The mobile operating system Android for phones and tablets offers a wide variety of apps and can be quite useful in your professional and personal life. But after you’ve added a bunch of apps and used it for a while, Android can also get bogged down or unstable, run slowly and/or eat battery juice too quickly.
Like their larger computing counterparts, Android-based devices need to be maintained. Problems can start if the internal storage becomes full (or close to it) or if you’re running too many apps or background processes at once (which also decreases battery life).
What follows is a description of 10 apps that can help increase the performance of your Android device. