The phone was fine, until the upgrade. After the upgrade it became slow as a slug
Part of it is pure software bloat.
Back in the day we'd complain if a program in C that just printed "Hello World!" was more than a few hundred bytes. Now the "Hello World!" program in Android is something on the scale of 1MB in size and it doesn't do squat. Plus all these object oriented programming languages make all the code and data bigger and bigger every release. There's no concept of optimization anymore, you just get a faster processor and more memory.
I've witnessed this phenomena since I was a CP/M-80 developer, then MSDOS, then I was always in early Windows beta from 2.x to XP when I finally gave up desktop software for web applications. I can tell you the first C++ compiler I ever encountered took 100K of C code and turned it into a 500K bloated disaster that barely ran. I didn't do the upgrade, our in house PhD did it which was probably the root cause of the bloat, but it's been going that direction ever since. Then came Java and more bloat, and now the world runs PHP which is the fattest, slowest, most bloated buggiest language I've ever seen and it's the standard. Mind >BLOWN!< but I digress.
The problem you have with earlier phones is the hardware wasn't quite there yet, the CPUs and RAM was just OK as my HTC Hero also bogged down and died. It had nothing to do with the upgrade, turned out earlier Android had some critical flaws and when certain things filled up, it just choked the CPU, which wasn't that fast in the first place.
Anyway, the newer phones and tablets finally have enough power that they've survived multiple upgrades without slowing to a crawl yet. I'm pleasantly surprised that the Nexus 7 and Samsung G2 that I've got both still perform admirably. Compare it to my wife's first tablet I bought her, a Nook, which got sluggish over time and was at the end of it's like when I got her a Nexus 7 as well which is still purring away.
Similarly, my desktop machines, and I buy fast computers, had yet to be challenged by the latest Windows software and barely exceeds 20% CPU utilization as there's way more horsepower than the tasks I run could possibly use unless you do some high end gaming or something.
That's why I laugh at all the town criers that claim desktops are dead, laptops are dead, sales are in the tank, tablets are dead, it's because for the first time in history we can upgrade from Vista to Win 7 to Win 8 to Win 8.1 on the same hardware and it still performs like a champ. Back in the day I'd have gotten a new machine with almost each Windows upgrade which is no longer the case.
Sorry hardware vendors, you finally outpaced software. Suffer.