My sister and brother-in-law just upgraded from their old feature phones to new Android smartphones. Luckily (and unlike a lot of friends and family who ask for my advice), they listened to me and went with a phone that would truly make them happy, not just their wallets. They made quite a big jump, so the questions began rolling in as soon as I met with them and our real life "Where's Waldo" adventure ended. During my layman's break-down of Android, rooting and all other aspects of the platform the conversation took a turn that sort of struck a nerve.

Upon buying your new phone, sometimes the carrier representative that has been helping you will try to give you a quick run-down and explain some things for you. Or maybe you have consulted a friend who has been behind the driver's seat with an Android smartphone before for some advice. Nine (maybe even ten) times out of ten, the rep or friend will suggest you install a task manager or "killer" (as they are often referred to) to help with both smoothness of performance of the phone and battery life. (Even I was guilty of this at one time, but have since been corrected thanks to our awesome readers.)

The truth is, these task managers and Android work against each other. Task killers are redundant, unnecessary and typically cause more harm than good. Yes, this goes against all that you have been told as an Android user; they seem like they're helping. This is called a placebo effect. So why are these app managers bad? How do they actually cause harm?

Unlike a PC where you must manage memory yourself by closing programs, the Android OS (2.2 and above) is meant to manage memory and processes on its own. Let's say the user launches an application. This app will then stay in memory until it absolutely needs to be closed. This is done to improve application launch time; the app will "run" in the background – leaving battery and performance essentially unaffected – ready to be launched again at any moment.

If a previously launched application is kept in memory, launching it again at a later time will take much less time. Killing the app removes it from memory and will slow down the application launch next time you need it. Android will automatically begin closing applications as needed, starting with the ones that have been inactive for the longest.

Most of these dreaded task manager applications come with a “kill all” or “autokill” feature. Why is this bad? I don't think I can explain it any better than Whitson Gordon of Lifehacker:

"... it's actually possible that this will worsen your phone's performance and battery life. Whether you're manually killing apps all the time or telling the task killer to aggressively remove apps from your memory, you're actually using CPU cycles when you otherwise wouldn't—killing apps that aren't doing anything in the first place.

In fact, some of the processes related to those apps will actually start right back up, further draining your CPU. If they don't, killing those processes can cause other sorts of problems—alarms don't go off, you don't receive text messages, or other related apps may force close without warning. All in all, you're usually better off letting your phone work as intended—especially if you're more of a casual user."

Now that we have that out of the way, how can these pesky task managers be of use? Well, in the case of a rogue app that, unbeknownst to you, is eating away at your CPU, you can kill the app using a task manager. Then again, the "force stop" feature is built into Android itself, effectively making any third-party task managers pointless.

Also, how would you know if an application is poorly coded or has gone rogue? Not all task killers are alike. More importantly, not all of them are bad. For instance, the popular application Watchdog monitors CPU (instead of RAM) and will alert you if an app is acting up. You can then take further action to stop the runaway app. If an app shows up once or twice in Watchdog, it's probably a fluke. If it shows up constantly or several times, try uninstalling to see if there is a change in performance or battery life. Like Gordon said, "If an app is causing problems on your phone, you're probably better off without it."

Since the introduction of Froyo, these task killers have secretly been plaguing Android users, stealing from performance, battery and sanity. Please spread the word and help out any fellow Androidian you may encounter that still uses a dreaded task manager app. And for the love of God, next time you are in a carrier store and a rep suggests installing "Deluxe App Destroyer 3000," correct them and explain to them that you would actually like to improve your phone's performance, not kill it.

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98 Reactions to this post

"Do you use an Android task killer?"

