back to article Android 11 will let users stop device-makers from killing background apps, says Google

Android 11 Beta 2, out this week, is a fairly modest update, focusing primarily on stability and bug fixes. But behind the scenes there are strong indications that a broader shift is afoot, with Google trying to address overall ecosystem inconsistencies that have formed since its initial release. The biggest clue comes from an …

  1. Blackjack Silver badge

    So...

    Does this mean being able to kill unkillable apps too? Some phones come with trash you cannot remove and is always on, like Samsung phones. Can I set an app to auto kill itself too?

    1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: So...

      Can I set an app to auto kill itself too?

      Auto kill **AND** disable. The sheer arrogance that the vendor should decide for you which apps cannot be disabled, probably encouraged also by Google.

      I had been setting up a phone for my daughter to use. I figured I'd disable everything she didn't need (to save on system resources) or that I felt I didn't want to have active. Certainly she didn't need email on the phone (that's what a computer or her school chromebook are for). Nope, couldn't disable it, and when I called the providerr "support" line, they said "Oh, email is a *required* app". Really? Says who? (probably our "friends" at Google).

      1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Re: So...

        Developer options --> Apps --> Background check.

      2. Paul Shirley

        Re: So...

        Gmail is a required part of the Google apps bundle. Want any of them, they have to install all of them. On recent versions of Android Gmail is also trivially easy to disable, at worst you might need to show system processes. Google don't prevent it and I'm surprised a vendor would. You can't uninstall without root though.

        The only catch is it's also trivially easy to reenable.

        1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: So...

          Wasn't the Gmail app, but the "Email" app (which, if you were using Gmail, would be a bit unnecessary anyway). Don't even remember if I had been able to disable Gmail. Been so long since she's had to use it I can't remember.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So...

          I use BlackBerry Hub, not gmail. gmail is disabled on all my phones, which are Sony. Disabling it reduces battery consumption considerably.

          Hub still gives me that very useful BB feature that allows me to control the size of emailed image files without having to edit them. It's worth it for that alone.

    2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: So...

      I just acquired a second hand unlocked & barely used Samsung Galaxy Note 8 for use in Canadaland.

      It boots up broadcasting Verizons name after the initial splash screen, its riddled with Verizon apps that are no use to me as they are not my provider & can't be killed, it at least updated to Android 9 via them. While you can disable Amber Alerts etc you can't disable presidential ones.

      As its snapdragon based, the OEM unlock option is not available, making it impossible to root & update to a Custom Android 10 ROM (Apparently).

      Overall I'm very pleased by it, but the amount of crap some of it Samsungs the rest of it Verizons is a little OKOK a lot overpowering.

      Icon - How can I lose a phone that big in this coat pocket!

      1. BenDwire Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: So...

        While you can disable Amber Alerts etc you can't disable presidential ones.

        What, orange ones?

        1. msknight

          Re: So...

          The choice to disable persistent presidential orange alerts is available in November.

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: So...

        Stick LineageOS on it: problem solved.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Stick LineageOS on it: problem solved.

          As its snapdragon based, the OEM unlock option is not available, making it impossible to root & update to a Custom Android 10 ROM (Apparently).

          The bit you missed.

        2. SuperGeek

          Re: So...

          Not really. What about apps such as banking that won't run on a modified device? You going to suggest getting a second phone? O;O

      3. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: So...

        While it's not possible to completely remove many shovelware garbage apps without root access, it is quite easy to remove them from a user's profile so they no longer run at all. This can make a staggering difference to the performance and feel of a phone, particularly the mid-range and budget devices.

        Here's a couple of the many guides on how to do this: https://www.xda-developers.com/uninstall-carrier-oem-bloatware-without-root-access/ or https://www.xda-developers.com/disable-system-app-bloatware-android/ (I'm not affiliated in any way with this site, it's just pretty useful at times)

  2. Splurg The Barbarian

    Kill all background apps

    I'd much prefer an option that does this. The amount of apps that open up an run unnecessarily in Android is quite astonishing.

