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Just say NO to Task Killers :: DroidTales #4 October 17, 2011

Posted by bschirf in Android.
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Recently, I’ve embarked on yet another Personal Crusade: To rid the world of the misconception that the AndroidOS requires a task killer to conserve battery and memory. (Those that know me well know that I have a few of these crusades and I never give up until general public knowledge is changed or technology advances make it irrelevant.)

But before I talk about that, lets explore the….

Battery Issue:
When I first saw the Droid, I was concerned about the size. That was an awfully large thing to always have with you, in your pocket or on a belt clip. So I thought about the functionality of the AndroidOS & how I expected to use a smartphone. I knew that the phone-functionality was going to be secondary, & this would be more of a small laptop to me. Thus, I decided to change my perspective. I wasn’t looking for a new phone. I was looking for a very mobile computing device. With that mental change the decision was easy… I was going LARGE! If you are considering going large, READ THIS.

The only problem with going large is that it takes a lot of juice to power such a large screen and the expected battery life will be much shorter. I decided that I would just have to accept that in exchange for the chance to do some serious xls/doc editing and maybe even watch movies on this thing… and the purchase was made.

But to put it blunt… The battery life SUCKS! With just regular usage, the battery will barely last the full day. If I don’t charge while commuting to work, and don’t charge while at work, then I’m racing in the door when I get home to connect the charger because it’s already beeping at me.  And if I’m on vacation and taking pictures, I swap in a second and use about 50% of that before getting back to the hotel room to recharge.

Thus, I began to investigate ways to extend battery life, and I found there are a lot of resources that talk about how to do this. To save you the time that I invested, let me summarize:

After doing both of those you will see very nice improvements, but may still find yourself frustrated with the poor battery life. If so, then my favorite solution is to stock up on spare batteries and to use a stand-alone charger to keep them full and ready for the quick swap. To get spare batteries, simply search Amazon for “batteries” + your smartphone make and model. I exclusively purchase after-market batteries and have not noticed any difference in performance from official Motorola batteries. (But I do try to purchase from US Sellers)  As for a stand-alone charger, I USE THIS.

A Must:  JuiceDefender
Next, I heard about this wonderful (FREE) app found on  that helps you manage your battery by disabling battery collectivity for individually selected apps. You tell JD which apps you want to run with the screen off and which you do NOT want to run with the screen off. This alone can dramatically add time to your battery life. Not enough to make you really happy, but still it IS BETTER!

Thus, I recommend to all Android users: GET JUICEDEFENDER and set it on “Aggressive-mode”, read and memorize the “Configure Apps” paragraph, and then click the “Configure Apps” button to start customizing!

But what about TASK KILLERS?
Even after all of this fiddling with settings and modifying my usage and playing with settings, like many other large-screen Android users, I was still frustrated with how often I needed to rush to plug-in a charger or to do the quick battery swap from a dead battery to a fully charged one. As my frustration grew I started noticing that a lot of blogs were talking about “task killers”, so I tried one myself.

Having been a Windows Sys Admin (long ago in a past life) through Win3, 3.11, 95, 98, etc. I am all too familiar with memory leaks and cpu-hogs wasting power. Thus, I also assumed AndroidOS was similar and began trying to manage memory and battery drain myself, thinking that I was going to do a better job than the OS, just as I was much better at managing system resources than Windows built in mgmt systems.

And as with many others, I became frustrated when I realized that some of the applications seemed to quickly auto-launch immediately after I killed it with a Task Killer. Or mysteriously launched itself when I didn’t do anything that I know of to cause those processes to start. Thus, I investigated the situation thoroughly, trying to find some way to permanently blocking these apps. During this I found that some task killers can be configured to Auto-Kill tasks which you select.

I was about to install one of these advanced Task Killers when I decided another course of action was the preferred course to take…

SUMMARY
(Now I’m going to do something I rarely have to do… admit that I’m wrong!)
Yes… I WAS WRONG!!!!
I should never have wasted time trying to extend battery life by killing tasks on the AndroidOS!!!!

As it turns out, the AndroidOS (ver 2.2 & higher) actually does a GREAT job of managing memory and running processes. When you leave one app and bounce to another, the previous application is not “running” in the background like in a Windows application. Instead, only certain applications continue to run, and those are listed in the task bar. For instance, Pandora will continue to play music (good); you can continue to talk to your spouse (may be good, or bad); etc. But your Sudoku game, your NetFlix movie, your QuickOffice XLS, or that webpage you were viewing… ARE NOT RUNNING! Instead, they are frozen in place and use no more battery power than if they were never launched.

Some complain that these apps are wasting memory, but that is not entirely true. While they do reside in RAM for a while, as soon as the OS needs some memory, that memory is reallocated to whomever needs it. When the user bounced away from the app, the OS sends a notice to the app so it can perform any procedures written in by the developer to save or to simply close down. If the user bounces back to the app before that memory was needed, they should find the app exactly where they left it. That is, unless the developer choose to CLOSE if the app was left.

For those that want more technical info about this, GO HERE or GO HERE!

After learning this… admittedly reluctantly… I removed my Task Killer and resolved to continue to learn more about this OS. I still don’t feel comfortable doing this, but I know it’s the right move and in the long run, will help me learn and accept this fascinating OS.

Next, I’ll write about data entry….

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