Please limit your reaction to 140 characters or use comments for a longer reply :)
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Scott Kurtz Update from yesterdays post...I already notice a difference from deleting the Task killer I was using. I unplugged my phone from the charger at 8am, and at 6pm the battery indicator is yellow. I didn't use it any more than I usually do when I had the task killer installed. When the task killer was installed, the battery indicator stayed green up to most days around 10pm. What can you conclude other than task killers work.
Daniel Christopher Hadley Nope, androids linux codebase has very capable resource management built in from what I understand.
Anonymous @Omar STFU, No one asked and iDiot like you, who's probably too dumb to know what App Killers do...
Aditya Gopi Dodda No I don't. Am using Serendipity 6.4 on Captivate.
Preston Schmith Thanx for the article! I had atk and evan bought a 1800 millyamp hr battery for my htc inspire still had to charge it @ least twice a day. Deleted the atk this morning and still at 76% 14 hrs later... HTC Inspire 4G AT&T
Roman Galysh I use them on my EVO and tablet. Doesn't hurt anything I can see
Taylor Martin @William Smith That's because the phone launches them at bootup to keep them in cue. Since they will not hurt battery life or slow down performance from just being in RAM, they are there, ready to go.
Ob Ad Yes..I do.
Nick Kathrein With the newest versions of Andriod I don't feel the need to kill apps. Most of the custom roms are good also so it's not necessary. I installed it just in case but never really use it.
William Smith Well if your not suppose to use them why is there 20 programs running on my thunderbolt before I use the task killer.
Joel Diaz Not since froyo came prancing into my life. Switching to ios soon though. Peace!
Larry Berk II Use juice defender
Carlos Quinones I heard they were bad to use and there's an explanation as to why. I would only use them to kill a rogue app or something making ur phone lag/glitch badly
Nanci Akemon I was using atk on my samsung after reading all the comments, I am installing it
Teron Facey Don't even bother with them anymore after I got my new phone it's useless and it will damage your phone.
Jordan Mosley Yup. I use samsungs integrated task killer.
Johnny Tooter Shackelford Nope. No need for one!
Wood Franklin i do when i have a tons of apps installed right now nah i only have maybe 10 apps
Mike Wagner I use it every time. And it works. Sensation htc. Saves my battery
Darryl Mouzone I used a task killer when I first got my phone and with it the phone kept rebooting itself at random times. Then I heard about the harm task killers can do to your phone so I uninstalled it and haven't had a problem since then. This is old news though.
Heather Jane Hmm very enlightening! I will be sharing this!! So could this be y my fb app is always force closing????
Charlie Kuroiwa how about the people that are still stuck with 2.1 is atk needed?
Jason Allen Lucas What for? Lol
Mike Mota A little late with this article Aaron, but I guess better late than never for some people.
Jesse Hilborn Wow. Blah blah blah. I have an I phone. I enjoy being locked down and completely controlled. I'm special. PS would never own one. Task killers work for some, not for others. Depends
Eric Shayna You should stop barking (heh get it? Phonedog) about smartphones. Not everyone has a smartphone. Do more about feature phones. They exist ya know?
Shahul Hameed I think Norton mobile utilities is ok
Simon Grunander Don't need too, have 2.2
Daniel Oates So bad for your phone
Kermit Frosch "Please DO NOT use any task killers, they DO NOT improve performance nor battery life. They INTERFERE with your phone's stability (more crashes) and App compatibilities (Forced Close)." My favorite kernel dev. has that posted in all his threads.
Scott Kurtz I had one on my phone since I bought it and found no issues, I just read the article and deleted the task killer. If I see that deleting it helped, I will leave it off, otherwise I will reinstall it.
Oscar Phillips EVO 3D has a built in one
Richard Schuller Using the sense 3.0 task manager on my EVO 3d
Enrique Pascual Yes but sense 3.0 now has a built in task manager
Omar Dee Ploomay No. I have an iPhone. Don't need one.
