Protip: Swiping away recent apps is killing your device’s performance


recent apps

At this point in Android’s history it has been well established that task killers are a bad thing. Android is built to manage tasks for you. If you constantly kill them you can negatively impact performance. Nowadays we’re too smart to use task killers, but could we be harming performance in a different way?

The developer of Greenify, an app that auto-hibernates rarely used apps, has dropped some knowledge about the recent apps switcher. He says constantly swiping away apps from the recent apps screen is not good practice. “it reduces the efficiency of process cache mechanism in Android, thus impact the performance of your device.”

He says clearing recent apps does free up a lot of memory, but at the expense of later performance and battery consumption. A lot of people like to keep the recent apps switcher clean and tidy by swiping away apps they are done using. This is not a good idea if you plan on using those apps again soon. When the recent apps switcher was new there was debate about what exactly swiping away an app was doing. Now we know it kills the task, just like those task killers of old.


Joe Fedewa
Ever since I flipped open my first phone I've been obsessed with the devices. I've dabbled in other platforms, but Android is where I feel most at home.

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  1. It should only show apps currently running

    1. Whether an app is “running” or not is an implementation detail that the user shouldn’t have to deal with. This is especially true on Android where the line between running and not running is very blurry. What exactly does running even mean? That it’s process is alive? That its components still have saved state available? That its Activity is in the foreground? That it has a service with foreground priority? The user doesn’t care about any of this and shouldn’t need to.

      Instead the OS should manage its memory the best it can, while keeping as much loaded as possible. Unused RAM is wasted RAM. When apps are unloaded from memory and later brought back in, it should appear as if it never left memory (that’s what the saved state is for). To the user their device should be a magic box that doesn’t have to worry about how many apps are “running”.

      Apps should be responsible for managing their power and data consumption with only a small amount of oversight from the OS. If apps need to do work in the background they should be able to, and that decision should be made by the developers of the app with consideration for the user. The user should be kept in control of these apps, but as a last resort for misbehaving apps, not as a general practice. It is the OS’s responsibility to provide transparency and tracking of the consumption of the user’s apps, and to provide kill switches when absolutely necessary.

      1. Webos nuff said

        1. That bogged down mess?

          1. Whatever you think of it is irrelevant it did multitasking right

            Better than the current players

          2. Dude, I was a Palm Pre fan. I bought it on lauch day. I used it from June to October. It was a slow, bogged down mess. TOO MANY CARDS error, sometimes with just two open.

          3. Os is good it needed optimization and better hardware

            Take the multitasking part and put it in android and you got a great os

          4. I don’t know, I didn’t like the card system. Multitasking cards were always in your face, you had no home screen. I feel that multitasking should be in the background.

          5. It’s the best way to do it even Apple copied it lol

          6. Apple’s is about the same as Android’s way of doing it. You have to press a button to get to the tabs. On WebOS, the cards were always there.

          7. Apple’s way still suspends the apps in background while android is almost like webos.

            Webos was akin to Windows with cards

    2. Incorrect. The “recent tasks” list is not a process manager. It’s a UI to ease multitasking. An app that crashed or was killed because of memory pressure will be in this list.

      1. Like I said it SHOULD do people only see what they wanna see?

  2. So… we shouldn’t swipe away apps that we plan on using again in the foreseeable future.. What about apps that we have no need to run again?

    1. You should uninstall those ;)

      1. Unfortunately, having kids, they are a necessary evil.

        1. I see…

        2. I cannot upvote your comment enough. I have to kill whole lotta games on my boys N7’s every hour. Otherwise I’ll have to reboot the tablets altogether. If Google intended to manage the tasks for us, most of the developers certainly won’t share the same mindset.

    2. What’s the point of swiping it away? It’ll go away on it’s own. No need to even waste the effort. Unless you press home to leave apps.

      For example, my calculator app. I never open that thing. When I leave, I press back to close the app and not home. It will be in my recent apps, but it’s not running. So no need to swipe it away.

      1. My kids like to load up games that take a metric crap ton of memory. Now… in a just world, Android would quickly see that I need the memory for my app and would dispatch whatever bits of the game are still hanging out in RAM. In reality, however, the game sputters on and my app feels pokey. It seems to me like there are times when swiping away the app is the right way to go.

        1. It should be for misbehaving apps (in this case the games might be taking to long to release their resources), not as a general practice. I still would recommend against proactively swiping them away, and do it just when needed.

        2. Agreed!

      2. Even if you hit home it will be removed from memory eventually. The only difference is it will save its state so it can be resumed as if it was never unloaded. It won’t consume any more resources (other then a negligible amount of space for the saved state).

  3. I feel like its still a good idea to swipe away apps like Facebook that seem to wake the CPU every 5 seconds to check for updates. I could be wrong though

  4. What is considered “soon”? in the next 5 minutes? next hour? later that night? some apps need to be swiped away, like pandora, waze, or exited through the apps themselves(which generally takes multiple clicks and swipes, or they just keep the processor/data flowing.

  5. I always clear apps I know I won’t be using for awhile (say several hours at least).

    1. Yea I’m the same way…

  6. This advise do more harm than help. I once followed and my data use jump twice regular use.

  7. Rather than allowing us to “swipe to kill” apps (which I do use when my device is running sluggish (yes, it does happen), I’d love to see a “pin” for apps which force it to stay in the memory and never get killed unless the user wants to. This is what would make multitasking truly functional, rather than have to refresh web tabs, reload auto-saved files, etc.

  8. I find it helpful to swipe away apps that I don’t run often, especially games as it “feels” bogged down until I do. Things that I use frequently I leave alone. Experience has shown it useful, and these articles that say there is no benefit across the board reflect this. IMHO.

