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Task Killers – Helping or Hurting?

By Russell H. Sr. Editor TDG Online
This is, hands down, the most commonly held conversation I have with any new, current, or prospective Android user since the G1. It has occupied space on every forum I have ever been to, and continues to be a staple conversation in the community. So here we go, I am going to do my best to answer this question here and now; Are Task Killing apps helping or hurting our phones?


Task Killers were amongst the first 5,000 apps in the Market, and can be seen in the form of dozens now, all claiming differences in performance and functionality. The basic concept is the same for all of them, being that a list is shows with how much memory each running app is using and a big button to “kill” the running app, in order to free up space to make everything else run faster. The applications do perform this job. The app is halted and memory is freed. For a moment or two anyways. Android was built to handle multi-tasking intelligently, and part of this is resource resolution. I look to Android Engineer Dianne Hackborne for backup.

Applications may seem present to the user without an actual process currently running the app; multiple applications may share processes, or one application may make use of multiple processes depending on its needs; the process(es) of an application may be kept around by Android even when that application is not actively doing something.


So when you kill an application, you are killing all related services, even if those services are being used to help other applications. So, for example, you are trying to download a movie, and you decide the app controlling the download needs more memory, so you kill any apps you arent using. It’s possible that, all of a sudden, you will nolonger be downloading your movie, because you unknowingly killed a process handling that download. Make sense?

Before you go there, I know. You have been in the IT field since the lightbulb and you know what tasks you are killing and you know that they are helping and you have never had a problem. Sure, I will admit that if you know exactly what you are doing, and you are just that starved for resources, you can use a Task Killer for some momentary relief of memory. This would be very helpful for someone who felt they required that level of control, except Android already does that. Here’s the application life cycle chart!



See? Android already has things built into the life cycle of every application that monitors for whether or not an app needs more memory, and is already prepared to handle any apps not in use. Additionally, applications that are considered “critical” like the Phone app (you do remember that these things make calls right?) will suspend all activity, granting priority to that application. With this evidence, plus the thousands that I have seen who claim that their phones run faster without Task Killers than with them, I feel confident in saying that Task Killing applications can often be more harmful than useful, and I recommend not installing them at all. If you already have one installed, uninstall it for a week, and if what I am saying here is not helpful, write me and let me know! You can always find me at www.twitter.com/thedroidguy