Brandon Smith I have a task killer on my android phone. I think this is a case by case issue. I find it slightly naive to tell the world that task killers aren't needed. I deal with more than 60 android phones a week, and without task killers, the phone are sluggish and battery life is lacking. I have encountered SOME phones that do NOT require them, and this is why I feel that this is a case by case issue. Each customer needs to do what's best for them.
Phillie Finao Blunt Even tho I have one built in
Matic Krmec I don't use it. @people saying it's Android is Linux... that's not true only the kernel is Linux, Android is Android. @people saying task killers DON'T screw up your phone.. lol yeah right, you wish
Phillie Finao Blunt Advanced Task Killer Pro
Jose Antonio Ramirez It's linux not windows... not needed!
Zach Cline The task killer doesn't fuck anything up,And yes 2.3 needs it. The same thing was said about froyo and as soon as I uninstalled advanced task killer I had all kinds of things running in the background eating up my battery.
John Smith Thanks! just killed my task killer....will see if there is a difference...
Gregg Borden Android is ment for ppl that know how to work their phones. I like iOS but apple babies us. I don't use a task killer because its takes away control of the phone and gives it to the app. Plus it fucked up my DX running 2.2
Dillon Landman No because it causes crash problems
Igor Rebenko Only multi tasking pro.. the app kicks ass
Mike Miller Nope, 2.3 doesn't need it
Mark Gittens Yeah it works great
Erica Reid I have a Samsung Galaxy S 4G and i have had no issues with this but it came with a task manger installed and that seems to work just fine.
Cristian Henriquez They suck, do more harm then good
Luis Arturo Batista Aquino thanks for the advice phonedog, read the full article and uninstalled the app..
Jordan Crawford The advance task killer is useless on the inspire 4g since the tasks comes right back up
James Laws Task killers and any antivirus is bad for your phone every developer I've talked to has told me that I've had my phone reset because.of them
Kelvin Reid No, they only drain more battery
Matthew Fleisher No no and no again. If you have an app draining resources it will just restart after a few seconds anyway. It doesn't fix the problem. You have to force close the app in the settings.
Dustin Carney Hell no!
Joshua Bender Horton I do. I find that with it set right, and being easy to help phone performance on my EVO gb is great.
Jesse Bryant So what do we use, I feel a bunch of apps burn my battery up. My phone gets warm with alot of apps open.
Henry Murillo Nope. Messes up my phone. Besides, it doesn't do crap!
Lamont Johnson No need for task killer .. Got all the memory i need
Jeff Emard Don't use a task killer just go into settings and change the settings it doesn't take up app space and it works and doesn't mess up your phone
George Gomez this task killer messes up your phone
David McNeill I use the built in task manager on my Galaxy S2 but only to kill active apps, killing background apps is an exercise in futility as they will have reopened within 1 minute.
Brian Edwards Only for unresponsive programs. Otherwise, no.
Wilhelm Haas Just via the Taskmanager...
Carol Conway Fleisher not since froyo
Melvin Chng Yi Cong Nope.. we shouldn't use. Nexus s
Derek Lombardi No .. A task killer has not been needed since 2.2 Froyo.
Noah Fechter Yep, ATK. Makes games run/start quicker.
Jonas Welton 2 words... Watch Dog! ATK just drains your battery. Its a waist
Luiggi Dujarric useless with evo 3D.
Aj Green Nope, they are pointless..
Mario Sauceda No ...waste of space!!!
Thy Heng Only idiots uses task killer on Android
Arcy Valdez Wall I use my task manager on my droid charge
Steve Jones Android aggressively kills apps when needed so you never run out of memory and does a great job. It's not a blackberry. App killers do more harm than good because the next time you open an app that you killed it'll take twice as long to load.
Estuardo Jose Dominguez Guerra i dont use a task killer, for me they are useless, i rather use the manage applications and foce to close them.
Ewart Graves yes, advanced task killer. Its free on android market.
James Bass No need to android 2.3 evo 4g
Austin Jae Hell no. Waste of time.
Troy Bauman Yeah, android booster
Sean Lyle I don't use an automated task killer. I do have a task manager to kill off pesky apps. Some apps won't die and the built in app manager sometimes takes forever to load vs an app.
Luis Arturo Batista Aquino yes i have installed in my galaxy ace Advance Task Killer..

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