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Here's how Google plans to fight OEMs killing apps in the background

Android 11 could give users and developers more control over background app management.

Published onJuly 10, 2020

Android 11 logo stock photo on smartphone 16
  • Google will introduce new requirements to limit Android manufacturers’ power over background apps.
  • The new rules aim to address some OEMs’ aggressive management of useful background apps and services.

Some Android OEMs have a nasty habit of killing apps in the background in a bid to reclaim RAM, reign in rogue apps, or save device battery. But this process is more annoying than useful if those apps provide beneficial services to users. More, it makes lives hard for developers whose apps are affected.

During a Reddit AMA, the Android engineering team revealed that Android 11 will introduce notifications to users when the OS culls an app. Users will also get a chance to override the OS’s decision. It’s possible that this system could mirror how Android 10 permission alerts are issued on a per-app basis.

The team is also set to improve app developers’ lives. A new crash diagnostics API will provide more details surrounding app culls. This introduction will allow developers to better understand why some OEMs treat their apps as rogue or misbehaving.

See also: Here’s a list of Android 11 beta phones | Android 11 release date

The engineering team will also forbid the use of whitelists that determine which top apps can run in the background. The team believes the move will introduce a level playing field for app developers. Right now, OEMs whitelist big apps like WhatsApp, making them immune from background killing, which is not fair to smaller developers.

While the engineering team does admit there’s a problem with app management on Android, it does see its necessity especially for controlling rogue apps. To that end, Android 11 will also introduce “extra measures to prevent abusive behavior by misbehaving apps,” though it’s not clear what this means.

The refreshed requirements don’t solve the issues but will go a long way to give developers and users a little more control over their apps and devices. It may also force OEMs to be more transparent about their practices too. Nokia, OnePlus, Xiaomi, and Huawei are among the worst offenders, according to DontKillMyApp, a website that ranks OEMs based on aggressively they kill background apps.

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