Decoded: Google fixes a major Android annoyance and Samsung joins in

While some may have become a habit, most users would have realized that Android phones have an obvious problem of inconsistent management of foreground and background apps and services. The behavior on the same device may vary by app. A Samsung phone can behave in a very different way than a OnePlus phone while using the same apps and usage scenarios.

Android phones have the problem of background apps and tasks closing inconsistently. (HT photo)

Simply put, Android phones have the problem of inconsistently closing background apps and tasks, which often means that a music streaming app you’re currently using suddenly shuts down. Even worse, the morning alarm clock doesn’t wake you up like it should.

Google plans to solve this problem with Android 14, the next iteration of Android expected later this summer.

It will be a three-pronged approach. First, there will be a new requirement for declaring foreground service types and requesting type-specific permissions, giving the operating system more clarity on when it’s reasonable to allow apps to run.

This means that app developers must specify at least one foreground service type, which represents the app’s use case.

“One of those challenges we’ve heard from the community is restrictions on foreground services and background work, making it more difficult for you to create apps that work across different device models,” Google said in a statement.

Second, the new user-initiated data transfer task type will make apps and background tasks more stable. An app must opt ​​in if it wants to grant its own background activity launch privileges. There will also be an updated Google Play policy that monitors the necessary use of foreground services and user-initiated tasks, while ensuring data security is not compromised by potentially malicious apps.

The aggressive restrictions on background apps and services have become commonplace on Android phones, an ecosystem that inevitably replicates and mimics functionality across the board in the name of battery optimizations and system resource management.

While there are many apps to keep under control, the heavy-handed approach has resulted in even important apps, including calendar notifications, alarms, good old music streaming apps, or instant messengers, becoming unusable on many phones.

With Android 14, an app can only stop its own background processes.

“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 takes significantly more resources than resuming an existing cached app,” Google informed developers.

Samsung is the first phone maker to confirm full support for Google’s new direction for Android and will include the functionality in One UI 6.0 software rolling out later this year for the company’s Galaxy smartphone range.

“Since One UI 6.0, foreground services of apps targeting Android 14 are guaranteed to work as intended as long as they are developed according to Android’s new foreground services API policy,” the company said in a statement.

Good thing too, because if you’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy smartphone for apps that might need to run in the background, you’d experience missed notifications, inconsistent background data refresh, and apps that are generally unstable after being forcibly closed during a task. have stopped, have noticed .

This behavior had become worse on Samsung’s Android phones since Android 11.

There is an online tracker, perhaps aptly named ‘Don’t kill my app!’, that has tracked Android smartphone behavior in regards to how Android phones handle battery optimization. It ranks Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones as the worst offenders in that regard.

“After 3 days, an unused app can no longer start from the background (e.g. alarms stop working). Imagine, you don’t use your alarm clock for the weekend plus 1 day, no more alarm clocks and you miss work,” the tracker notes. That’s just one example.

In the Indian context, the next most aggressive background app mitigation is done by OnePlus’ Oxygen OS and MIUI on Xiaomi’s phones.

“Xiaomi and their Android customization called MIUI are among the most troubled group in the market regarding non-default background process restrictions and non-default permissions. There are no APIs and no documentation for those extensions. In the default settings, the background processing just won’t work properly and apps using them will break,” notes the tracker for Xiaomi phones.

Now that Samsung has made its intent clear, it may not be long before other Android phone makers announce similar moves with software and layers designed for Android 14.

But when your Android phone will behave better with background tasks like keeping a messaging app or music streaming app running will depend on the final roadmap for Android 14 rollout for each phone. That in itself is quite a complex topic of discussion within the Android smartphone space.

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