We've extensively reported on OEMs that needlessly kill useful background processes to save battery life, creating problems like missed notifications and alarms, aborted sleep tracking, broken upload schedules, and more. While all of these issues are annoying, they're not exactly life-threatening. However, as soon as we're talking about coronavirus tracing apps, missed exposure notifications could put you or others at risk, and it looks like that happened to the German COVID-19 tracking app, which hasn't been able to alert some people due to background restrictions.
Battery life has been an Android bugbear for years. While Google has made some significant changes to its mobile OS to improve things (with success, I'd argue), many popular smartphone makers still feel the need to take further steps to enhance longevity — and it's coming at a cost. Many go above and beyond the battery life enhancements featured in so-called "stock" Android, and frequently these alterations cause problems, resulting in issues ranging from delayed notifications, to prematurely killed apps, and even outright breaking behaviors that developers rely on. In fact, the lack of predictability that has ensued under the current laissez-faire power management scheme has become so dire that it recently took the top spot in a developer AMA request thread for Android 11 on reddit.
Google's Android AMA is underway, and the team's engineers have already answered the most hotly-anticipated question: How will Google fix the problem of inconsistent background limits across different manufacturers and devices? It's a long-standing problem where overly aggressive power management tweaks break functionality in plenty of apps, resulting in a headache for developers and frustration for users. According to the AMA, Google does plan on making a few changes to help fix things, but the company isn't doing all that it could.
OnePlus just published a recap of its second "Open Ears Forum" from all the way back in May. At the event, it gathered a handful of developers and fans central to the OnePlus community to solicit their feedback. Four months later, the company has revealed a set of changes influenced by that feedback, including more timely kernel sources for Open Betas and a new bounty program for reporting vulnerabilities. Most importantly for customers, though, OnePlus has promised to finally fix how aggressive its software is at killing apps in the background.
Usually, OnePlus is praised for its Oxygen OS software, which offers a light-touch, near-stock experience — at least, visually. Turns out, the company has been making some deeper changes to Android on its phones, and not all of them are for the best. Right now one of the most frustrating parts of OnePlus ownership for many is the company's aggressive battery optimization settings, which can kill apps you may want to be kept open. And worse, if you try to disable these settings on a per-app basis, they can be later randomly reset to defaults.
The days when third-party battery-saving apps were necessary to hit a satisfactory number of hours off a single charge are long behind the vast majority of Android users, thanks to improvements like Doze and Adaptive Battery. But in some cases, this measure of progress has become something of a Pyrrhic victory, with useful background processes carelessly destroyed and developers taking the brunt of user ire. Well, the Urbandroid team — the gang behind apps Sleep As Android, Twilight, and others — doesn't plan on going quietly into the night. In fact, they're going on the offensive with a new informational website where the most flagrant OEM offenders are shamed and users and developers are educated.
Google's recent batch of Pixels aren'twithout their issues, and as more phones get in consumer's hands, new reports of problems surface. The latest controversy stems from the Pixel 3's apparent inability to shuffle more than a few apps at a time. In fact, taking a photo is apparently enough to kill Spotify if it's playing music in the background, and in our own tests cycling more than 3-4 apps can force some out of memory. Maybe 4GB of RAM wasn't enough for a flagship phone in 2018 after all, Google?
We still don't have much solid information about the next release of Android — we've heard that Android P could have some notch optimizations and that access to undocumented APIs could get blocked, but we don't really know too much more than that. However, the open-source nature of Android means that we can sometimes get a glimpse of what the next release of Android might have in store.
Yesterday at I/O Google had an interesting talk called Background Check and Other Insights into the Android Operating System Framework. It's a long name, but really it's about improving battery life in Android. It went on at great length as to how, exactly, the team plans on doing that, and it's quite worth a watch. We have the video here, but if you don't have the half-hour to check it out, then you are welcome to read below.
Just about every new version of Android has reportedly improved battery life for end users... with a range of successes and failures over the years. In the upcoming Android O, Google is banking on a new feature called background limits to extend battery longevity. The basic idea is that the system will automatically limit the active capabilities of background apps, in a way that won't be detrimental to users while reducing overall resource use.