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Got a laggy Android device? There’s a fix for you out there, but it requires root access. While the latest version of Android (4.3) solves this bug, for the majority of users who won’t receive a firmware update, the free app LagFix could solve the problem.

It’s no secret that Android lacks a lot of polish as an operating system. First, it doesn’t maintain itself very well. Over time apps slow to crawl. That’s because of a lack of TRIM implementation. The TRIM command, which Android failed to implement, allows solid state storage to maintain its original performance. Second, it also sucks at removing wasted space and empty folders. Third, when manufacturers use cheap memory it causes poor performance.

Fortunately, with the right device, all these problems can easily be fixed.

What is TRIM, Anyway?

We need to explain what TRIM is, before elaborating on how the LagFix app eliminates latency experienced on Android devices: Your solid state storage device doesn’t actually erase files, even through you’ve uninstalled or removed them. This is a peculiarity native to solid state storage. Erased files are simply invisible to the operating system. TRIM command is a Linux executable that solves this issue by making erased files visible, and thus eraseable.

If the TRIM command is never run, these unerased blocks become a speed bottleneck resulting in horrible performance. Specifically, anything that uses a cache — such as the browser — will perform terribly.

In short, TRIM command in modern operating systems marks blocks of data for deletion. When data isn’t deleted the operating system must find potions of its drive marked for deletion and then overwrite it. The extra overhead dramatically slows down write speeds. Without this feature, all drives suffer from stutter and slowdown.

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Solid State Drives Should You Get A Solid State Drive (SSD)? [Opinion] Should You Get A Solid State Drive (SSD)? [Opinion] If you've kept up with some of the latest news about new computer parts, you may have heard about SSDs, or solid state drives. They are designed to replace your clunky, slow hard drive and... Read More  and newer eMMC modules on modern smartphones include compatibility with TRIM. Conversely, inexpensive flash memory modules on older smartphones and tablets lack this ability. The difference between flash memory and latter day eMMCs is moot, unfortunately, as operating system-based TRIM doesn’t work in Android 4.2 and earlier versions.

LagFix

WARNING: LagFix has been known to “brick” (destroy) incompatible devices. Check your device’s compatibility here. Also, you may want to Google your device + “LagFix”.

LagFix performs a very simple function: On compatible, rooted devices it optimizes solid state storage by marking “erased” blocks for deletion – in the same manner as TRIM would. In a sense, it’s a manual version of TRIM.

lagfix

LagFix isn’t completely problem-free. It won’t work with older eMMC and flash storage drives. Also, some Samsung devices cannot use the app. In fact, LagFix’s activation on select Samsung devices will render your gadget utterly useless – for unknown reasons. Its successful function depends on the specific chip inside your phone. Martin Brinkman’s article turned me onto Exynos Mem Bug Checker, which scans your Samsung device for the incompatible chips. So before attempting a manual TRIM, check the app first — otherwise, you may end up with a brick on your hands.

Again, keep in mind that LagFix requires root access.

Cache2SD and Multi-Browser2RAM

In addition to poor software design, cheap memory modules cause lag issues with many smartphones and tablets. Oftentimes the flash memory-based hard drives inside of top-tier tablets, like the Asus Transformer, suffer from horrendous write speeds. This results in slow, laggy performance. These issues can be resolved by moving the device’s cache to a SD card. However, the SD itself is based on flash memory and cheap ones have terrible performance.

Anyone who wants to improve their device’s speed needs to get the highest class of flash memory: Class 10. Its performance benefits will only show up on software using your device’s cache, if the cache exists on the SD card.

The Cache2SD mod, to my knowledge, only works on the Asus Transformer series of tablet. It resolves the issue of cheap, slow memory modules by moving your device’s cache to the SD card. However, on later devices using eMMC (MultiMediaCard) technology, this fix is unnecessary.

Another option uses the Browser2RAM script. While some browsers, such as Dolphin, can move their caches to the SD card Dolphin Browser HD - Fast & Elegant Mobile Browsing On Your Android Dolphin Browser HD - Fast & Elegant Mobile Browsing On Your Android Dolphin Browser HD is a mobile browser for Android 2.0.1 and up. With over 250,000 downloads, it is the most popular browser on the Android market. The browser supports flash, HTML5, navigation with gestures and... Read More , Browser2RAM moves the cache to a RAM disk What Is A RAM Disk, And How You Can Set One Up What Is A RAM Disk, And How You Can Set One Up Solid state hard drives aren’t the first non-mechanical storage to appear in consumer PCs. RAM has been used for decades, but primarily as a short-term storage solution. The fast access times of RAM makes it... Read More . This provides much faster performance – RAM used as a disk is very fast.

These two modifications exist only on the Asus Transformer series of tablet. Although in theory they could be adapted to any poorly designed device.

Running Out of Storage Space?

One of the biggest problems in Android is that of storage. Apps do not cleanly uninstall, oftentimes leaving behind rather large zombie folders. Another problem is of extra large caches. Fortunately, third-party apps can kill these files, without much issue. Of the many awesome space-saving apps How to Free Storage Space on Your Android Device How to Free Storage Space on Your Android Device If you've run out of storage space on your Android phone or tablet, we can help you free it up. Read More covered by Erez, my favorites are DiskUsage and SD Maid.

DiskUsage: DiskUsage visually displays the amount of space available in your Android device. It also includes pinch-to-zoom and other novel features. I use it to locate and then zap any large, unused files.

disk_usage

SD Maid: SD Maid provides a huge number of functions. Of these, its most useful is its ability to clear the system folder, its empty folder finder and its duplicate file finder (paid version only).

sd maid

Conclusion

The current performance problems in Android originate from both Google and device manufacturers. First, there never was proper implementation of TRIM in Android until 4.3. Second, manufacturers used cheap flash memory modules, resulting in extreme amounts of lag on many devices. Solving these issues will work on only a narrow selection of devices, with only a narrow selection of apps.

Anyone else sick of Android’s poor performance? Vent your frustrations in the comments.

Image Credits: Snail by xandert via MorgueFile

 

  1. Julien N.
    May 19, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Your title is completely exaggerated – if Android were that badly/awfully designed, or if it weren't the best mainstream phone OS, none of us would even be visiting this page to begin with. Instead, most of us would be trying to fix our jailbroken iPhones, or doing nothing fun with our BlackBerries... Still, I appreciate the body of this post, so thank you!

    • Kannon Yamada
      May 19, 2016 at 2:10 pm

      That's a fair point for later builds of Android. I didn't choose the title, although it is accurate for Android 4.2 and below. Not having trim means users need to perform a factory reset regularly to maintain performance -- especially if they keep a lot of data on their phone. Both the performance and design was -- at that point -- bad. Android 6 is a really good OS. The best on the market.

      • Julien N.
        May 20, 2016 at 5:09 pm

        I see what you mean -- sorry for being so critical.

        • Kannon Yamada
          May 20, 2016 at 5:22 pm

          No worries. You were by no means the only person to feel the title overstated the claims made in the article. It's definitely a controversial statement and getting feedback helps improve site content. Thanks for the comment. :-)

  2. joseph b.
    May 15, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    I'd still choose android over iOS. Android is more user-friendly and highly customizable. Imagine if these android 'issues' have been fixed, soon it will be. iOS will eat Android's dust.

  3. Chris
    February 17, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Android is a complete trash OS. Baffled by people that think it's even remotely close to being on the level of iOS.

    Then again, lots of people enjoy Tyler Perry movies, so this shouldn't be a surprise I suppose.

    • Kannon Y
      February 17, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      I don't like any operating system out there, but we're making lemonade.

  4. Phil N
    September 21, 2013 at 2:04 am

    What bad performance and aful design. Coincidence that this was written on the same day an iphone came out?

    • Kannon Y
      September 21, 2013 at 2:13 am

      :-) I wrote this two weeks ago and it just published.

      In all honesty, I don't like iOS much. I like Android, but the lack of TRIM implementation really bothers me. Fortunately, 4.3 added TRIM support, so new Android phones won't have this issue.

    • Phil N
      September 21, 2013 at 2:50 am

      I don't even see an issue and I've had 3 different Android devices.

    • Kannon Y
      September 21, 2013 at 3:04 am

      The problem is most visible if the drive gets filled up with data, right around 90%+ full and it's a serious problem. It also occurs if you move a lot of data around to and from the phone. You also have to be using a write-intensive application, like a browser, which uses an on-disk cache.

      Give it a try - try filling the drive up with data. Over time you'll notice it performing poorly. It's well documented:

      http://www.anandtech.com/show/7185/android-43-update-brings-trim-to-all-nexus-devices

      Not all devices suffered in the same way, but the performance issues show up on all devices if they're misused. 4.3 mostly solves this issue, fortunately.

  5. Chris M
    September 20, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    So...for someone who doesn't have a compatible phone, what is the fix for a slow OS? Also, how doews one go about getting 4.3? Instead of possibly bricking your phone?

    • Kannon Y
      September 21, 2013 at 12:21 am

      I'm actually writing an article on this very subject, but basically, some devices implemented TRIM (drive optimization) in an unusual way:

      Most of these devices will recover performance if you shave your empty drive space down to 50% (or as close as possible) and then leave it charging for 24 hours.

      Like early SSDs on desktops, the drive may begin to internally optimize, provided you don't have software going nuts in the background.

      Another option is the factory reset, which may or may not restore your drive's performance.

  6. Jimmy
    September 20, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    'Seeder' can also help reduce lag...

    • Kannon Y
      September 21, 2013 at 12:22 am

      Thanks for mentioning Seeder, Jimmy!

  7. Carlo Vincente
    September 20, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    He's right. Android is a fisher price OS

  8. Rumisa Eldarkhanov
    September 20, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    I agree, Android is a confusing mess and lags even on the most up to date hardware. I fixed mines by getting a Windows Phone. Never going back to Android.

  9. Siklov Boyski
    September 20, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    I remember now why I stopped checking in on/following this site. "How to Fix Android’s Bad Performance and Awful Design" - Can a more anti-Android title have been chosen? MakeUseOf needs to have their bloggers at least use and be somewhat familiar with the products they use.

    • Kannon Y
      September 21, 2013 at 12:17 am

      Siklov, thanks for the comment.

      I actually love the Android ecosystem! I own close to a dozen Android devices. But the lack of TRIM implementation is a horrible oversight. If you read the article, you'll see that my critique centers purely around this issue.

      I swear to you that while TRIM implementation was awful, it's still a highly useful operating system.

      Some devices used a workaround for TRIM, but it would seem that the majority just slow down over time and require factory resets to restore performance.

  10. Saumyakanta S
    September 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    android interface is not "awful" .

    • Kannon Y
      September 21, 2013 at 12:22 am

      No, it's not. I have my issues with it, but it's not awful. It does have problems, though.

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