Give Safari a Speed Boost on Older iOS 7 Devices by Ditching Web Javascript

Dec 6, 2013 - 6 Comments

Safari icon in iOS 7 It’s a fairly widespread complaint that iOS 7 can feel sluggish running on the oldest supported iPad and iPhone hardware, but with a few tweaks you can usually speed it up enough for the performance difference to barely be noticeable, if at all. Those adjustments are limited to the general iOS experience though, and they don’t make much of a difference for in-app performance with even simple tasks like web browsing, which on some hardware can be just strangely slow and choppy. That’s exactly what we’re going to focus on resolving here though; speeding up web browsing with the Safari app on older iOS 7 devices. It works quite well, but you’ll have to turn off Javascript support to gain the speed, which may make this performance tweak not suitable for all users.

Boost Safari Performance by Losing Javascript for Old iPads/iPhones with iOS 7

Disabling Javascript offers a huge performance boost when using the Safari web browser in iOS 7 on older hardware where it otherwise runs slowly. Be aware that there are some serious downsides to turning off Javascript, making this trick best for those who use the web exclusively for more simple functions, like reading their favorite sites.

  1. Open Settings app and go to “Safari”
  2. Navigate down and choose “Advanced”
  3. Flip the “Javascript” switch to the OFF position

Speed up Safari by turning off Javascript in Settings

You’ll need to close and re-open individual tabs and web pages for the change to take effect on sites that are already loaded, or just use swipe-to-quit and relaunch Safari to have it apply universally to everything you had open.

The result will be a fairly different web browsing experience, sans many features you’ve become accustomed to on various sites, but you’ll also be browsing the web at near lightning speed. Most sites continue to work, though they’re just simplified and reduced to a read-only type functionality (this one included):

Speed up web browsing in iOS 7 by turning off Javascript

The ability to disable javascript in Mobile Safari is nothing new, and it has always provided some speed boost by reducing browser load, but the difference appears to be magnified with some iOS 7 hardware like an iPad 2, iPad 3, or iPhone 4. If you have one of those devices that you feel is just annoyingly slow or unresponsive when using Safari, try this out, the performance gain can be genuinely substantial.

What turning off Javascript changes on the web and in Safari

Turning off Javascript in a web browser has some pretty wide-reaching effects, so it’s important to understand what this will do and how it will impact your web browsing experience. Many normal aspects of websites and webpages will disappear completely, including but not limited to things like social sharing buttons, comments on many web pages, web-based video streams and animation, social widgets, live updates and live blogs, voting functionality on social sites like reddit, pop-up ads and hovering ads, most banner based advertising systems, most analytical platforms, many discussion boards and forum functionalities, anything AJAX, much of many sites like Facebook, some Amazon deal features, amongst tons of other things.

Admittedly losing all of that may be too big of a sacrifice for many users to stomach, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, you get a enormous increase in Safari performance by losing out on all the cruft that surrounds the modern web experience. Everything not only loads much faster, but you’ll also use a lot less bandwidth too.

Is it worth the trade off to lose so much functionality in the name of raw speed? You’ll need to decide that for yourself, according to how you use Safari on your iPhone or iPad. Fortunately, if you think it’s far too drastic a change, it’s extremely easy to reverse; venture back into Settings > Safari > Advanced > and toggle Javascript back ON, relaunch Safari, and you’re back to where you started again.

(For those wondering; yes turning off Javascript on the common trio of desktop browsers can also perk up browsing for either the Mac OS X or Windows PC too, but it has the same trade offs)

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks

6 Comments

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  1. Interpola says:

    Turn off cookie support, tracking, and clear out the caches and history too. Big help on iPad even under iOS 6

  2. John says:

    This, Sir, is the dumbed advice I have ever seen in this world ! You, with no doubt, deserve an award !

    • Gregory O says:

      What’s wrong with this advice Gregory? It works on iPad 3 very well, Javascript is not necessary for reading and simple browsing

  3. Wut says:

    Most sites need JavaScript now. So not a good trade off in that sense.

  4. harvey says:

    install lynx :-)

    I think this advice is kind of retro, and borderline irresponsible except for freakish edge cases.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if most javascript issues were due to ad loading. What mobile safari really needs is a way to block ads like we can on the desktop.

    Turning off javascript nowadays is like disabling stylesheets. Web development is hard enough getting two slightly different versions of webkit to behave consistently, across two slightly different rectangular slabs.

    Incidently, adblocking on desktops (e.g., adblock plus) has no tradeoffs whatsoever — you really should mention that “less nuclear” desktop option, since turning of js probably disables ads too.

    A better solution frankly is to simply upgrade your mobile device, or stop patronizing sites which are not mobile friendly.

    • Paul says:

      Yes exactly. There are many trade offs which really limit this tips usage to those who really feel like iOS 7 has made Safari just too slow, and who only need basic web functionality.

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