Performance Product

From the Test Labs: Speed & Battery Life Improvements on Your Android

May 28, 2014

We’ve been living in the smartphone and tablet world for about seven years now and have devices with gorgeous screens processing power that rivals high-end PCs from a few years

Device Performance Expert

We’ve been living in the smartphone and tablet world for about seven years now and have devices with gorgeous screens processing power that rivals high-end PCs from a few years ago and more features than a Swiss army knife, but their battery still barely makes it through the day and performance falls as you install more apps.

Internally, we do a lot of testing on older and newer Android devices to find out what really impacts battery life and also how well our own apps for Android, such as AVG Cleaner and AVG Uninstaller, work. In the upcoming weeks we’ll publish some of our test results and give tips to speed up, clean up and improve battery life of your Android phones and tablets – both new and old!

Why are speed and battery life still an issue?

Though with each year, smartphones and tablets are getting more memory, more powerful batteries, and speedier processors, they are still being bogged down by ever more hardware features (NFC, Fingerprint sensors, Bluetooth etc.) and apps that keep them busy all the time. All of this creates extra demand on the battery and on the processor.

While Android does a fairly good job of keeping renegade apps at bay and essentially “freezing” them when they’re not needed, some of them constantly check for updates – especially Facebook or Weather apps – and need to run in the background. That can have an impact both on battery life as well as performance, depending on what and how many apps are active – and whether the app maker took care of not slowing down your device (or not!).

Proving the theory

For our first test, we’re looking at an older Android tablet first, the HTC Flyer from 2011 (no worries, we’ll look at newer devices like the Galaxy S3, S5 or the Moto G soon!). The now three-year old devices still runs Android 2.x (quite well) and has since been used very regularly on longer trips and around the house. With way more than 100 apps installed, it’s a perfect device to see what impact both the built-in hardware features (such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi), and the large number of apps have on performance and battery life – and also if and how our Android performance apps can have a positive impact!


Before: Poor Performance and Battery Life

Our HTC Flyer has over 100 apps installed, ranging from Facebook and Twitter to Weather apps to games and YouTube downloaders. Comparing it to when I first took it out of the box, I have noticed quite a few things:

  • Drop in battery life: With Android’s default power and brightness setting, I used to get roughly 9 hours of watching an SD video – this dropped to about 7 hours sometime this year! At first, I thought it was due to the fact that the battery may finally die on me, but a quick health check revealed that it has only lost 8% of its original charge over the course of three years.
  • Browsing speed: Another issue that plagued me was a hit in performance that is especially noticeable when browsing the web. Running the popular Antutu Benchmark, I found some slow down happening.
  • Responsiveness: Switching between apps, opening new tabs in a browser, launching and playing games, watching videos, typing in text on the keyboard…everything was just very sluggish. There was a noticeable delay that probably no software benchmark could ever detect.
  • Less disk space: The 16 GB built-in memory was already pretty full thanks to not only the amount of apps, but also a lot of the “junk” files (redundant logs, temporary files, browser caches etc.) that were created over time.


After: Optimized with AVGs apps

To see if and what I can do about my slow performance and reduced battery life, I downloaded the latest versions of our performance apps and performed the following steps:


Android Cleaner: Use the “App uninstaller” feature to get rid of all the apps I haven’t used in more than 2 weeks. For that, I just used the “App usage” view you see here:
Also, I used the “Battery Usage” filter to see what apps have really been draining my battery. In total I uninstalled roughly 75 of the apps. That doesn’t just free up a lot of storage space but also reduces the amount of background services and processes that constantly fire up and potentially reduce performance and battery life at the same time.

Note: I also performed a basic clean-up using our own AVG Cleaner app after I uninstalled these apps just to get rid of a few hundred Megabytes of leftover files.


AVG TuneUp: Using our free app, I made sure that all the remaining tasks are closed before I performed the battery life and performance tests. Note that killing tasks in general doesn’t improve performance because of the way Android manages the processes (it automatically freezes most apps and also kills processes when memory gets tight), but there may be some poorly written renegade apps that are crashing or causing performance drain. So a Task-Killer, like the one built into AVG TuneUp, is an excellent way to eliminate these type of problems and also circle in on any problematic apps that may behave strange. See this great Lifehacker article for more.
Power saving options

Next, I turned on AVGs “Power Saver” feature which sports a lot of options to improve battery life, such as turning off auto-rotation, auto-sync, GPS, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.



The results!

For testing battery life tests, I put a low-quality (SD) movie on continuous playback until the screen went black. In the future, we’ll be looking at battery life tests while browsing or playing games, too, but the basic video test should suffice to give us (and you) an indication of the success of our apps.

To get a grip on performance, I used the pretty popular Antutu benchmark program, which performs browsing (HTML5) and overall processing speeds. I performed three test runs in total and rebooted the devices every time I was done with one test run (I also let the devices sit there for an hour after the reboot). All of these measures were taken to ensure accurate results. Anyway, here they are:


#1 – Performance

In all three runs, the HTC Flyer scored roughly 800 points. Once we’ve uninstalled more than 75 of the installed apps, the average score increased to 880 – that’s an increase of 9%! That’s not too bad for a few minutes of dealing with apps that I completely forgot about.

#2 – Battery Life

Now, on to the most important one for me: Battery Life. As I noted before, battery life really did suffer and a sudden loss of 2 hours isn’t common. So let’s see what both uninstalling all these resource-hungry apps as well as firing up our efficient “Power Saver” plan from AVG Cleaner could do:

#3 – General responsiveness: Ace!

What we really couldn’t measure but were able to tell is the general responsiveness: flipping between apps, posting status updates on Facebook, opening up menus or hitting the “Play” button on a video…virtually everything was just a lot ‘snappier’ than before. While the HTC Flyer is a few years old and not as fast as the latest tablets on the market, it did feel a lot faster than before and was more fun to work with!

Oh, and before we forget: With our cleaning features, we got rid of roughly 420 Mbytes of leftover data, temp files and logs…that’s space for a few hundred pictures or songs right there.


Bottom line

It’s finally fun to use the device again: I just couldn’t believe how many apps I’ve installed over the course of 3 years and never bothered to uninstall. It appears that a few of them had serious “problems” (i.e. running in the background, constantly using the processor) or needed to run regularly. Having found a great way to get rid of them really helped battery life and performance overall.

Did you try our apps? How many apps and files were you able to get rid of? Let us know in the comment section and also stay tuned as in the coming weeks we’ll look at the performance of brand-new devices and what you can squeeze out of them!

Sandro Villinger
May 28, 2014