  9. then why you let users to do such thing?

    1. bingo… I think at the end of the day, we still need the function. Mainly for killing apps that aren’t working correctly, allowing us to freshly start it up.

  10. Nah, we need the functionality. It has a use… especially when one games on their device. I remember I was playing a little Uno late at night after banging my hot GF. Afterwards I set my phone down after an exhausting night (phone was at 62%). When I awoke the next morning my phone was at 22%. What was the culprit? Uno had been running in the background sucking sweet, sweet battery life out of my One M8. Moral of the story? Your going to have to manually kill SOME apps SOMEtimes.

    1. “After banging my hot gf.” LOL

      1. Oh goodness… how did that manage to slip in? LoL

        1. That’s what she said :P

      2. In your case, your hot bf.

    2. Pics, or it didn’t happen.

  11. Too much paranoic thing to me. :D

  12. this is bs.lol. This has had no negative impact on performance for me and I been using since the nexus 4

  13. This would be great if apps behaved and stopped using resources when onStop was called. But many don’t. If you want terrible battery life feel free to leave them there. Memory was never the issue. I’m not sure I buy the caching argument anyway. Almost all apps are destroyed and recreated on an orientation shift, so what are you gaining?

    1. The activity is destroyed and recreated on an orientation shift, not the entire app.

  14. Tbh swiping away helps the speed of my device… So I’m good with it

  15. I don’t understand the logic behind all this. You kill apps to free ram what’s the problem with that???

    1. I think the thought goes that if you’re killing all apps when you’re done, the next time you use your phone you have to relaunch all those apps again, or at least any you want to use. It’s less efficient to launch them fresh than to let them sit in your cache. The only apps you’d want to close would be the ones you don’t intend to use again for the next hour or so.

    2. It takes battery and time to reload an app into memory that you killed then ran again later. You don’t need to free ram up yourself, Android will kill unused apps if more memory is needed.

      1. Yeah that makes sense but I don’t understand why the article says it’s killing the performance of the phone.

        1. Takes longer to load, and uses more battery to do so.

  16. Yeah a lot of apps don’t get killed by the internal manager… If I don’t clear them my battery dies a lot quicker than if I do.

  17. Notifications and apps get killed on my phone ASAP. I’ve had some battery hogging apps in the background. You’ll see it easily in settings>battery to see some figures.

    1. If an app is wasting battery in the background, by all means kill it, or better yet find an alternative that doesn’t. Leave the apps that aren’t hurting anything alone.

  18. I’m not sure I buy the caching argument anyway.

  19. bullshit…in theory yeah but in actuality this article is complete bullshit..

    1. Care to share with the class why it’s BS?

  20. If the fuckers would stop freezing up I might stop ending them. Chrome and Youtube are always choking up, forcing me to close them; especially when using Chromecast.

    1. On occasion I find an app in the background wasting battery, often after using it with Chromecast or bluetooth audio. Swiping them away tends to stop the battery drain.

      Most of the time this doesn’t happen, the apps just sit harmlessly idle.

  21. then the apps should be able to be properly quit when we are done rather then this always running the background bs. i see no reason why everything always needs to be running as the creator of the app sees fit, rather then us having control of the app. even though i use android as phone and have for a good few years now, i still think the os is far inferior

    1. Usually the app isn’t actually running in the background, it just sitting idle in memory so that it’s already loaded when you use it again, saving time and battery.

      1. if it can spam notifications whenever it pleases, even after it’s “quit” it isn’t dead.

        1. Notice I said *usually*. If an app is spamming notifications, get rid of it.

    2. Inferior to what ?

      1. I agree with what you are saying about killing apps, but my recent experience with apple os, I was left with a sense of its immaturity compared to android os.

    3. If you say androids multitasking is inferior to iOS’s, you are going to start a riot. Fair warning.

      1. Also since Android had it first, lol.

      2. i was thinking more like windows, or desktop os’s in general. I have never used an ios device so I have no idea about that.

  22. I dont know about anyone else, but id rather waste the fraction of battery and time to restart an app than have it eating memory and other resources when im not using it, simply for the convenience of it popping up .005 seconds sooner. This article is ridiculous.

    1. What’s wrong with having an app “eating memory and other resources” when your phone is in your pocket? And for some apps, it’s much quicker to leave them in the recent apps (Google Drive being an example.)

      1. True, but is a fraction of a second longer “much quicker” ? I swipe away every app and chrome tab when not using them. Its more of a habit now.

    2. It is frozen, it isn’t eating anything. Unused memory, is wasted memory. You are just OCD. Get help for that.

  23. Everyone here has made some good points about the pros & con’s of the topic at hand…just comes down to personal preference though! I’ve always been told IF IT WORKS,DONT F%CK WITH IT! I like the convenience of going to recents to bring back an app and BAM, it’s there!

  24. This is something those idiot Verizon Store reps told my wife she needed to do when she bought her first Android phone a few months ago . The same idiot Verizon Store reps that told me I needed a task killer and actually downloaded Advanced Task Killer onto my LG Ally “to show me how to use the app store” when I got my first Android phone back in 2010.

    1. The Verizon reps probably didn’t know any better, as the prevailing thought, at that time, was that you needed a task manager or you would kill your battery, live and learn.

  25. I usually only swipe my recent tasks away when I’m going to bed or not going to use my phone (or that specific app) for a while.

  26. I keep Advanced Task Killer running, but I don’t have it auto kill anything. When one of my Android devices performance gets flaky, I’ll manually have ATK kill everything and invariably the performance returns to normal levels.

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