Stop killing your Android phone! There’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding the usefulness of RAM booster apps and task killer apps. At first glance they sound incredibly useful, but a closer look shows that they could actually be harming your phone instead.
Long story short: Simply avoid using RAM booster and task killer apps. They may have once been useful, but Android has progressed far enough that these sorts of apps are now outdated, unnecessary, and counterproductive. If you want to know why they’re bad, keep reading.
How Android Handles RAM and Apps
To understand how Android handles RAM, we first need to understand what RAM is and how it works.
There’s a lot of technobabble that could be said about it, but for our purposes, it’s enough to know that RAM means random access memory and it’s a type of storage that’s incredibly fast but disappears when the device shuts down. Therefore, RAM is useful for holding temporary information that changes a lot and gets frequently accessed.
On Windows, you want to keep as much RAM available as you can so that programs have enough room to operate. When RAM fills up, Windows is forced to start using hard drive space as virtual RAM and hard drives are much slower than physical RAM.
This is not true for Android.
Android’s operating system has its own native handler for assigning RAM to apps and making sure that all of it is being used in the most optimal way. In fact, Android purposely tries to keep apps loaded into RAM for better performance. RAM is fast, remember? On mobile devices, every bit of speed is critical for a good user experience, so keeping apps in RAM is actually a good thing.
If you use a lot of different apps, you may want to consider a model with more RAM the next time you buy a smartphone.
Not only does Android handle RAM assignment, but it also keeps track of background apps so they don’t use up unnecessary processor resources. There’s no noticeable performance hit for leaving apps loaded in RAM. There’s one exception to this, but we’ll cover that in the last section of this article.
The Deceit of RAM Boosters & Task Killers
At this point, it might seem like RAM boosters and task killers are neutral. They might not necessarily help with Android performance, but they aren’t bad to have around, right? Maybe they provide some marginal benefits? Unfortunately, no. They are detrimental.
Typical Windows wisdom says to kill RAM-hogging processes and defragment your hard drive for faster speeds. This is good in the context of Windows, but applying it to Android results in negative gain.
For one, Android uses an SD card for file storage rather than a traditional hard drive. SD cards are a type of flash memory — similar to solid state drives — and don’t need to be defragmented. In fact, one of the downsides to flash memory is a limited number of times that data can be written to the card before it expires. By defragmenting an SD card, you can decrease its lifespan.
When you clear apps from RAM, Android is just going to load them into RAM again the next time it needs to access those apps (for notifications, updates, and other background details). This is actually slower for you since SD cards are slower than RAM.
And in the case of automatic task killers, you end up having to sacrifice some of your RAM and CPU to the task killer app itself, which is always running and monitoring for opportunities when tasks should be killed. This can be a big drain on battery life — and you aren’t getting anything useful in return!
Improving Android Performance & Battery Life
If you’re using a task killer, it’s likely the case that you just aren’t happy about your device’s performance. It’s slow, perhaps even sluggish, and using it is more of a nuisance than a joy. If a task killer isn’t going to help, what can you do to boost Android performance?
Kill misbehaving apps. You should avoid killing apps just to free up RAM, but always be on the lookout for apps that use an unusual amount of CPU. These can seriously slow down performance and kill battery life. Watchdog Task Manager [No Longer Available] is a great app for this.
Use lightweight apps. Many times, poor performance can be attributed to a particular app rather than the Android device itself. For frequently used apps (e.g., browsers, notebooks, music players, etc.) always go for the ones that are most lightweight and battery friendly.
Toggle unnecessary features. It’s convenient to keep your data on all of the time, but it’s going to have an impact on performance. The same goes for always keeping your WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS on. Toggle them off when you aren’t using them to preserve resources. Use a toggle widget to make it even easier to handle.
Install a custom ROM. This tip is a bit more advanced and should only be considered by those who are familiar with Android troubleshooting. Installing a custom ROM is like installing a different distribution of Linux: some ROMs are faster and less battery intensive, which is great for weaker devices.
For more tips, check out Guy’s roundup of nine ways to extend Android battery life.
What are your experiences with task killer apps? Do you use one for your Android right now? Have they been helpful or have they just been placebo? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!