How to Improve My Android Device Performance


With the release of Android 2.3, codenamed "Gingerbread," the smartphone operating system became more than just a smartphone operating system, with support for tablet-sized screens. Later releases such as 3.0 “Honeycomb” and 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” expanded further on these features, supporting multicore processors and network data monitoring. Depending on your device model, Android can control multiple cameras, gyroscopes or even near-field communication sensors. You can purchase apps from Google Play -- formerly known as Android Market -- which features over 450,000 applications from games to social media tools to home-screen widgets as of March 2012.

These features come with a price, however. Performance can suffer if numerous applications are open, or if background applications use too many resources. Battery life may decrease if the processor is working overtime downloading Facebook updates or animating a weather report on your home screen. You’ll usually know when your Android device feels slow or your battery isn't lasting through the day, but a little troubleshooting and an ounce of prevention may help you to remain on good terms with your phone or tablet.

Identifying Performance Problems

  • Determine when your device is slowing down. Is it sluggish only when you’re Web browsing, or when you’re reading email or using a specific application? Is the battery draining faster at home than it does at work? The timing of your performance issues is a great indicator of where the problem lies.

  • Open the Manage Applications tool to look for for applications that might be eating up your processing power while they’re in the background. If a specific app is using a significant percentage of your resources, you may want to kill it, remove it or look for an update. To open the Manage Applications tool, press the Menu button, tap “Settings,” tap “Applications” and tap “Manage Applications.” Tap “Running” to see the currently running apps, along with the amount of time they’ve been running as well as the number of services and amount of memory they’re using.

  • Check for battery drains using Android’s Battery Use monitor, which logs the power consumption of your device’s apps and services. To open Battery Use, tap “About Phone” or "About Device" in your system settings, and tap “Battery Use.”

Optimizing Android Performance

  • Remove apps you don’t use, and move the ones you do to your SD card to reduce their memory load. To move or remove an app, open the Manage Applications tool and tap the app you want to manage. To move the app, tap “Move to SD Card” or “Move to USB Card,” and to delete the app, tap “Uninstall.” You may also kill running apps to free resources, but you should take care to kill only optional apps and not important services. If you find you’re frequently killing a particular app, consider reinstalling it or removing it altogether.

  • Minimize unnecessary pings, syncs and updates in your applications. If you’re running social media apps like Tweetdeck, news-and-weather widgets or even Android’s email app, you can reduce memory and battery load by decreasing the frequency with which they check for new information. For the best power savings, set your apps to update manually.

  • Use only the widgets you need, and reduce or eliminate resource-tapping animations in wallpapers and menus. To remove unnecessary home-screen widgets, press and hold the widget to select it, and drag it to the Trash. To turn animated menus into static menus, open your Settings, tap “Display,” tap “Animations” and tap “No Animations.”

  • Set Flash to run only when necessary in your Web browser. Disabling Flash until you need it may speed up your browsing considerably. To find the Flash settings, tap the Menu icon in your Android browser, tap “More,” tap “Settings” and tap “Enable Plug-Ins.” Change the setting from “Always On” to “On Demand.” To view a Web page's Flash content on demand, tap the content you want to see. If you use a third-party browser such as Opera, Dolphin or Skyfire, consult the browser's documentation for help disabling Flash. Firefox for Android does not support Flash as of March 2012.

  • Disable Bluetooth, GPS and Wi-Fi when you don’t need them. When you’re not using these features, they continue to use power to search for a connection. Android’s Power Control widget lets you quickly enable or disable these functions. The one exception to this rule occurs when you have a constant Wi-Fi connection throughout the day. In this situation, setting your Wi-Fi to never sleep will prevent your phone or tablet from using its cellular radios to sync when the screen sleeps, saving power.

  • Turn down your screen’s brightness and optimize timeouts to conserve battery power. The screen is the largest battery draw on your Android device, so these changes can make a considerable difference. To change brightness, use the Power Control widget or go to your device’s Settings, tap “Display” and tap “Brightness.” If you check “Automatic Brightness,” the device will use its ambient light sensor to adjust the screen’s brightness, but reducing the brightness manually will save more energy. To change the screen timeout setting, tap “Screen Timeout” in the “Display” settings.

Tips & Warnings

  • Because Android runs on a wide variety of devices, optimal speed and battery life varies greatly, and your device may include third-party applications or widgets installed by the manufacturer or wireless carrier. If you're unsure about your device's capabilities, consult its user manual or contact customer support.
  • Killing, moving or removing important system software or services may cause your device to become unstable or unusable. Only perform these operations on optional applications.

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  • Photo Credit Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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