    Allow me the option without having to root a device, to stop apps running in the background unless I give explicit consent to them doing so.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Kill all background apps

      Kinda both. I've legit apps I want running 24/7 (messaging etc, monitoring etc). The android 9/10 upgrades put some stuff automatically on power saving and killed them early. I've possibly 2 phones that I've seen that also don't have the option to *not* put unused apps into sleep, and then it caused problems as I was not able to use them as intended (constant bluetooth connection etc, so it dropped the speaker/cam/things I was using).

      1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Re: Kill all background apps

        Both sides of it come down to the same flaw in Mobile OSes. The hostility of the OS *and* hardware makers that YOU the person who purchased the device should not be allowed to configure it as YOU see fit.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Kill all background apps

      You probably want something like Blokada or a firewall to stomp on unwanted network connections. Background apps themselves are normally not much of a problem unless they're hitting the network a lot. Overaggressive cleanups cause problems with e-mail clients and firewalls.

      But, yeah, the user ought to be able to decide.

    3. Chz

      Re: Kill all background apps

      Huawei's been called out for aggressively killing background apps, but at least it is fully user-configurable. I've quite liked their phones in the past because of this feature. (I kinda want the Play Store, so I won't be buying any new ones unfortunately)

  3. heyrick Silver badge

    Two other things Android needs to get sorted

    The mobile comms options appear to be 2G only, 3G only, everything. It would be a lot better if this was split up as Slow, Fast, Everything. Because I'd like to benefit from the 4G around, but not risk reverting to 2G.

    Why? Because Edge is just bloody awful. Orange France has it set so data takes priority (and when it's trying to do data, no phone calls will come in, it can't handle both), it spends forever twiddling it's thumbs (nothing at all being sent or received, just trying trying trying), and if it should manage to work, it works at a speed that an analogue modem from the mid '90s would laugh at. 3G+4G please!

    The second thing is please twiddle the QoS so that the foreground app always takes precedence, like at least 75% of the available bandwidth if it needs it. Because it's really annoying to have the app that you're wanting to use stall because a dozen background apps want to check stuff (a big offender is Google Play Services). By all means call the mothership, but they're goddamn background apps. Not a single one of them should be given any preference over data transfers of the foreground app, you know, the one the user is attempting to use.

    [this last point is related to the first, because the foreground app can be blocked for minutes if the phone gets itself stuck on 2G...and everything lurking decides it wants to use this shiny new connection to call home; sodding Android seems to give them all priority]

    1. King Olaf

      Re: Two other things Android needs to get sorted

      With regards to your first point, you can do the first on many Android phones (Sony phones at least) by dialling *#*#4636#*#* and choosing Phone information. I then choose "LTE only" under "Set preferred network type" to have 4G only - I tend to find that this works well on my network with VoLTE enabled as they have as good 4G coverage as 3G and 2G.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    iOS

    Does this properly.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: iOS

      No OEMs for Apple's expensive toys so this problem doesn't exist. For a long time only Apple's own apps were allowed to run in the backgroun and Apple still privileges its own apps over third-party ones.

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: iOS

      Winphone did it properly. Others just pretend to.

    3. SuperGeek

      Re: iOS

      iOS... is a shitty walled garden controlled by crApple control freaks, "optimised" to run on outdated hardware to make it look like latest tech.

  5. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Nokia

    The site says Nokia claims the built-in power saver app was disabled on all devices running Android 9 or above last September, but mine still has it and apps still disappear overnight.

  6. Kev99

    Will it also allow users to prevent every app from running at start up? I grow weary of having to go thru & kill all the apps I never use.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      One of my 5.1 devices had that. I never saw it again in later versions.

      Have you tried this? not ried it myself, but it claims to do the job (see boot speedup option)

      https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=imoblife.toolbox.full

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Or these? https://joyofandroid.com/how-to-disable-auto-start-apps-in-android/

        Again, more that claim to be able to do it without root

  7. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Could be handy:

    Just my use case: sometimes I listen to (stream) podcasts through a Chrome tab. If I pause it for a long period of time then return to it I find the tab has refreshed I, and with it my place in

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Could be handy:

      Why not just install a proper podcast client?

      Plenty out there.

  8. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Give me the power!

    I have a 1TB microSD card so my phone is pretty much s laptop replacement for casual tasks. The one big problem with most phones is that proper background tasks are killed a few minutes after the screen turns off - no exceptions. SFTP is killed, rsync is killed, my map app is killed, no mail is prefetched, video transcoding is gone, and widgets stop updating. VoIP apps like T-Mobile Digits can't take incoming calls or messages (for when you must use a regional SIM while traveling).

    The most frustrating part is that junk apps with no backgrounding permission are still using data in the background.

    1. SuperGeek

      Re: Give me the power!

      "I have a 1TB microSD card so my phone is pretty much s laptop replacement for casual tasks"

      A phone with 5" - 6" screen is NO replacement for proper laptop with proper keyboard. I bet I can get through my work faster than you, without going cross eyed at a smalll keyboard and having to scroll all the time!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds to me like you probably should be rooting your phone and installing an android build that gives you permission to define your own background task tolerance, allow lists and deny lists etc.

    1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Sounds to me like you probably should be rooting your phone and installing an android build that gives you permission to define your own background task tolerance, allow lists and deny lists etc.

      Would be nice, except the sheer customer hostility of most mobile manufacturers makes it difficult and often impossible to flash your own Android version. It would have been Microsoft's wet dream to have this much control over hardware YOU paid for.

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Add to the fact many banking apps won't install on rooted phones.

  10. JulieM Silver badge

    What about sudo?

    It would be nice to have sudo in the base install, so certain files which would normally be restricted to apps with special permissions can be accessed directly over ADB.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Vendors will also be prohibited from exempting apps from their “background kill” policy, which Google claims harms the ecosystem and “decreases innovation.”"

    Doesn't apply to Google itself, of course. None of *their* applications can be killed with "power save". Most can't be disabled either, pure asshattery á la Microsoft.

    Oooh, gmail is "an essential program"? For who? As long as as gmail has IMAP, gmail -app is useless and definitely not 'essential' in any rational sense.

  12. Maelstorm Bronze badge

    What really needs to happen...

    What really needs to happen is for Google to allow root on devices so the users can manage things themselves. Granted, this will cause a lot of problems from ordinary users, but it will solve a lot of problems at the same time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What really needs to happen...

      Ever heard of "the cure is worse than the disease"? Very real risk it can create more problems than it solves, especially among the Joe Stupid set.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Android 9 is unusable

    On Samsung Android 9 it slows to a crawl within 24 hours. Solution? Reinstall Android 8.

    On Teclast p10HD it simply crashes, solution? Swap it for a M30 (Teclast's Android 8 tablet)

    Huawei? I'm force restarting regularly to defeat there app killer, so I don't know which way it would go.

    On TV boxes (I use them in a cluster as cheap boxes), I keep them on Android 7 and on a private net to stop them upgrading.

    Android 7 worked well, but each new iteration of Android seems to be worse and worse. Bad choices, ongoing issues patched not addressed.

    The core problem is Android. The user never gets to say when they've finished with an app, and so it should be closed. There is no 'exit' menu event. The software is always second guessing the users wishes. False positives and false negatives abound. Its a basic design flaw. Users WANT apps to be closed, but they also want apps not to be closed, UP TO THE USER, not some vague AI in the Android OS!

    It's a POS. Not only that the RAM limit is 512Mb, its impossible to use the 12GB memory on these big phones, you can never run enough apps in the background to fill that memory.

    A lot of the core problems are Google's. The basic design of 'let Android figure out when to close apps' is a design flaw that was never addressed.

    They made it worse when they removed "android.permission.PERSISTENT_ACTIVITY" which allowed an app to specify that it needed to stay loaded.

    That became even worse when they decided to minimize RAM usage for AndroidOne devices with 128Mb ram, devices which failed to sell.

    The hack the OEMs are doing shouldn't be necessary because the OS should let users "finish" with apps, and unload them.

