This post is intended to help those who want to better understand how Android ‘works’, in particular concentrating on the differences between it and other operating systems, like Windows.
Most Windows users are used to switching between running programs that are either open in a window or minimised to the taskbar, but Android treats apps a little differently. In most cases, there is only one actively running app at once on an Android device. There are exceptions – audio apps for instance, that can run at the same time as other apps and essential system apps like the clock, calendar updating etc. However, other recently opened apps aren’t closed completely but are put in a ‘suspended’ state so they can be restarted immediately and usually resume where they were last left.
This is of course, a logical way to do things on small screen devices that simply don’t have the space to show more than one app onscreen at once and it also makes sense with the smaller memory available to the operating system on tablets and smartphones.
On later versions of Android, we have the recent apps list that is easily accessible by tapping the appropriate ‘button’ and using this makes it very simple to quickly ‘get back’ to something recently open. I have yet to find an app that doesn’t let users instantly return to them and resume where I left it, so in effect Android has real multi-tasking.
Another difference with Windows PCs and notebooks is the way we turn them on and off. As many notebook users are used to closing the lid on their PC and ‘putting it to sleep’ then seeing it ‘wake up’ again when the lid is opened, Android users do the same thing when they (quickly) press the power button. Powering off an Android device puts it into a sleep mode, but unlike Windows devices there are different sleep states on Android. Your tablet or phone can be asleep but still have WiFi turned on, the system periodically checking your email account and (if a phone) ready to receive a phone call or text message. Your notebook PC can’t do anything like this when in sleep mode and this is one of the strengths of Android tablets and phones.
A drawback with this however, is that devices in lighter sleep modes consume more power and we must remember this or take steps to minimise battery drain as much as practically possible. For example, most Android versions can be set to turn off the WiFi radio when asleep.
As I alluded to above, a quick press of the power button puts the device to sleep while a longer press will display a menu and you can choose to power the device off completely. It is a good idea to do this if the phone or tablet will not be used for some time but won’t be charged either.
There are many other interesting aspects of Android and we’ll go over some in a later post, in the meantime enjoy this interesting and clever operating system that is getting better with every new version.