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Opinion

Is Android Laggy Or It Might Just Be Your Device?

Everyone who knows me or has spoken to me knows i am an android fan boy and i love android to the max. I talk with a lot of people about mobile technology and I read a lot of comments. A common thread that comes up when people learn that I am Android fanboy is the sentiment that “Android is laggy”. So i am going to try set the record straight: Android isn’t laggy — but your phone or tablet may be.

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Android itself is plenty snappy so basically the problem isn’t with the operating system, but Android does things a bit differently than other mobile operating systems. Android runs tasks all the time, no much unlike most modern desktop computers. The more tasks you’re running, the slower your entire system gets. User interaction tasks, like key presses and mouse clicks, have to get in line just like every other task. Most of the time this approach works great, but sometimes things can get bogged down. When you run a lot of apps with a lot of tasks, lines can get long.

Perception of speed

Here is a little scenario as to how Android works;

Think of you shopping at the mall during a huge shopping day. Lines are long — ridiculously long. It doesn’t matter how smooth the checkout process is, or how friendly the people in line with you are, you’re going to be there a while — just like everyone else.

If someone has a HUGE basket, or they have problems with their payment, or the system can’t find one of the products they’re trying to purchase, that line backs up. People have to either wait, or change to other lines so they can keep moving. That’s the way your desktop and laptop computer work, and it’s pretty much the same for Android. The solution? Open more lanes and optimize the process, right?

Apple’s iOS is different, it puts its emphasis on the user interface above everything else. Essentially, any interaction by the user causes every other task to stop and wait for the user interaction to complete. In our shopping analogy, it would be like walking into the store and every employee stops what they’re doing to focus completely on you. That sounds wonderful, as long as you’re the one who gets all the attention. Everyone else hates you.  This gives the impression of a smooth and fluid experience, but tasks actually take longer to complete under this model than under the model that Android uses.

Hardware

As long as your Android-powered device has sufficient hardware you should be fine. A 1.2GHz dual-core processor (or above), a GIG of RAM (or more), and ample storage space should be plenty to keep your experience satisfactory. There are, however, two problems with this statement.

First, apps are continually changing. They’re getting new features which take more time to process. The hardware that ran all your apps quickly and efficiently with the previous version of all your apps may struggle to run the versions that were just released, not to mention updates that will arrive sometime in the future. This obviously will make my previous statement obsolete and out-of-date sooner than we’d all like to admit.

Second, not all versions of Android are created equal. There are two categories of Android: those that are AOSP-based, and those that are heavily customized by the OEM. HTC, Samsung, LG, Motorola, Infinix,Tecno 3and others take “Android” and modify it — some more than others.

These custom layers can add additional features and functionality, but they come at a cost. Often times that cost is lag. The perfect case-in-point are the Pixel and nexus devices compared to their OEM equivalents. Because these phones are so high-end, the difference in speed (and lag) may be hard to notice, but it’s there if you look closely enough. Those who own the devices powered by stock Android say they’re faster and less laggy than those directly from HTC or Samsung. From my experience, I concur.

Insufficient hardware

It may seem obvious, but the opposite of “sufficient hardware” is “insufficient hardware”. Devices that fall into this category give every other Android-powered device a black-eye. People will see that a smartphone or tablet runs Android, look at an impossibly low price, then impulse buy it — without checking specs or user reviews. Sure, it might perform okay out of the box, but as apps are added or updated, it gets slower and slower until it’s almost unbearable to use.

These devices are cheap — and they’re usually inexpensive, too. Yes, there is a difference. I’m of the opinion that cheap hardware is usually far too expensive when you factor in all the variables.

This is probably Android’s biggest strength, too. Anyone can build a device powered by Android, even if it’s grotesquely under-powered. That’s why Android is currently selling on three out of every four handsets.

Android Go to the rescue?

Google’s Android Go is an extremely light version of the Android operating system based on the Android Oreo, and it is tailor-made for super budget smartphones.

This edition of android is designed to run very light, such that even devices running on 1GB of RAM, which would ordinarily be disastrous in terms of speed, feel fluid.

Google manages to do this by stripping down unnecessary Apps and as a result, the entire operating system takes up less than 2GBs of internal memory on a device. This would ordinarily take up close to, or even more than, 10GBs on devices running a conventional Android operating systems.

Android Go thereby is lowering the memory footprint of the OS and core apps. Doing so should help low-end devices run apps more fluidly and will help to combat the perception of “lag” that so many complain about.

Why is iOS immune?

In addition to the “perception” of speed that we talked about earlier, iOS has one major advantage over Android: Apple controls the hardware.

Think about it, Apple makes every single iPhone and iPad on the market. It controls the version of iOS that runs on each unit, and tweaks the apps and the user experience to take advantage of the hardware powering each device. This means some devices don’t get the features that an OS updates touts, and others get a watered down implementation of the new features.

Google doesn’t have that luxury with Android; OEMs can do as they please.

Android isn’t laggy

Despite what the naysayers say, Android itself isn’t laggy. OEMs who make cheap and under-powered devices are laggy, but those devices would be laggy regardless of which OS they ran.

OEMs (with otherwise sufficiently spec’d devices) that load bloated skins and launchers inadvertently make their devices feel slow and laggy.

Next time someone tells you that “Android is laggy”, point them to this article, and politely tell them that some OEMs deliberately or accidentally “lag up” Android, and you’d gladly help them select a smartphone or tablet that will shame them.

 

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