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Google intern: Android UI lags iPhone's due to bad priority

updated 06:55 pm EST, Tue December 6, 2011

Android sluggishness dissected versus iOS

Recent Google intern and soon-to-be Microsoft intern Andrew Munn has given an explanation as to why many Android devices are considerably laggier and less responsive than iOS or Windows Phone devices. While iOS puts graphics drawing as a real-time priority and lets users manage which priorities can be rendered in the background, Android treats the interface as a normal priority. As a result, Android devices can often bog down when they're trying to conduct other tasks at the same time.

Some of the issues also have to do with more specific software quirks. Android doesn't do garbage collection, or cleaning up unused memory and processes, very efficiently. Its Gallery photo app has to run at 30 frames per second or less to avoid large "hiccups," Munn said.

Apple also had a superior compositing engine that reduced the workload on the main processor, and the Dalvik just-in-time Java engine wasn't as refined even compared to normally slow desktop Java interfaces. Google policy may have even played a role in software, since Android developers aren't encouraged to emphasize interface speed where iOS developers are more likely to pay attention to responsiveness.

Hardware choices were sometimes at fault. The NVIDIA Tegra 2 processors common to most Android 3 tablets and some phones had low memory bandwidth and lacked NEON media instructions, both of which ironically bottlenecked the graphics expert's chip in visual tasks. Benchmarks from early this year showed the iPad 2's A5 beating the Tegra 2.

Some of the problems, though not all, can be fixed. Android 4.0 has interface hardware acceleration and runs considerably faster than earlier versions. Dalvik is still being optimized, and apps can be written to get around some of the compositing issues. As long as visuals weren't top priority, however, a platform like iOS or Windows Phone was always going to be more responsive; a quad-core Tegra 3 like that in the ASUS Transformer Prime could still slow down where Apple's devices would be consistently fast.

By Electronista Staff


  1. NickDG

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2011


    Galaxy S II Has No Lag Problems

    I have no lag issues with my Galaxy S II, which I heard is because Samsung added some sort of hardware acceleration to Gingerbread for the handsets. Everything is smooth and stutterless. It is by far the fastest Android phone I have ever used. ICS should add hardware acceleration to other phones which should smooth things out for them as well.

    Also, good to know an intern from Google is getting press. Weird.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. wrenchy

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Nov 2009


    I agree NickDG

    The SAMSUNG GALAXY S II is a real speed demon! Hope you enjoy it :-)


  1. iphonerulez

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Nov 2008


    I'm sure Flash also runs

    great on the Galaxy S II. Android smartphones are absolutely perfect... NOT! CrapDroid.

  1. NickDG

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2011


    Yes iphonerulez...

    Flash does run pretty well on the Galaxy S II. Why the hate? You don't have to pick sides like it's some kind of war. I like my iOS devices and I like my Android devices. They both have their pros and cons.

    Don't hate, appreciate.

  1. qazwart

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2001


    Galaxy S II

    I've seen the Galaxy S II and although the scrolling is smoother and the lag is less, it still isn't the same level of smoothness as on Windows Phone 7, iOS, or even WebOS. Considering the amount of iron that the Galaxy S II has, I was quite surprised that even older iPhones present a much smoother interface. This does explain a lot of the problems.

    Although the Galaxy S II lags when compared to the iPhone and W7P, the phone is far from unusable. It's giant screen and good colors make it a nice phone. The phone is responsive unlike the Kindle Fire. You're not double tapping wondering if the first tap registered or not. You don't get frustrated that you swiped and nothing happened. The difference is really rather subtle and not as glaring as when Android first came out, or even last year. Nor, has the lag been a detriment to Android adoption.

    It's nice to know why Android, even though the carriers have been tossing a lot of iron at it, has been having this particular issue. I found the post every informative.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001



    He must know what he's talking about. I mean, he was an intern. They get all the juicy information.

  1. DerekMorr

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2010


    the intern got his facts wrong

    Dianne Hackborn, the Google engineer who wrote the original post, has responded -

    In short, the intern got his facts wrong. Not surprising since he admitted to not reading the relevant source code.

  1. facebook_Miko

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Dec 2011


    find your true love

    Another restaurant cliaimed to use fresh mozz arella cheese,where it's dishes were actually made with economy cheddar.the "fresh pasta"advertieshed on another meau tumed out to be frozen.--Agedate. c0m --a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men,to interact with each other.

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