Android Hate of the Day: Process Management

[This post is part of a series on my initial Android impressions.]
Just to be clear, my Android criticism is because I want this shit fixed in the last promising mobile platform standing, not because I hate it. Platform specific comments are based on the default MT4GS Android 2.3.4 with Sense 3.0 ROM, rooted and largely de-bloated. And now for the hate.

The task/process model Android uses is total bullshit. Task switching via the launcher is clumsy, and having things popping in and out of memory at random creates performance instability and the worst kind of non-determinism. To make an easy-to-demonstrate example, hit the “Internet” button – is it just bringing the screen back up, or starting over reloading the page you were on? You don’t know unless some form data disappeared, but the page probably does. This is especially significant in a mobile device, where user input is time and energy intensive, and, more importantly, the close button has a strong implication of “get up off my battery” that isn’t necessarily being honored.
This also runs afoul of the “never lie to your user” axiom; there is a difference between running and non-running processes, and trying to ignore that distinction, unlike every other multitasking platform, is going to cause more confusion that it saves.
This is again partially fixable via third party software – I’ve been using Gemini App Manager to hunt down badly behaving processes. Unfortunately, Gemini App Manager is seriously clunky, and between the profusion of RAM-eating background processes endemic to Android (and Sense…), and the number of apps designed with the expectation that they be allowed to sit in the background doing nothing useful, it isn’t really practical to keep an eye on what is running. I haven’t found anything that helps with the lack of a proper task switcher, and the “Recent” list from holding the home button or bringing up the notification screen is not even close to a solution.
This is, in my opinion, the most fundamentally broken thing about Android, and will be the hardest to fix in a sane way, especially without running afoul of someone else’s ridiculous patents. I’ve mentioned before that Google’s recent spate of UI hires gives me hope on this front, especially Matias Duarte who designed good solutions for task switching on a number of other mobile platforms, but for the time being it makes me irritable.

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