Android O Feature focus : Improved battery life with limits on background apps

The size of our mobile phones have increased a lot thanks to a total trend reversal. So has the size of the batteries used in them. Yet that hasn’t translate into an increased battery life because technology is moving forward at a rapid pace. Powerful processors, fabulous displays, highly packed screen resolution, so much RAM, but the battery technology is still stuck where it was a decade ago. Of course, you know all about it too. So until something revolutionary happens in batteries, we will probably have to depend on the software to give us the most out of them. 

Battery life is one of the most important, if not the most important factor for a lot of people after all. Google says it wants to improve battery life on Android devices, but hasn’t the company said the same thing with every new iteration of the OS? I personally, have only seen the battery life of my devices dwindling down after each Android update. Granted, it could be the fault of the OEM or just the battery getting old, but none of th tweaks previously introduced by Google have had as much of an impact on battery life as we’d like.

With Android O, however, things look more hopeful since Google is putting restrictions on background apps for the first time in Android’s history.

The OS will be putting restrictions to background activities in three main areas: implicit broadcasts, background services, and location updates. In simple words, implicit broadcasts are like device-wide announcements that apps could listen to. For instance, when the bluetooth is turned on, or when the device gets connected to a Wi-Fi network. Currently on Android, an app can sign up for these broadcasts and wake up the moment it happened. Some of you may have noticed those annoying notifications from Facebook Messenger and UC Browser telling you to sign in to your WiFi network. How dumb do you think we are, stupid apps?

Other than being annoying this also leads to a performance drop and reduced battery life. Although, it was more like a side effect of something really great because these implicit broadcasts are how Google Photos, or any other cloud backup app detects that you have a “new picture” so they can upload it to the cloud. Another side effect to that is, suppose you take a lot of pictures suddenly you have all sorts of apps running in the background doing all sorts of things. Not good for performance, not good for the battery. But don’t worry, you will not lose that nice functionality bundled with these side-effects.

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At Google I/O 2016, Google talked about a new API called Job Scheduler. As you might have guessed from the name, Job Scheduler will batch these background processes into a big junk of background process time which shall preferably happen when the phone is idle, or even better when its charging. Apps can sign up for Jobs Scheduler just as they could for implicit broadcasts. There aren’t many details about this API yet, we will probably know more in the coming months.

As for background services, something similar to job scheduler will happen wherein a background app will be allowed to create and use services in the background only for a limited amount of time not yet specified. After their alloted time is over, the app will have to shut down all its background services. As a result, there will not be a ton of background apps draining your device’s battery all the time.

Google is also working on figuring out how long should it let background apps retrieve a user’s location. For the first developer preview, the apps are allowed to get location a few times every hour but the company says it will be listening to feedback and may adjust this in future releases.

What do you think about Google’s approach to saving battery life with Android O? Do you think it will help?

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