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Modern background execution in Android

Android Developers Blog

Posted by Luiz Gustavo Martins, Partner Developer Advocate, Partner DevRel

This is the third in a series of blog posts in which outline strategies and guidance in Android with regard to power.

Over the years, executing background tasks on Android has evolved. To write modern apps, it's important to learn how to run your background tasks in modern fashion.

When is an app in the background?

Before understanding what background execution is, we need to have a clear view of when Android understands an app to be in the foreground. An app is considered to be in the foreground if any of the following is true:

If none of those conditions is true, the app is considered to be in the background.

Background execution changes

Running tasks in the background consumes a device's limited resources, like RAM and battery. This might result in a bad user experience. For example, background tasks may degrade the battery life of the device or the user may experience poor device performance at times such as watching a video, playing a game, using the camera.

To improve battery life and give a better user experience, Android has evolved over several releases to establish limits on background execution. These limits include:

Use cases and solutions

Deciding which tools to use to implement background execution requires the developer to have a clear understanding of what they want to accomplish, and under which restrictions. This flowchart can help you make a decision:

In Summary:

Use Case Examples Solution
Guaranteed execution of deferrable work
  • Upload logs to your server
  • Encrypt/Decrypt content to upload/download
WorkManager
A task initiated in response to an external event
  • Syncing new online content like email
FCM + WorkManager
Continue user-initiated work that needs to run immediately even if the user leaves the app
  • Music player
  • Tracking activity
  • Transit navigation
Foreground Service
Trigger actions that involve user interactions, like notifications at an exact time.
  • Alarm clock
  • Medicine reminder
  • Notification about a TV show that is about to start
AlarmManager

Use background execution judiciously so that you can build cool apps that delight users while saving their battery. If you need more information on executing background tasks on Android, there's great content at the Android developer site.

Note: WorkManager is still in public preview. If you need an alternative solution right now, you should use JobScheduler, although it has limitations that don't apply to WorkManager. JobScheduler is part of the Android Framework, and only available for Android API 21 and above; WorkManager works on API 14 and above.

Acknowledgements: This series of blog posts is produced in collaboration between the Android Framework and DevRel teams

October 16th 2018, 1:03 pm
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