September 1, 2014

Newbtorial: How to Keep the Zip in Your Android

g1_tuneup2UUUhhhhhhh, I am so sick of how slow my phone is!  Kevin, if you can’t fix this I am selling this thing and buying an iPhone!

These are the very words I heard come pouring into my office as a coworker, flushed with frustration, walked through the door.  She not so gently placed a nice shiny MyTouch3G onto my desk as she entreated me, “I’ve had it, please fix this!”

Stop.  Rewind.  I guess I should explain that I work in IT and a portion of what I do is to help those around me set up and utilize mobile devices that are friendly with our particular business.  This ranges from Palms to Blackberries, iPhones, and even those dreaded Windows Mobile phones.  Where I work, I have made a big push (a sales pitch some might say) to get more users onto Android and off the alternatives, but I digress.  This isn’t the first time a newer user of Android has walked into my office red in the face and spat out the words, “It used to be really fast and now it takes forever, what’s wrong?”

So, I pick up her phone, unlock it and scroll through her home screens.  I spend a few minutes with it and hand it back to her.  “Should be fine now,” I say.  She immediately begins playing with it and then looks up and says, “That’s amazing! What did you do?”

At this point I make the mistake of launching into a pulpit speech about linux, memory, tasks, background services, intents, and so forth.  Her eyes glaze over and she stops me short and says, “Well at any rate it’s working now, thanks.”

To avoid your eyes glazing over, I am going to cut all the technical and semi-technical stuff and keep it simple.  Below are some good tips and explanations on how to avoid a sluggish droid:

Task killer.  If you don’t have one, get one.  Why?

  • Android is capable (and sometimes over eager) to run applications in the background after you think you have closed them.  In a lot of cases this is generally a good thing, but if you access multiple applications quickly and frequently these background processes stack up and begin consuming your Android’s memory.  Most task killer applications come in a free version and are straight forward to use.  Simply open the app, choose one or more processes to end and click the “kill” button and you’re done, free memory.

Home screen overload.  Don’t do it.  Why?

  • The more things you place onto your home screen the more memory your phone has to use to draw all the icons, picture frames, etc. every time you access the home screen (could be even worse when using home screen replacements, especially if you have more than 3 home screens)

Hey, guess what’s next?  Home screen replacements, be cautious, or at least stay on top of upgrading.  Why?

  • Home screen replacements aren’t bad per se; however, many of them do add in options such as new application trays and rotate features along with extra home screen panes that can slow you down.  Also, if you are applying themes to them, the theme itself may not be optimized to draw icons quickly onto the home screen.  You may also find that home screen replacements may not play well with certain applications and may cause you unnecessary and unwanted force closes.  If you do install a home screen replacement, make sure you keep installing the updates.  Read through the comments when downloading themes for home screen replacements to see if other users have experienced slowness or other problems.

Widget-mania, don’t do it.  Why?

  • Again, this is one more thing your droid has to think about. Widgets are tied to processes that help refresh the widget and thus continually tax your phone’s memory.  Now I’m not saying you can’t have widgets on your home screen, but just don’t cover all three sections in a sea of widgets.  Some widgets have options to adjust the settings of how they operate.  Explore each of your widgets to find out what you can modify in terms of refresh rates, etc.

Animations and Orientation, they look cool, but turn them off.  Why?

  • Your phone needs to use processing power in order to do both.  On top of everything else your droid is thinking about, it can cause slowness.  My recommendation, if you don’t absolutely need it: turn it off.

Caches and Histories

  • “Hey Bro, I love you man”…That’s right, you know all those texts that you get from friends at 3 AM for whatever reason that have been stacking up over the last two months?  Delete them.  It’s a simple matter of house cleaning.  If you simply must keep those embarrassing drunk texts or all the “ZOMGs did you see the shoes Amber wore with that dress!” texts, you can download SMS backup applications on the market that will save them to a web service.
  • Excessive browser history and cache can also add to slowness, I recommend clearing it out on a regular basis.  To do so, go into your browser >> menu >> settings >> clear cache >> clear history >> clear all cookie data.

General Application overload

  • If you haven’t figured it out by now, there is only so much memory to be passed around in Android.  The more apps you have the more memory is being consumed.  If you are getting down to only having around 10 mb left, there is a good chance your phone has slowed down quite a bit.  To check the amount of memory currently available, from you home screen >> menu >> settings >> SD card and phone storage >> scroll down to internal phone storage >> check available space.  If you are getting down to the wire, you have some options.  Either decide if slowness is worth all your apps, or delete what you can live without.  The other option would be to root your phone and start saving your apps on your SD card–or get an app that bypasses the necessity for root.

Don’t get me wrong, you don’t necessarily have to follow all of these in order to keep your phone running fast.  But, if you are experiencing slowness, you should maybe look to see if there is something on this list that you could be doing better on.  This is simply a general list of things that I notice on new users’ phones that really brings them to a stand-still. (Especially when you are guilty of all of them at once!)  I understand that everyone’s experience of their Android phone and what they use it for is different; however, the more you give your droid to think about at once, the less efficiently it thinks.  If you remember this very general rule, you are most likely going to be able to trouble shoot or tweak things on your own to be back in tip-top shape in no time.