iPhone Location Services Slow

I’m sure you’ve all heard about how the iPhone 3G was completely unusable after updating to the iOS 3.0 software. I experienced this problem as well. Subsequent updates have eased the problem in my case, so I hadn’t been too upset about it until recently.

In the past month or two I noticed that my phone was becoming increasingly slow. Eventually I managed to pinpoint the problem down to the location services. The issue cropped up whenever I used an app that wanted to check my location. Because of this issue, I had actually turned off location services for any apps where it wasn’t absolutely necessary. But, the two primary apps I used that needed location services were Maps and Pocket MBTA.

Reset Location ServicesMy phone was so slow using these two apps that it was unbearable. I could not even get directions to a location because as soon as I started typing in a destination the phone would freeze completely. Eventually the app would just quit. When I tried to use Pocket MBTA to get buses near my location, the buses would actually arrive before I ever even got the app to tell me which buses were in the area. Even worse, after closing the app, my phone would still be a useless brick for several minutes after the fact. I’ve actually missed several calls because my phone was frozen and no attempt at clicking the accept button would work. Even worse, the Phone and Chat apps would just freeze and then quit when I tried to open them. Eventually after a few minutes the phone would start working again. There’s nothing that makes you feel more silly than holding a $300 phone that works about as well as a brick.

The release notes to a recent update of The Weather Channel app gave me an idea however. The issue for this app was a crash on startup. They suggested reseting your location services database. My weather channel app was fine, but I figured it was worth a shot to try and fix my other problems.

On my phone I went to Settings > General > Reset. Then I chose to “Reset Location Warnings”. A warning pops up and says that this will reset all the location warnings. I clicked Reset Warning. Amazingly, since doing this, my phone has been much more snappy. I can finally use the Maps app again!

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1. Mercado

HOLY SHIT! You are AMAZING!!!! My iPhone 3G has been suffering from the same location look-up slow down as you for the past 6 months. I was finding some apps completely un-usable. This completely cured it!!! Thank you thank you thank you for giving back functionality back to my phone!

2. Alissa Miller

No problem. I was equally excited when I discovered the fix.

3. Tlee

Thank you!!! This was a very helpful post.

4. Wallace Wells

You are brilliant! Thank you so much for that fix!

5. Sue

Are you saying that after resetting location services warnings that location services can be turned on and used with maps and other apps? Another post recommended keeping location services off entirely, but I’m “directionally challenged” and sometimes don’t know where I am so using “current location” in maps is crucial. Thanks in advance for the clarification.

6. Alissa Miller

Yes, you can turn location services back on after resetting it. This won’t fix the problem entirely, but it did speed things up for a period of time. I went in and only set location services to be used for apps that I really wanted it for (like Maps). Keeping location services off entirely would speed up the phone, but then obviously you’re losing a big set of features. For me, I wasn’t willing to turn them off entirely so resetting the cache helped speed things up a bit.

On a related note, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with this fix. My phone worked better after doing the fix, but still not as good as before the upgrade to IOS 4. I actually went ahead and restored my phone back to IOS 3.1.3. Since Apple stopped supporting the iPhone 3G with a recent upgrade, it was clear that there were going to be no new features for my phone. That made the decision to downgrade my software easier for me. I followed the instructions at Lifehacker. The instructions worked flawlessly for me. I was able to restore from a backup so some of my settings were already ok (keep in mind that things like photos and music are stored on your computer. Also, a lot of other apps sync using their own web services).

The biggest downsides of downgrading were that I lost a years worth of text messages in my phone (would have lost all of them if I couldn’t restore from backup). I used Decipher TextMessage as explained in this post to save my texts, but they are not on my phone anymore. It was sad for a few days, but then I got over it. Also keep in mind, that a few apps will no longer work. It wasn’t many for me. The biggest one was the Mint.com iPhone app. I was able to search through my Time Machine backups of my computer to find an older version of the app that would work with IOS 3.1.3.

Lastly, the whole process of downgrading the phone will take several hours and is not for the faint of heart. You’re messing with your phone after all. I didn’t have any problems, but it took a long time and I can no longer use a few apps. That said, my phone works much better! I’m very happy that I took the time to do it. Now I feel like I can use my 3G until the next iPhone comes out rather than getting an iPhone 4 late in the lifecycle.

If all that business about downgrading scares you or sounds like too much trouble, go ahead and reset the location cache as describe in the post. It’s fast and low risk 🙂

7. Nathan

@ Alissa: Thanks for taking the time to provide all this excellent information. I followed your instructions on location services and my 3GS immediately became faster. I’m not ready (yet) to downgrade my 3GS to iOS 3. Will probably wait for the next generation of iPhone and upgrade then.

8. Eric

Wow…this is a real life-saver. I haven’t been able to open the Google Map app for over 6 months! I can’t believe it took me this long to find this post…

9. Aaron

Thank you so much!! I have been having extremely painful issues with any app that uses location services. Given all my frequently used apps that leverage location services (facebook, iMapMyRun, Flixster, Map, WeatherChannel, etc.) my phone was essentially useless for anything beyond making a phone call and texting.

I combined your suggestion with a hard restart…may not have been necessary, but the other fix was so fast and easy, that I felt compelled to do more. Works perfectly…hopefully it lasts for a while.

Thanks again!

10. Khaliquzzaman

I have reset the location services warnings but it completely removed the location services and it does not detect near location automatically