Android housekeeping pt 3: Keeping your device in shape

Overview:

We’ve covered security, and keeping your data safe, today I wanted to finish this series of posts with some tips on how to keep your device running smoothly.

 

Turn off unneeded services.

 

By default, devices often come with every feature enabled, from Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to having the screen as bright as possible and fancy live wallpapers which can be mesmerising to watch.

 

If you go into settings then battery, you will see what is using your battery the most.  Usually the first item is “Screen” – it is one of the biggest drains on the battery.  You can go into display settings and set the brightness to auto, but an even more battery frugal way is to manually set it as low as you are comfortable with.  If you are a speech only user or want it even dimmer than the dimmest setting, then “Shades” by the Eyes Free project will do it for you and save even more battery:  https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.googlecode.eyesfree.shades

 

While you are in settings, look at all the switches for the different features and see what else you can turn off.  Bluetooth is a big battery user to have on all the time – ideally only have this one while you are actually using a Bluetooth device.  Various animations and other device specific features (like NFC, Voice control and face detection are also worth turning off if you don’t use them.    Newer versions of Android and some manufacturer’s phones have a notification panel available from the shade, which gives you quick access to turn some of these settings on and off.  If your phone doesn’t, or if you want more, apps like Notification Toggle by J4ELIN is a good option: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=de.j4velin.notificationToggle

 

 

Monitoring what is running

 

Some of the other big culprits draining battery are apps running in the background, but it’s important to know a little about the different types of running apps before we can identify the battery hogs.

 

Android has two types of programs in memory:

1.       “Cached Processes” are apps which you are using or have used recently, these can be seen from the recent apps list.

2.       “Services” run in the background to periodically perform a task (eg check if you have new email or update the weather widget with the current temperature).

 

Most experts now say that using recent version of Android, cached processes actually aren’t the concern people think they are – Having your news app as a cached process because you checked it earlier but are now playing Sudoku actually simply means that when you finish playing and want to see any breaking news, the app will load much faster for you and in fact use less battery than if the device had to load it completely from scratch.  If you start watching videos and doing other things which need the memory the news app is occupying, then Android will quietly unload it from memory before it gets too full.  If you really want to close something yourself, you can bring up the recent tasks list and swipe it to one side.  (http://www.howtogeek.com/166140/you-dont-need-to-install-a-task-manager-how-to-manage-running-apps-on-android/  ).  Where it might be worth closing a specific app you’ve finished with could be where it is still doing something, for instance a GPS app still constantly keeping your location updated.  Often you can close the app either with an “exit” option if the app has one, or by using the ‘back’ button to get out of it, either of which is a more elegant solution than swiping it out of the recent apps.

 

 

Always running services.

 

Services which periodically do things often can use your battery as well as internet data, and it’s a good idea to at least know what is running like this, not to mention that turning things off will stop your phone annoying you constantly with information you probably didn’t need.

 

The battery item in settings mentioned previously is one way of seeing apps which have used a lot of battery recently.  Any apps listed in that section should be apps you’ve deliberately used for a reasonable period of time recently.

 

If you go into your phone’s settings and choose “Applications” (or Application Manager), there are a number of tabs.  The one we want is called “Running” and as the name suggests, it shows you which apps are currently in memory doing things and gives you another way of “force closing” tasks. (Info on processes and services: http://msaudi.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/thread-vs-process-and-service-in-android-part-1/ ).

 

Task killers are another popular way of seeing the same information, however force closing apps using either of these methods may stop features and services from working so take care.  Also, if the app itself is setup to run in the background then it will only come back.  A much more efficient solution is going into that app, and looking in its settings.  A lot of apps, like Gmail, Facebook and weather apps have “Notification” or “Sync” settings which control how often the app looks for new email or status updates or checks the latest temperature respectively.  You can usually tell the app to check for information “Never” which should stop it sitting in memory, or you can change the frequency interval for checks to a less frequent setting.

 

If you can’t find an option in the app or can’t figure out why it is always running, it is worth emailing the developer to ask them.  If they can’t give a satisfactory answer then it might be worth looking for a replacement app which performs a similar function.

 

Remember also that any widgets and live wallpapers you have on your home screens will always be in memory to update as well, and the only way to stop that is to remove the widget (and for wallpapers, use a static image).

 

If something is constantly running but came preinstalled on your phone, you probably can’t uninstall it.  You may be able to “Disable” however, from the settings – applications screen (tap on the app and choose disable).  That will stop it from running or appearing in your app list.  Be very careful if you disable apps and make sure you know what they do and what the consequences are.

 

 

Backing up your phone

 

How you back up your phone will depend on what data you want to keep.  Some things, like Gmail, your calendar appointments and details about apps you have purchased, are kept in the cloud by Google.  Dropbox, Flicker and Google+ at least can all be used to automatically backup photos you take.

 

Individual app data is another story.   Some apps have facilities to back-up their data and restore it but you really need to check each app you want to backup.  There are apps such as Titanium Backup which offer the ability to backup all your app data, however these apps require your phone to be rooted.  (A couple of articles on backing up: http://www.howtogeek.com/140376/htg-explains-what-android-data-is-backed-up-automatically/ and http://mashable.com/2013/08/22/smartphone-backup/ )

 

Performing a factory reset

 

If you are passing on your phone to someone else, you really want to do a factory reset, to clear all your data off it before handing it over.

 

Remember when you do a factory reset, it will delete ALL the data on your phone – your apps, your high scores in games, your photos, music, any passwords the device remembered and so on, so make sure you have anything you need backed up!

 

While I haven’t seen anything supporting factory reset as a way of speeding up your phone the way reformatting your PC does, it is certainly a way of mass deleting unused apps and freeing space on your phone.  It also makes you think a little about what you have installed and what you need or want to have. (http://www.zdnet.com/blog/mobile-news/make-your-old-android-smartphone-as-good-as-new/6209 )

 

 

Summary:

–          Turning off settings you don’t need, lowering screen brightness and using a static background image all help conserve battery.

–          Knowing what apps are running in the background, and looking for “notification” or “sync” settings in apps can save not only your battery and internet usage but also stop your device from constantly trying to get your attention.

–          Making sure your important data is backed up is always a good idea.

–          Performing a factory reset before you pass on your phone will stop that same data being easily accessible to others.

 

 

 

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