Task Killers. The Good, Bad and Ugly

Task killers were something that at one point when you bought your phone you were told you needed. Now there are a lot of debates (ok maybe arguments) over what is the right thing.  In an attempt to enlighten the masses I have done a little research to help you make an informed decision. Comments are welcome, and please, correct me if I am misinformed..

From the way I understand it…  I am going to go through “A Day in the Life” of an Android app:  Let’s say you want to play a game. So you load up your Tank Hero app.  You are playing along, and in this example we will have you at work, and your boss walks into the room.  You quickly hit the Home key and pretend like nothing happened (nice reaction time). You app moves from an active status, to a paused status.  It’s not actually “killed” but it isn’t running, All of a sudden you get an email from your work email, and the alert goes off.  You grab your phone and check the email, which has a spreadsheet attached to it.  You open the attachment and get thrown back into work.

At this point you have forgotten all about the Tank Hero game, but your phone hasn’t.  As these other apps you started using needed the memory that the game was using, so it kills the app. But don’t fret, it kills the app nicely.  Actually I think that “kills” is a little harsh of a word. It is more like suspending. It closes the app, and attaches the state of the app – for most apps.  A good example of this is when you are in the web browser.  It will typically save the state of the app, so when you close the app (or Android closes it for you) it will pick up right where you left off.

Apps with a built in save feature can save to the last save.  A good example of this is one of my favorite games Worms HD.  It is a remake of a classic turn based artillery game in which you fight different teams of worms.  In that game, it autosaves at the end of every turn, so if you manually kill the task, it restarts at the beginning of the turn.  If you let the OS kill the task it will still do the same.

So back to the scenario… You boss is now out of sight, and you are all caught up on your work (well as caught up as you need to be for now) and you start thinking about that Tank Hero game again.  You go back into your apps and load up the game and start playing it, just like you had never left it.  All without really bogging down the memory of your phone.

I came across this chart that follows the life cycle of an app.

With all this technical mumbo-jumbo, where do task killers fit in.  A lot of people out there are strongly opinionated in the fact that task killers are bad and you shouldn’t use them.  I disagree.  I feel like there is a place on your phone for a task killer. If you are running a poorly coded app and it freezes up a task killer is a good option to unfreeze that frozen app, and a lot of times it is easier to use the app than it is to load up the Settings – Applications – Manage Applications menu.  A second reason to use a task killer is for people out there using an older Android version. The built in task management capabilities aren’t as good with 1.5 and 1.6 along with 2.0 and 2.1.  With these versions you may have luck with a task killer.

So, now is your chance to add your own $.02 to this discussion. Any comments, corrections or opinions.  I would love to hear/learn more about this…

Some “Best of the Best” accessories for your Android phone: