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Android destroying activities, killing processes

Posted by: admin March 11, 2020 Leave a comment

Questions:

Hi I’m wondering how Android is managing memory and I can’t find precise answer anywhere.
Let’s assume I have an application with 5 activities on current activity stack (4 are stopped and 1 is resumed), there is no service connected. I press HOME button so that all of my activities are stopped.
I start some other memory consuming application and overall device memory is starting to be low. And the question is

… What will happen to my application?

  1. Can system destroy only one or some of my activities to recover memory?
  2. Will system kill the whole process of my application? Will all activities be nicely destroyed?
  3. What will happen when I get back to my application when it was totally killed? Will it start from beggining (like the first start) or will it try to recover activities to previeous state / if yes – is it only the one on the top of the stack or all of them?

UPDATE:

Before asking this question I’ve seen Activity lifecycle a few times but it doesn’t have answers to my questions.
I made some tests and I have some answers. “Stop process” in DDMS was a clue for testing.

I haven’t tested answer for question 1, but as guide says:

If an activity is paused or stopped, the system can drop the activity
from memory by either asking it to finish, or simply killing its
process.

It seems that one or more of the activities can be destroyed gently(with onDestroy method) without killing the process. You will simply get (onCreate + bundle) when getting back to them.

Question 2 answer:

YES. Generally system kills the whole process this means all data including activities and static fields are destroyed. This is NOT done nicely – you won’t get onDestroy or finialize() for any of your paused/stopped activities. This is why saveInstanceState() is called just before onPause method. onPause is basically the last method where you should save something because after this method you could never see onStop or onDestroy. System can just kill the process destroying all of your objects whatever they hold and whatever they are doing.

Question 3 answer:

What will happen when you get back to a killed application?

  • Prior to Android 2.2 – application will start from the beggining, with launcher activity.
  • Starting from 2.2 – system will restore the previous application state. What does it mean? It means that last visible activity will be recreated (onCreate + bundle). What will happen with activity stack? Stack is fine but all activities on it are dead. Each of them will be recreated (onCreate + bundle) when you get back to it with back button.
    There is one more thing about that:

Normally, the system clears a task (removes all activities from the
stack above the root activity) in certain situations when the user
re-selects that task from the home screen. Typically, this is done if
the user hasn’t visited the task for a certain amount of time, such as
30 minutes.

Conclusion?

  1. Don’t think that handling activity rotation problems can be solved
    by android:configChanges=”orientation”. When you do that you will
    get many other problems that you are not even aware of.
  2. Test your application with DDMS – Stop process button. See This
  3. Be careful when using static variables. Don’t think that when you initialized them in activity 1 – you will have them initialized in activity 2. The only safe place to initialize global statics would be Application class.
  4. Remember that you may never see onStop or onDestroy. Close files/databases, stop downloaders in onPause. When you want app to do something in BG – use foreground Service.

That would be it … Hope I helped with my essey 🙂

How to&Answers:

First please have a look at this:

img1

onPause() Called when the system is about to start resuming a
previous activity. This is typically used to commit unsaved changes to
persistent data, stop animations and other things that may be
consuming CPU, etc. Implementations of this method must be very quick
because the next activity will not be resumed until this method
returns. Followed by either onResume() if the activity returns back to
the front, or onStop() if it becomes invisible to the user.

onStop() Called when the activity is no longer visible to the user, because another activity has been resumed and is covering this
one. This may happen either because a new activity is being started,
an existing one is being brought in front of this one, or this one is
being destroyed. Followed by either onRestart() if this activity is
coming back to interact with the user, or onDestroy() if this activity
is going away.

So, when you press “HOME” button on your device, your current foreground activity is put onto onPause() then onStop(), the other 4 should remain onStop()

According to Google’s Documents:

  • If an activity in the foreground of the screen (at the top of the stack), it is active or running.
  • If an activity has lost focus but is still visible (that is, a new non-full-sized or transparent activity has focus on top of your
    activity), it is paused. A paused activity is completely alive (it
    maintains all state and member information and remains attached to the
    window manager), but can be killed by the system in extreme low memory
    situations.
  • If an activity is completely obscured by another activity, it is stopped. It still retains all state and member information, however,
    it is no longer visible to the user so its window is hidden and it
    will often be killed by the system when memory is needed elsewhere.
  • If an activity is paused or stopped, the system can drop the activity from memory by either asking it to finish, or simply killing
    its process. When it is displayed again to the user, it must be
    completely restarted and restored to its previous state.

And, for the process lifecycle:

Process Lifecycle 3. A background activity (an activity that is not visible to the user and has been paused) is no longer critical, so
the system may safely kill its process to reclaim memory for other
foreground or visible processes. If its process needs to be killed,
when the user navigates back to the activity (making it visible on the
screen again), its onCreate(Bundle) method will be called with the
savedInstanceState it had previously supplied in
onSaveInstanceState(Bundle) so that it can restart itself in the same
state as the user last left it.

All the quotes above are come from: Android Developers Reference: Activity

It is confirmed that the system can destroy non-acitve activities and recycle memories when you launched some memory consuming applications. And you can implement like: isFinishing() in your activity and then using “kill” button in DDMS to detect which of your activities is being dropped by system. But I guess the system will destroy the oldest one first. However it is no point to keep other activities when the “Launch Activity” has been recycled.

UPDATE

Here’s some opinions I found from here:

Stopped state

When an activity is not visible, but still in memory, we say it’s in a
stopped state. Stopped activity could be brought back to the front to
become a Running activity again. Or, it could be destroyed and removed
from memory.

The system keeps activities around in a stopped state because it is
likely that the user will still want to get back to those activities
some time soon, and restarting a stopped activity is far cheaper than
starting an activity from scratch. That is because we already have all
the objects loaded in memory and simply have to bring it all up to the
foreground.

Stopped activities can be removed from memory at any point.

Answer:

Can system destroy only one or some of my activities to recover
memory?

Yes. Android kills activities which are running in the background when there is a need for memory. Killing one or all might depend on some conditions. For an instance paused or stopped can make android kill an activity or a process itself. Here under Activity Lifecycle you can get the below points. I recommend you to go through that page completely. It will definitely clear your doubts.

If an activity has lost focus but is still visible (that is, a new
non-full-sized or transparent activity has focus on top of your
activity), it is paused. A paused activity is completely alive (it
maintains all state and member information and remains attached to the
window manager), but can be killed by the system in extreme low memory
situations.

If an activity is completely obscured by another activity,
it is stopped. It still retains all state and member information,
however, it is no longer visible to the user so its window is hidden
and it will often be killed by the system when memory is needed
elsewhere.

If an activity is paused or stopped, the system can drop
the activity from memory by either asking it to finish, or simply
killing its process. When it is displayed again to the user, it must
be completely restarted and restored to its previous state.


Will system kill the whole process of my application? Will all
activities be nicely destroyed?

Activity pertains to an individual whereas process pertains to group of activities. Look at the third point above again it kills the process as mentioned.


What will happen when I get back to my application when it was totally
killed?

Its similar to restart . Again the third point will give you some answers like When it is displayed again to the user, it must be completely restarted and restored to its previous state

Get some more information about memory related stuffs here.

Edit:
All activities in an application runs in a single process. So when a process is killed all the activities no matter 5 or 10 will be killed i.e., restarted. Restart will cause your application to start from a beginning no saved states.