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Fix for Lollipop's massive memory leak coming soon-ish

Android Lollipop has a memory leak which is causing some users lots of problems. Thankfully Google has fixed it, but when will we see an update?

Published onDecember 30, 2014

While most of us are still using Android 4.1-4.3 Jellybean or Android 4.4 KitKat, some people have managed to get Android 5.0, mainly those with Nexus or GPE devices. However there is a price to pay for getting the latest and greatest – bugs. Although Android 5.0 went through extensive testing and even had developer preview releases, unfortunately it is human to err. Since the original 5.0 release Google has published at least two updates. The first, Android 5.0.1, was released for the Nexus 6, the Nexus 9, the Nexus 5, the Nexus 4 and the Nexus 7. The second, Android 5.0.2, was released for the Nexus 7 (2012), which didn’t get a 5.0.1 update.

As a result most Lollipop users are using Android 5.0.1, but the problem is that Android 5.0.1 has a bug. In fact any software engineer will tell you that Android 5.0.1 has lots of bugs, as does any piece of complex software, but they are either undiscovered or minor. However the bug that is plaguing 5.0.1 seems to be pretty serious.

I'm close to abandoning my Nexus 5.

According to comments posted of Android’s issue tracker, Android 5.0.1 users are getting quite annoyed at this bug. People have written things like, “I’m close to abandoning my Nexus 5,” or “Yeah getting my iPhone Monday at least it can multitask,” and “This is the most annoying software bug I have seen.”

The problem is that under certain circumstances Android 5.0 and 5.0.1 leak memory, and when the leak has reached a critical point then Android tries to compensate by forcibly closing apps to free up resources. What the out-of-memory killer doesn’t know is that it is Android itself that is leaking the memory and not the apps.

The next step is for Google to make a new release of Android, probably Android 5.0.3 Lollipop.
A memory leak occurs when Android allocates a chunk of system memory for a task and then doesn’t release it again. This means that over time more and more memory will be allocated and none ever given back. Even with 2 or 3GB of RAM, eventually the system will run out of memory, and that is never pretty.

The thread on the issue tracker is hard to follow as there are lots of complaints and there is lots of general unhappiness, but little in the way of official comments from Google or Android developers. However it does now seem that Google has agreed that this is a bug, and that it has been fixed in the source code. What that means is that the latest source code used to build Android doesn’t leak memory. However that doesn’t actually help affected users at the moment. The next step is for Google to make a new release of Android, probably Android 5.0.3 Lollipop, with this and other bug fixes. However there is no news on when that will be. Let’s hope it will be soon.

Are you affected by this memory bug? If so please let us know in the comments below.

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