- Android 14 brings significant performance gains, with 30% less cold starts and a reduction in background activity by 50%.
- Major improvements include changes in the system’s handling of RAM and processor workloads, resulting in noticeable improvements for users.
- Android 14 also includes optimizations in ART (Android Runtime), reducing storage usage by 9% and freeing up 50MB to 100MB of data on optimized apps.
We’ve talked about it before, but Android 14 really seems to make a difference when it comes to performance. With the advent of Feature Drops, major OS version bumps aren’t as packed to the brim with user-facing changes as they once were. But Android 14 has several major improvements that users will surely notice even if they’re not visual upgrades or new functionality: Google has changed the way the system handles RAM and processor workloads, and the end result should be significant performance gains.
Dave Burke, Google’s Vice President of Engineering overseeing Android development, shared some insight into many of these changes in an interview on the company’s podcast, The Android Show (via 9to5Google). “We’ve done a ton of work to reduce CPU activity of background apps and the result is that there’s 30% less cold starts now on Android 14,” said Burke. “Cold starts are when you have to read the code pages off the flash and read them into memory before you execute them, right, and so a 30% reduction is pretty dramatic, and you feel that as a user.”
Google had mentioned some of this work as far back as the first developer preview build of Android 14 in February 2023. The company explained that the new version would be limiting broadcasts, which are the system’s way of communicating to apps when a critical change occurs, such as the phone’s battery level dropping or its internet connection switching from Wi-Fi to mobile data. Developers have also been advised to not use exact alarms to schedule tasks in their apps, unless those apps are intended for use as a clock or calendar.
Burke explained that the quest to lower cold starts for apps involved walking a fine line, however. “We wanted to increase the number of cached processes — these are processes that are in RAM — so that we would have more warm starts. But to do that the danger is, if you have too many cached processes and if they’re not really quiesce — if they’re not really asleep — they start using more CPU activity, and then they start consuming battery.”
In the end, some significant performance gains were achieved. “The team has actually managed to reduce background activity by 50%, measured off the CPU, and we did this through a bunch of projects internally to properly freeze the processes but also reducing broadcasts,” explained Burke. “Collapsing repeating broadcasts and actually queuing them up for after an app comes out of the cached state, the result is a 30% increase in cold start.”
You know, it’s kind of exceeded my expectations. I was excited about what we were doing, but I think the team really did a great job on it.
– Dave Burke on Android 14’s performance improvements
But broadcasts and background activity aren’t the only fundamental changes. ART 14 (Android Runtime) includes optimizations that should reduce occupied storage without sacrificing performance. Explaining this, Burke added “We’ve reduced code size by 9% by collapsing return statements and doing various optimizations in the compiler. A device that has somewhere between 500 megs and a gigabyte of optimized code — these are apps you’ve installed and have been optimized — the savings is like 50MB to 100MB of data we’ve just freed up.”
So while it might not seem like much of an upgrade when you first try Android 14, give it some time. Chances are, once you go through a few battery cycles and check the numbers, you’ll find some tangible improvements — or like these Pixel 6 and 7 users can attest, perhaps even a bit more than that.