App killer

App killer

I’ve just finished reading an interesting article entitled “Android Task Killers Explained: What They Do and Why You Shouldn’t Use Them“. I for one use ‘Advanced Task Killer’ but having read this article I now wonder if it is something I should be doing. One of the misconceptions regarding Android and your RAM is that we’re stuck thinking along the lines of a Windows machine. The jokes on us.

On Android, having your RAM nearly full is a good thing. It means that when you relaunch an app you’ve previously opened, the app launches quickly and returns to its previous state. So while Android actually uses RAM efficiently, most users see that their RAM is full and assume that’s what’s slowing down their phone. In reality, your CPU—which is only used by apps that are actually active—is almost always the bottleneck.

If you use a task killer of some description you would be doing your phone a disservice by not reading this article. After having read it, even if you disagree with its conclusion, at least you have given yourself the ability to choose.  With that said, I’ll leave you with the following thought which sums up the articles overall opinion. “Whether you’re manually killing apps all the time or telling the task killer to aggressively remove apps from your memory, you’re actually using CPU cycles when you otherwise wouldn’t—killing apps that aren’t doing anything in the first place.” Indeed, the piece finishes with a number of (obvious) suggestions on how you should go about saving battery life on your phone and improving performance other than killing tasks.

[Source: Life Hacker]

James Tromans
Contributing editor of, based in the U.K.
  • Thanks for sharing this. Very valuable info. You’re doing a good service to us users.

  • dbareis

    While I agree you need to be careful about what you kill and why the above was obviously written by someone who has a more powerful phone than mine and therefore will probably never need to kill a task.

  • I’m glad it could be of use to you.

  • Andy Baker

    This debate has been going around for ages. Cyanogen for one has been ranting about it. There have been several threads on Reddit about it and on several other blogs and forums.

    How have you missed it?

  • chad

    I’m with Andy… this is really old news… I guess it should be reiterated every so often for new users, but it’s surprising to read it on a headline for an Android focused site.

  • Totally surprised by this post – I’ve been using Advance Task Killer after every check of my gmail, every use of the browser, every time I played an audio book. Thanks for sharing this.

    I’m using a Droid X, still with Android 2.1 (not sure when they will send me the upgrade) but I look forward to even better operations by NOT killing all my apps each time.

  • I’m still not fully convinced. While I do find it’s mostly unnecessary and was aware of all of these caveats, there are circumstances where I find it still valuable. For one, a program that’s eating up CPU resources for no apparent reason, heating up, and draining the battery. For another, there are times when my phone is incredibly slow due to background apps, and no amount of telling me I don’t need a task killer can change the fact that my phone stops being slow as molasses when I kill some apps I’m not using.

    I don’t do it religiously, and since getting the Epic 4G which has one BUILT IN, I use it only occasionally, but I do need it for the circumstances described above.

    • I have to agree. The argument doesn’t make sense to me. Especially the part about wasted CPU cycles spent killing apps. Can’t possibly be as many wasted cycles as those apps running in the background.

  • No worries, let’s hope you get that upgrade soon!

  • Andy Baker

    Except a lot of your assumptions about what ‘running in the background’ means aren’t true.

  • equator

    I was willing to try anything as I was constantly having to charge my Desire and it works, it really does! I get a full (well almost) day our my Desire with talk time, a bit of browsing, a few emails and no charging. i unstalled the Task Manager…thanks..

  • Greg

    Oryl, you still don’t get it. Some people just don’t understand because they think that their app is “running in the background”. Only services can run in the background, but even so, most aren’t running, they’re suspended in memory and just registered as listeners for some event. The Android OS wakes them up and lets them run WHEN the event happens. That event could be “every N minutes” and in that case, you’d want to configure it to wake up less often to save on battery.

    Apps (Activities) CAN’T run in the background and are just suspended in memory — they’re not using processor and not using battery. They’re just in memory to save processor cycles so that in case you switch back to that app it takes less processor cycles to load into memory and start up. So yes, your task killer wastes processor every time the Android OS wakes it up and then it evicts that non-running activity from memory. That’s all processor and battery that wouldn’t have been used if you didn’t run the task killer service.

    Keep doing what you’re doing Micheal if that’s what you want, but I don’t want to see any articles from you about how battery life sucks on XXX device if you’re still going to use a task killer. ;-)

  • Greg

    Oh yeah, and James, thanks for posting about this article. I don’t care if it’s old news. It needs to be reiterated to new Android users and people who have been living under rocks. :-)

  • Everybody say that android will disappear. I am very curious to see…