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Why Do Droid Apps Need To Continuously Run?

500px-android-logosvgIn my initial review of the Motorola Droid phone, I pointed out how I noticed that applications continue to run in the background, even when I am not using them.  If I am completely not using an application, why do they need to keep running if they are not in use?

I like having applications like Foursquare, Photoshop Mobile and Last.Fm on my phone.  I use them with varying degrees of frequency. This doesn’t mean they need to be using system memory and battery life to keep themselves alive when not in use.  It is convenient to have a lite version of Photoshop on my phone for quick picture edits or artistic filtering, but that doesn’t mean it needs to keep running when not in use.

In my quest to free memory and save battery, I scoured the Android Marketplace for an application to ease my woes and found Advanced Task Killer (ATK).  ATK allows you to see a list of applications that are running and are able to end the processes by clicking a checkmark on the list of applications and pressing the “KILL selected apps” button. This normally frees 20 to 40 megs of system memory for me, according to the indicator in the top bar of the application.

The ATK solution has two drawbacks. The first is that ATK itself does not have any quit option.  To quit from ATK, you must have it checked in the list as well to close ATK with the other applications. The second is the applications will execute themselves in the background without prompting and will need to be killed in ATK.

An alternative is Task Manager.  In addition to the ability to kill running applications, Task Manager gives full system statistics, including battery status, CPU status, and current bandwidth usage.  It is a more complex tool, and it will appeal to the more geek oriented userbase of this phone to see the more in depth view of the files, applications, and processes of their phone, but ATK makes for a better application for the common user.

It is worth pointing out that when both ATK and Task Manager are both running, they will not see each other.  Neither application will see each other, and since neither application has a menu option to quit, it must be killed from within itself.

As much as I enjoy the ability to run multiple applications on the Droid, it is unnecessary for all these applications to run when not in use.  This includes system applications that are not in use.  ATK and Task Manager let me kill those apps I’ve installed along with system applications I don’t use, like email (I use the native Gmail app instead) and Corporate Calendar (the regular Calendar app syncs with Google Calendars, Corporate is for Exchange calendars), and improve the usage on my Droid.

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