If your Android is acting up, you may need a Task Killer

Of all the hardware specs listed for smartphones and tablets, battery life may be the most scrutinized. Each new generation of tablets or smartphones tends to be more capable than the last, with the latest features increasing the overall power demand. One method of improving smartphone and tablet battery life among some Android device users that remains popular is the app killer, also known as the task killer.

Do you need one? Let’s take a look.

The information and apps below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

What does a Task Killer do?

A task killer is a mobile app designed to force stop other running apps and background processes. This frees up system memory (RAM) on your phone or tablet. Some task killers perform this function automatically at designated time intervals, while others only work when the user manually chooses to kill selected applications that appear in a list. Many offer both options along with other customizable features.

Task killers grew in popularity as a response to the extended battery life of smartphones and tablets. The premise behind using a task killer is that by removing other running applications from memory, the CPU would have less to process (activities, services, broadcasts, etc.). Less work on the CPU leads to lower power consumption, which means a device would last longer throughout the day.

Despite the power-saving claims made by task-savvy developers and users who swear by the benefits, there are plenty of arguments against it. The Android operating system has grown over the years; it is much more capable of managing system processes today than previous versions (anything prior to Android 2.2).

Not only that, but the memory in smartphones and tablets works differently than in desktops and laptops. Additionally, mobile hardware has come a long way to work smarter and consume less power overall.

How Android has matured

Laptops and desktops process software/applications and manage resources differently than mobile devices running the Android operating system (OS). For example, with the Windows operating system, less available memory means a slower system experience. That’s why adding memory is an easy way to increase your computer’s performance.

But the latter is designed to work the same way, no matter how full or empty the memory is: it’s normal for an Android device to use half or more of the total available memory. In fact, having apps stored in memory often results in better battery performance.

This is because apps stored in an Android’s memory are essentially paused and inactive until you choose to load (basically non-pause) the app again. This is a good thing, as loading apps from memory is faster and less CPU intensive than fully loading from device storage. Actually, it doesn’t matter if your Android memory is completely full or empty; battery power is only used when the CPU is actively processing activities. In other words, just because an app is stored in Android memory doesn’t mean it’s doing something to use power.

The Android operating system is designed to automatically remove apps from memory when they’re needed most at the moment, opting for lower priority apps first (those that haven’t been used as much). It will continue to work until there is enough memory available to reallocate and run whatever application you just loaded. This was not the case with early versions (before 2.2) of Android, which were prone to leaving active apps running indefinitely. Back then, task killers were much more effective and needed.

Mobile hardware has also evolved

Previous generation smartphones and tablets used processors with standard size cores that focused on maximum power. These processors would throttle real-time core speeds to match activities, which is not very efficient. Many of today’s multi-core mobile processors have improved performance and the ability to perform tasks intelligently. ARM (a manufacturer of mobile processors used in the vast majority of smartphones and tablets) uses a design that combines small and large cores together, resulting in much higher efficiency.

Here’s an example: An 8-core ARM CPU has four small cores in one processor and four large cores in the other processor. When a user performs an activity, the system decides the appropriate core size; small activities (for example, sending a text message, opening a document, etc.) can be handled by small cores, while more intensive activities (for example, recording video, mobile games, loading multiple web pages, etc.) ) use large nuclei. This approach allows processes to run quickly without using excessive power and without wasting battery life. As such, today’s devices last longer, even if they run many processes at once.

Should I use an Android Task Killer?

The general consensus is that modern Android smartphones and tablets have little need for a task killing tool, especially since Android’s built-in Application Manager allows you to force stop apps on demand. Also, some Android devices come with the Smart Manager app, which is a tool that kills tasks.

Although the Smart Manager may not be packed with features, it does show the total amount of RAM being used, lists all background apps (with the amount of RAM and CPU each is currently using), and offers the option to expel each and every application from memory. The Smart Manager also details battery usage and storage data.

Vocal opponents of task killers claim that such apps do more harm than good, which may be a bit of an exaggeration. Running a task killer is unlikely to completely destroy your device; you may not experience much (if any) battery savings for your efforts.

Advantages of using Task Killers

There are a few situations where you might want to use one:

  • They can help you find ‘problematic’ or ‘rogue’ apps, ie apps that are constantly using up your processing power for no apparent reason, so you can uninstall them and replace them with a better alternative.
  • Smartphones and tablets running older versions of the Android operating system can still benefit from Task Advisors, as older versions are not as capable of handling processes as newer ones.
  • Task killers can help with apps that are constantly trying to connect to the internet and/or send push notifications, which drains your battery (especially if the device wakes up and turns on the screen every time).

Cons of using one

On the other hand, you may want to omit it since:

  • Task killers use processing power to do their work, so the power savings can be marginal at best, especially if the force-stopped apps weren’t doing anything to consume power.
  • Some apps (essential/system) automatically restart after being forced to stop. Such situations cause a back-and-forth cycle with the task killer, which ends up using significantly more processing power and battery life.
  • Most background services/processes don’t use much memory when they’re not actively doing something. Also, many of them are running in the background for a reason ( see below ).
  • There are times when you want apps to run in the background, such as reminders, updates, messages, alarm clocks, and more. Using a “task killer” can lead to many appointments or events being missed.

Some options for you

If you have your heart set on using a task killer, we’ve got a couple of good suggestions for you, as well as some alternative apps that can help save power without the controversy of force-stopping tasks.

  • ES Task Manager: App developer, ES Global, combines all the task killing features you want along with a host of other useful tools: Cache Cleaner, Startup Manager, File Manager (ES File Explorer File Manager , basically) and much more. The interface is smart and easy to use.
  • Clean Master: In addition to freeing up RAM with a single tap, Cheetah Mobile’s Clean Master 2017 also helps remove residual junk files, scan for viruses, and improve Wi-Fi security. This is the same developer that makes the Android Smart Manager app.
  • Watchdog Task Manager: Although Watchdog Task Manager can kill background apps, its real focus is on monitoring CPU usage and alerting the user. Created by Zomut LLC, Watchdog lets you know when any application has gone rogue (ie consumes a considerable amount of power). Instead of blindly killing all apps, you can select only the one that is out of control.
  • SystemPanel 2: This app does not extend, clean or remove any apps (the developer, NextApp explicitly says so in the description). Instead, SystemPanel 2 offers a broad view of everything that’s happening on your device, using color bars, charts, and graph charts for visual presentation. Detailed information displayed for battery consumption will let you know which apps are consuming the most.
  • JuiceDefender: Created by Latedroid, JuiceDefender has been saving battery for years without killing tasks. What this app does is manage battery-draining items (e.g. Wi-Fi, mobile data, display, etc.) through hibernation-like settings, schedules, and triggers, similar to Doze mode Android Marshmallow.