If you’re using a phone or tablet powered by Google’s open source Android software, chances are you’ve probably asked yourself this question. Google’s Play Store offers users thousands upon thousands of free or low cost software and media, making it tempting to fill up even the highest capacity device with all kinds of goodies. Not to mention all of those high-res vacation photos you took. So many gigabytes, but never enough.
Whether or not you have too many apps installed comes down to how those apps are using up your device’s memory. Like any computer, Android devices need two kinds of memory to function: RAM or random access memory, for short term storage, and flash memory, for long term storage. RAM is much faster than flash, but smaller in size and needs a constant source of electricity. Cut the power and everything in RAM vanishes. Unlike media (photos, movies, and music), apps gobble up some portion of RAM, not just the long term flash storage. This is because apps and other programs need to load some of their code into RAM to run smoothly, and with RAM being on smaller side, that puts a limit on how many apps you can run at any given time. If you try to run too much at once, apps will struggle for resources, elbowing out system processes and other programs. If resources get too limited, system sluggishness and instability can result, making the user experience a painfully frustrating one.
Some apps only run when you want them to; others run in the background, possibly without you realizing it, secretly eating up precious resources (including battery). If you worry that you have too many apps, it probably means you suspect or have experienced some system instability or other performance issue. The first step is acknowledging the problem. The next step is to figure out whether your performance troubles are the result of a resource issue or something murkier.
First, reboot your device. Next, access Settings, then scroll down to and open App Manager. Swipe to the right until you arrive at the Running tab. If you’re running Android Lollipop (v5), you’ll see a nice summation of your running apps and the impact they have on RAM. If there is any app running that you no longer need, make note of it and uninstall it later.
Note that Android Lollipop smartly manages your RAM and will always use as much as it can for better performance and stability. Unused RAM is wasted RAM. Your RAM usage will always be 50% or higher, since Android will reserve space for future and current needs. What we want to investigate is a chronic excess of RAM use, 75% or higher, and the programs that contribute to this. Remove any programs you don’t need or can live without. Some apps are notorious for bogging down device performance and chewing up battery (I’m looking at you, Facebook…). Others are just poorly written and not well optimized.
It takes time, patience, and some trial and error to find and resolve Android performance problems, but the results can be well worth it. Even top-tier Androids can run much slower than their Apple counterparts due to unregulated, rogue programs or system processes. It takes a little more diligence from the average Android user to keep everything running smoothly. If things get too hairy and you find yourself unsure of what to do, give Poindexter a call and we’ll help you get your Android device back up to standards.