In the early days of Android, task killer apps were all the rage. Was your phone being a slow and janky piece of crap? That’s an easy fix, just kill all of the ongoing tasks and it should speed right up, with the task killer designed to free up memory and kill processes. It did the trick for about 5 minutes, then your phone would typically go back to its slow behavior. And no, task killers don’t help extend your Android phone’s battery life.

As Android evolved, with phones being shipped with more RAM, faster chips, and improved multi-tasking capabilities on the OS level, task killers haven’t been talked about as much, and starting with Android 14, Google is looking to severely limit the functionality of apps that claim to make your phone faster by killing background tasks.

Beginning in Android 14, Google is going to restrict access to a certain API that has been used by these task killer apps to kill all background processes for a certain app. Using this function would indeed kill the tasks, but only for the OS to have to dedicate more resources to the restarting of the app when needed. As the Android OS exists today, with its own native task manager built in, trust that the system knows what it needs and doesn’t need to perform as desired, with no need for the user to get involved and force cold starts of processes that should have already been stored in the system’s memory. It’s all sorts of Android/Linux magic that you or I layfolk don’t need to worry about.

In Android 14, if an app should call on this method, it will only be able to kill its own background processes, not those of another app. According to Mishaal Rahman, this change was already present in Android 14 Developer Preview 1, but actual documentation for it reads as follows in DP2.

Apps shouldn’t use the killBackgroundProcesses API or otherwise attempt to influence the process lifecycle of other apps, even on older OS versions. Android is designed to keep cached apps in the background and kill them automatically when the system needs memory. If your app kills other apps unnecessarily, it can reduce system performance and increase battery consumption by requiring full restarts of those apps later, which takes significantly more resources than resuming an existing cached app.

Other messaging to the developers of these apps reads like a notice/warning, but is also black and white, easy-to-digest truth for users who continue to use these types of apps. Google says, “It isn’t possible for a 3rd-party application to improve the memory, power, or thermal behavior of an Android device. You should ensure that your app is compliant with Google Play’s policy against misleading claims.”

This is a positive change and should help the few users out there who still think they can speed up their phone or improve their battery life with the help of an app. Want better battery life? Delete Facebook.

// esper

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