    "Recent Apps" is a confused mashup of "frequently used apps" and "running apps" and it needs to be sorted, not twiddled with.

    I have yet to find an Android tablet or device I can use as a professional working product. I am reluctant to upgrade, for sake for seeing what incompetent shit the next version of Android brings.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Android 9 is unusable

      "I have yet to find an Android tablet or device I can use as a professional working product. I am reluctant to upgrade, for sake for seeing what incompetent shit the next version of Android brings."

      Better prepare yourself, then. The increased memory usage of even the most basic apps make even 2GB pretty much useless for everything but a one-trick pony (at which point, why use an Android phone). I was forced to abandon my Note 4 because of this and a network glitch specific to those models.

      Unless you're willing to throw up your hands and say, "Stop the Internet! I wanna get off!"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Android 9 is unusable

        largeHeap limit is only 512MB, it reaches 512 and then poof, the app gets killed. Without largeHeap specified in the manifest, its far less (256? 128?). I would love to use 2GB on a single process. I believe the limit is still in Samsung's tablet S6.

        It's one of the most annoying limits ever. I use Android TV boxes for number crunching, and have to multiple process instances, to get the full use of the box. If I ever let those boxes upgrade to one of these background killer devices (e.g. Android 9), it would not keep more than 4 of those processes running!

        I regret using Android, it did not follow the path of upgrading I was expecting, instead it does less and less with each cycle as Google tries for force it to a low end market. Android One, later Android Go. Failures in the market place that strangle Android.

        https://developer.android.com/guide/topics/manifest/application-element

        "android:largeHeap

        Whether your application's processes should be created with a large Dalvik heap...Most apps should not need this and should instead focus on reducing their overall memory usage for improved performance"

        Dear Google, Ram is fast and plentiful and dirt cheap, loading and unloading from flash is slow and painful. Calculating temp derivative cache data is expensive and uses lots of battery on each reload. Stop talking shite. You cannot write complex apps on Android because of insane choices like this. You cannot ensure software continues to run, you cannot ensure it won't get arbitrarily killed, you cannot make it fast with precalculated memory structures, because of your choices.

        I'm waiting on the August release of the Samsung Tab S7, its supposed to be a big screen tablet with Android 10 on it, but I bet it :

        a) won't have a big screen, I think companies have a deal with MS to not produce big screen tablets, whenever they renegotiate their Windows license, they announce a big screen tablet that gets killed off quickly.

        b) will have the same limits as Android devices, including the 512MB limit.

        That won't be a problem for the tablet, I want it for displaying not number crunching, but the memory leaks and slowdowns on Android 9 are a killer issue even on the tablets. I notice, for example, their webview has a huge memory footprint in A9 suddenly, without any noticeable change in performance.

        I wish Bluestacks would give me an exit strategy here. I spend far too much effort fixing up Google's shit choices. Effort I would rather spend on algos and code and modelling.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Android 9 is unusable

          Something tells me you're trying to squeeze blood out of a rock. Why not just get yourself a used laptop, max out its memory, put Linux or whatever on it, and have done with it? Your screen will be larger, you'll get a beefier machine under the bonnet, and you'll have more control over your destiny.

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge
            Linux

            Re: Android 9 is unusable

            I think you can still purchase simple ARM-based Linux laptops for inexpensive prices. I did that a few years ago to produce a couple of L-boxen that were used to program hardware devices during manufacturing. Set them up with a "click me" icon basically. useful because they were heap and had screens, and techs could just mouse-click the button... and it was WAY cheaper than building a custom piece of hardware to do the same thing.

            I'm pretty sure you can still find ones like that, of the 'netbook' variety. Might have to install a different distro, though, but nothing too difficult (the netbooks I got came with a simple console-only Linux distro). Devuan/Mate would be my choice.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My old feature phone did this properly.

    If the user didn't explicitly authorise the action it didn't happen, and that's how it should be.

    /get off my lawn.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My old feature phone did this properly.

      Ever heard of Click Fatigue?

      Get off my lawn...get off my...get off my...get off...get off...get...get...!

      Aw, like we give a screw, gramps!

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020