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Android Task Management - Are you doing it correctly?

Published By: lankanmon
On: 3 June 2014 at 5:33pm

Many advanced users of the Android OS (including me) love having great control over everything that goes on in their device. Many of us install task management applications to help decide what apps can run and which must not.


The reason for this is that we tend to think of the memory on our device as a consumable thing and that it could potentially fill up and run out. The truth is that Android is quite an advanced system and knows how to manage apps well, so you don’t have to.


What is RAM?

RAM (Random Access Memory) is used for the sole purpose of making the device more efficient by keeping crucial data on hand, organized and ready for the CPU (Central Processing Unit - Processor). This reduces the read/write time from the storage and power consumption. In addition, the bus (electrical pathway) between the RAM and CPU is usually very fast allowing the CPU to quickly access the data.


Why Task Killers are Unnecessary

Android prevents memory from filling up by running routine garbage collection. It also kills any unused applications in memory to free up room for any newly launched applications. Applications that have not been used in a long time and those that have completed their task are also killed.  All of this occurs by the system, without requiring any user interference right out of the box. So, if you are using a task killer out of fear of memory filling up, you should consider stopping.


Many use task killers to save on battery power. The memory will use the same amount of power regardless of it's consumption amount (the difference is negligible). So applications running in the background will not use more battery. The applications killed by task killers must be restarted when you need it again and the startup will consume more power for processing. Some tasks also restart on their own, consuming even more energy without your knowledge. So killing applications after they are used is not always the best option.


Another big problem with task killers is that they “help” the user by having 1-click kill and even worse - auto kill. Using these may inadvertently kill a background process like the alarm clock or email client which will prevent them from functioning as expected - No triggering of alarm sound, or checking for new emails.


Too Much RAM Usage

Android's roots are in Unix, like many other operating systems. In Unix, “Unused RAM is wasted RAM”. The system will use all the RAM it can from it’s start, and it works best with the memory almost fully used. It fills the RAM with applications that you use often and it gets better as you use it. Why fight the OS?


If task killers are not for Android devices, why do they exist?

    Early versions of Android were not as effective at managing tasks, and the bloatware added to the OS by device manufacturers did not help. In addition, early hardware also had very little ram leaving very little for applications. These resulted in a need for the killing of tasks. Modern versions of Android OS have greatly improved on task management and most hardware provide sufficient resources to work seamlessly.


So we don’t need to manage tasks?

There are still a few ways that background tasks can drain battery. This can be due to improper programming or application error. An application may also run or poll too often in the background, waking up the system ( & processor) and other components like the mobile antenna or WIFI antenna. These applications need to be taken care of individually and possibly replaced with a more efficient alternative. This is where Task Managers come in handy.

    

Task managers, unlike task killers, allow you view running tasks and view their toll on the system. They also allow you to gain control of your phone when an application is misbehaving (eg. memory leak - application consuming more memory than it needs), by killing individual applications as needed. It’s also great for debugging problems and for analyzing hardware usage.


It is quite apparent that through the years, Android has gotten quite good at managing itself and does not need you to do so. There is no point in buying a phone with lots of RAM, if you never use it all. So, are you doing it correctly?

 

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