Task Killer apps become useless on Android 14

In the early days of Android, task killer apps were all the rage. Was your phone a slow and janky piece of shit? That’s an easy fix, just kill all running tasks and it should speed up right away, with the task killer designed to free up memory and kill processes. It did for about 5 minutes, then your phone usually went back to its sluggish behavior. And no, task killers do not help to extend your Android phone’s battery life.

As Android evolved, with phones coming with more RAM, faster chips, and improved OS-level multitasking capabilities, task killers weren’t talked about as much, and starting with Android 14Google is trying to severely limit the functionality of apps that claim to speed up your phone by killing background tasks.

Starting with Android 14, Google is going to restrict access to a particular API used by these task killer apps to kill all background processes for a particular app. Using this feature would indeed kill the tasks, but only for the OS to spend more resources on restarting the app when needed. Since the Android operating system exists today, with its own built-in task manager, you can rest assured that the system knows what it needs and doesn’t have to perform as desired, without user involvement and cold starts of processes that should already be stored in the system’s memory. It’s all sorts of Android/Linux magic that you or I laymen don’t have to worry about.

In Android 14, if an app were to use this method, it would only be able to kill its own background processes, not another app’s. According to Mishal Rahmanthis change was already present in Android 14 Developer Preview 1, but the actual documentation for it reads as follows in DP2.

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

Other messages to the developers of these apps read like a notice/warning, but are also black and white, easy to digest truth for users who continue to use these kinds of apps. Google says, “It is not possible for a third-party application to improve the memory, power, or thermal behavior of an Android device. You must ensure that your app complies with Google Play’s policy against misleading claims.”

This is a positive change and should help the few users who still think they can make their phone faster or improve their battery life using an app. Want better battery life? Delete Facebook.

// esper

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