fixing a slow loading android home screen

slow down

I have this Android phone and it rocks. It rocks because it’s slick and fast and it allows me to does all this neato geek stuff I love so much. But then I press my home button and it takes the damn thing 6 to 7 seconds to display my home screen icons. The background image is there instantaneously.
Whoosh!

But it takes the home screen 6 seconds (or 7) to load all the icons and widgets. 6 seconds in Hell if you ask me! This happens every time I exit the browser, or Tweetdeck, or any other of those lovely geeky apps I run. 6 bloody seconds which turns this awesome piece of technology into something that makes you want to throw it against the nearest brick wall and see it explode into a shower of tiny blinking silicone and glass particles.

Well, maybe not. It’s a tad expensive to do that.
So what was I to do? Root my phone? Install a custom ROM? Hard factory reset? Use a different launcher? All of this takes time, work and erases your personal settings, which blows. So off to some Googling to try to find out what’s causing the dreaded delays before we do anything drastic.

I soon came up with 3 possible culprits:

  1. I moved some apps to the SD card recently. SD cards read slower than RAM.
  2. The Widgets. It’s always the damn widgets right? Those little CPU hogging bitches!?
  3. Something fishy with memory management.

Sounds vague this last one doesn’t it? I came up with that after reading somewhere that the Android OS leaves apps in memory for as long as it can (so they load blindingly fast once started), but if it runs short of memory it kills a “random” app. I’m not sure how random this is, but my idea was that if the Launcher app gets killed for the benefit of something else, that would explain the slow loading. After all, every time you hit that home button¬† it loads widgets, icons and folders you placed on your multi-page home-screen into memory from scratch.

I decided to test this by killing (aka uninstalling) a bunch of (oh the irony!) performance tuning/monitoring apps that ran as services on my not-so-awesome-anymore phone. In your Android Settings menu goto Applications > Active Service to see which ones are running and how much memory they consume. A pretty bar in the bottom also displays your phone’s available memory. I didn’t have a lot of green in there, so I figured that might be it.

Turns out I was right. After uninstalling the services and freeing up a bunch of memory I had returned the awesome! My home screen was appearing instantly after pressing the home button and scrolled smoothly left and right at every flick of my thumb.

So watch out with those memory guzzling services folks, they can turn your sweet phone into a piece of unusable junk in no time.

Photo by aftab, cc-licensed.

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