we want. But that’s not the real world.

There can be a lot of reasons for slow data speeds on your phone. So let’s go through the most common.

First there’s a big question you need to answer. Which network is your phone uploading or downloading on? Are you connected to the Internet through a Wifi connection? Or to the cellular network through the radio transceivers in your phone?

For the purpose of this discussion, we will assume you are connected to the cell network through your phone. Some of the issues we discuss here, and their remedies, can also apply to a Wifi connection. But others are obviously exclusive to cellular connections.

Reasons for slow data speeds on your phone

You have an older device. If your phone is older than one model generation or two, it’s ANCIENT in phone years. It may work just fine for some operations, but lack sufficient memory or processor speed to transfer data as fast as you want – even when the cell signal is strong.

The app or site you’re using. There may be a more recent version of the app you’re using to download, particularly if you’ve had that app on your phone for a while. If you’re trying to download from a website, it could be that the site is old or poorly optimized for speed. Again, these can slow your data even when the cell signal is strong.

User traffic during peak periods. Popular apps and websites may run slow during peak use times and it isn’t necessarily a problem with your cell connection. Rather, it can be the load on Internet infrastructure caused by a lot of users trying to pile into a web service all at the same time. Classic example – uploading photos (which are typically LARGE files) from your phone to online photo sharing albums.

Viruses/Malware. If your phone is infected with a virus or malware, processing power and data speeds will likely take a hit.

Out-of-date OS or device firmware. When did you last check with your phone’s manufacturer to see if there an OS or firmware update for your device? If you don’t have the latest OS or firmware update running on your phone, there’s an excellent chance you won’t have the highest speeds when trying to upload or download.

And finally:

Weak cell signal. You knew we would eventually get here, right? A weak cell signal, regardless of the cause, can definitely slow your data transfers. A poor connection makes for a lot of re-sending of data so any upload or download takes longer than it should.

The solution? Improve your cell signal. If you’re indoors, step outside and try the data connection again. Most common building materials are notorious cell signal blockers. When a signal is obstructed, it can certainly impact the upload and download speeds on your mobile device. Concrete, brick, and LEED-certified windows can all obstruct a strong cell signal that would otherwise give you solid connectivity and speed.

If you experience weak cell signal in a vehicle, wait until it’s safe, then get out and try the connection again. Just like the indoor example above, removing obstructions between you and the cell tower will most of the time give you a stronger cell signal and better connection.

If none of those poor-signal remedies are practical or if the problem is chronic, one solution is to get a cell phone signal booster. If you’re often bothered by slow upload/download speeds on your phone in weak-signal areas, a cell signal booster can provide significant coverage and connection improvement to speed up your data transfers.

Cell boosters work by collecting the existing stronger cell signal outside, amplifying it, and redistributing it inside the building or vehicle so your phone can connect.

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