For the longest time, Android users criticized iOS for the way it aggressively killed apps running in the background. Android phones’ multi-tasking capabilities, larger memory pools, and larger batteries were waved around as examples of the platform’s superiority. Of course, there are consequences to such features and even Android itself has mechanisms to prevent background apps from running astray. Some manufacturers, however, have taken it upon themselves to enforce stricter measures that may even go against Google’s policies and the Android maker now wants to know who these OEMs are.
Most Android apps probably don’t need to be always running in the background but there are definitely classes of apps that do. In fact, there is a class of apps that shouldn’t be running in the background at all, particularly those with less than innocent intentions like malware. Some health-centric apps, however, may need to always be running at all times but the system might not always let these apps be.
Background apps don’t come without costs, of course, usually in CPU time and ultimately in battery life. That’s why platforms, including Android, set rules and limits to which apps can do so and when. Android also makes room for exceptions and provides facilities to support putting apps to sleep and waking them up again.
Google also has rules for OEMs to be transparent about apps it kills in the background and this is where things get a bit messy. Some OEMs go above and beyond and implement their own app-killing policies on top of Android’s and often don’t let developers, much less users, know about those. To put it simply, some apps, like sleep monitoring or activity tracking apps, that work on one phone may not work properly on another brand just because the latter aggressively kills apps running in the background.
App developers have been complaining about this situation for years but it seems that Google has finally heard their pleas. It probably helped that someone reported that certain brands kill even the important Android AccessibilityService. Now Google is surveying app developers to ask about their experiences regarding this behavior.
Considering this situation has been going on for years, this survey is really a long time coming. Better late than never, as they say. Google doesn’t even need to ask developers personally since the Don’t Kill My App site has existed for years now as well but it’s probably better to accumulate as many anecdotes as possible for evidence.