A frustrating problem with any smartphone is a battery that drains faster than you expect. Having to recharge during the day after a full charge overnight is always a sad feeling. Maybe you’ve also noticed your device slowing down, too. The problems often have the same cause.
Background apps can use up your battery and resources. Some apps might not be well optimized, some might be malware, or some might just have a bug.
Have no fear! Shutting down these rogue background apps just takes a little know-how. Some of this walkthrough will be very familiar if you’re a power user, but we hope there’s something to learn for everyone.
Whatever the case, the first step is to identify any problems, and stop these unwelcome background apps.
Update your device! Get to Pie, if you can
The latest version of Android has great power management features that place limits on background apps and therefore extend the battery life of your phone. One of them is called Adaptive Battery, which uses machine learning to figure out which apps you’ll use in the next few hours and which ones you won’t use until later, if at all today. Based on your usage patterns, it places each app into one of the five App Standby Buckets: Active, Working set, Frequent, Rare, and Never. Each of these buckets has its limitations for how much resources the apps it contains can use.
To put it simply, an app placed in the Never bucket is one that’s hardly ever used, which is why the system will limit its access to resources like the CPU. This means it will use less battery. On the other hand, apps in buckets like Active are the ones you use the most and will get full access to the system’s resources, so you can expect to get all your notifications on time.
The process is automatic and dynamic, which means the system learns your usage pattern over time and moves the apps from one bucket to the other accordingly.
Check what’s draining you
Battery: Since battery life is so important, it’s well monitored by your Android OS. To have a look at the apps guzzling power, just go to Settings > Battery > Battery Usage. You’ll get a list accurate to two decimal points of what’s draining your battery. Depending on your device and software, the apps will be split into either system or non-system apps, or by hardware and software, such as with this Huawei phone:
The more you use certain apps, the higher on the list they’ll sit. Look out for any apps you don’t recognize using more than a tiny percentage of your battery. Any app using over a few percent is worth looking into — saving five percent here or four percent there will add up. Anything that’s a Google app or service is probably not something to worry about and just a natural part of using Android and Google Mobile Services.
RAM: Using Developer options, you can also check out which apps are dominating your phone’s limited memory, or RAM. It may be that an app is not using a lot of battery, but when you’re only working with 2GB of RAM and an app you’re not using is taking up a few hundred MB, that’s leaving you short on free memory.
You can check this out in a few different ways, but here’s the sure-fire winner that works in Android Pie, Oreo, and below:
- Go to Settings > System > About phone.
- Scroll down and find “Build number” and then tap it seven times. This will enable “Developer options” on your device, and you’ll see a notification that this has happened.
Now go back to Settings > System and you’ll be able to select “Developer options” from there.
Then go Settings > Developer Options > Processes (or Settings > System > Developer Options > Running services.)
Here you can view which processes are running, your used and available RAM, and which apps are using it up. Again, some of these services are essential to keep your phone running. You should be primarily looking for demanding apps you’ve downloaded personally.
If this method doesn’t work to unlock developer options, just do a Google search of your phone model and “developer options unlock.”
Stop the app, kill it, or uninstall
You can control these processes in a few ways.
Find the app in Developer Options and stop it
Once you’ve identified an app that’s draining your battery or gobbling up your free RAM, there are a few ways to stop it dead, and then considering limiting it or uninstalling it.
The first involves the Developer Options > Running services method we described above.
Notice how Messenger takes up RAM through three separate services. Tapping any app and hitting Stop will stop it from running and free up your RAM. Be careful, if you stop any essential service just through testing or by mistake, you might crash your phone. It’ll just need a reboot, but it’s a little bit of a pain.
Find the app, Force Stop/Uninstall
Once you’ve identified your apps it might be worth checking out all the apps you have installed and giving them a once over.
Go to Settings > Apps & Notifications > Apps.
You’ll see your apps load in alphabetical order, and from here you can click into any app and decide to Force Stop or Uninstall it. As with before, Force Stop might cause a crash, but you’ll be OK following a reboot.
Limiting problematic apps
If you want to keep using an app that appears to have a high demand, you might be able to limit what it can do.
Some Samsung and Huawei phones include OS options to manage applications. In Battery Settings, Huawei offers an “App launch” option which allows you to identify specific apps, restrict launches, and target power saving measures. Samsung also offers a power-saving option to help manage apps.
If you don’t have access to a proprietary built-in option, there are, of course, good apps to help. The perennial favorite is Greenify, which offers fine controls over apps and places them in hibernation. If you have a rooted phone, you’ll have even more control, but it works well with standard devices too.
One problem with apps like this is intentionally introducing another app to monitor your device. In our popular post titled 13 tricks and hacks to speed up Android, our own Adam Sinicki noted that while background apps can kill battery, background app killers can slow you down as well:
Booting an app from nothing takes longer and uses more battery than switching to one that is paused. If you open an app that requires more memory, Android will automatically kill the least important ones to free up space. Task killers can actually end up slowing your device down.
Android Q is just around the corner and we expect Google to continue upgrading Android’s ability to quash any apps that make your life harder. The first developer preview has already been released, but it doesn’t reveal any new power-saving methods. We’ll probably hear more about this once Google officially announces its next version of Android.