How To Make Your Android Hand-held Faster

If you are reading this you are probably frustrated because your Android has gotten unbearably sluggish. You press the screen to perform an action and you just wait in disbelief. You wonder what is taking so $#!#$% long?!? Chances are your hand-held is busy doing something else while are trying use it.

Note of explanation, Android OS is a multitasking Operating System which allows it to perform several task simultaneously. You can be downloading a large PDF attachment while listening to a Voice mail. Installing a new app and reading a Web site while the hand-held downloads your email. Multitasking can be productive if your hand-held has the processor and memory to keep up with all those tasks. If it does not it can become unresponsive at times. Thus, if your hand-held does becomes sluggish at times there is a good chance it is busy carrying out one or more other task at the same time you are trying to use it.

My Sprint HTC Hero was getting extremely sluggish before I performed these steps list below. I did them when it was running Android 1.5 and got some improvement. I then upgraded to Android 2.1, which gave me a somewhat of a speed increase, then redid these steps. If you have a Sprint HTC Hero and you are still running version 1.5 of the Android OS, my first suggestion is to upgrade it to Android 2.1. Doing so will help with the speed issue.

My method of making your hand-held more responsive involves:
1. Determining what your hand-held is busy doing.
2. Choosing whether any task found is necessary or could be performed less frequently.
3. Stopping it or reducing the frequency of its activity.

There are still sluggish moments, especially when making phone calls. But in general it’s almost, dare I say, … fast!

 Determining What Your Hand Held Is Busy Doing with Spare Parts

Spare parts allows you too see how much time any applications has been running based on battery usage.

Working with Spare Parts
A. Install Spare Parts from the Market and Launch
B. Choose Battery History from the initial screen

C. Select ‘CPU Usage’ from the first drop down menu and either ‘Total since boot’ or ‘Total in all time’

D. Look towards the top of the resulting list for non-Android System items. Look for Applications or Widgets that you may have installed. You are trying to determine if there is an application that is using a large slice of your battery. If this application is not a System App, and not something you use often, you may want to un-install it. If it automatically updates you should reduce its update frequency. (Hint: System apps tend to have Android in the name)

When I first ran Spare Parts I noticed that the BlueRSS news reader Widget was second in the list. I initially reduced its frequency then removed the Widget from my home screen. This resulted in a performance increase.

Determining What Your Hand Held Is Busy Doing with OS Monitor

OS Monitor is much like the Task List in Windows or the top command in Linux/Unix. It shows you all the applications running on you hand held, and the percentage of CPU each application is currently using.
A. Install OS Monitor from the Market and launch
B. From the main screen choose Menu -> Options
C. Scroll down to and choose Sort by

D. Choose Load

E. Select Order

F. Your display will now contain the list of applications running on your Hand Held sorted by most active to least active.

G. You want to observe the screen for about 30 to 60 seconds as it refreshes. Take note of the CPU Usage and 6 or so applications at the top of the list. Look for applications or widgets that keep popping up towards the top. Look for their Load. If you recognize any applications that you install but no longer use, remove them from your hand held. As with Spare Parts, if you see an app or widget that you know has a refresh time you can lengthen the refresh time of the app so that it runs less often. I find that my hand held responds better when the CPU Usage is roughly below 20%.

As a last tip for increasing your Android hand-held’s responsiveness: I observed that sometimes when I have notification icons in my notification bar, the hand-held appears to slow down. Once I clear them the hand-held is more responsive. So, my last tip is to keep your notification bar empty.

Now it is your turn. Let me know how these tips work for you and if you have any speed tips of your own.

Happy Dancing!

4 thoughts on “How To Make Your Android Hand-held Faster

  1. I’ve got a very simple way to get your Android to scream through it’s tasks. Upgrade to the Droid X, and you will be very impressed!

    I most definitely am, one week into the transition. FYI, I’m a long-time Palm user, and most recently, the original BB Storm Ugh, I’m so glad to be leaving that PoS behind!. Funny, I liked it in the beginning weeks, but that wore off pretty fast. As for my (second) Tungsten T3, I still have a spot for it on my desk, believe it or not.

    Perhaps I’ll want to return back to this post when I get a little more jaded with my Droid X. time will tell.


  2. Dan,
    Thanks for the suggestion. I’m a Sprint customer and not looking to change. I like the speed of the Evo but it is a little to big. It’s like an Ipad mini. I’m hoping HTC comes out with a smaller version of the Evo soon. Evo mini anyone?

  3. I am back, but with no tales of woe re: Droid X performance. So far, with over 75 apps installed, I’m still getting great response out of my phone. There’s no end in sight, although I have a feeling I’ll be dumping apps onto the SD card before too much longer!

    When I was growing up, the phone in my house was a big ugly black PoS Bell telephone that took forever to dial out on. I can’t even compare that to the amazing and sophisticated piece of equipment I now use. Further, I can’t imagine what our smartphones will look like in 10 or 20 years.

  4. I just got a Droid X, and yeah, the thing is *fast*. The overall design is pretty good too, though there are issues, like no navigation button and a too-clever web browser. Anybody know a way I can install the generic android browser?

    But “upgrade your hardware” is not advice everybody can take. And here’s some advice they can: delete stuff you’re not using. Many Android apps seem to have a nasty case of memory bloat, so it doesn’t take a lot of them to clog up memory — and without a lot of free space, the OS can’t run efficiently. The app manager will give you a list of apps sorted by memory footprint. Likely there are space hogs you can do without.

    I’m a little puzzled as to how Droid X so thoroughly avoids this problem. It has more RAM than the competition, but not that much more. And the fast CPU isn’t going to make clogged memory any faster, any more than a Ferrari can overcome traffic gridlock. There must be some clever memory management hardware in there.

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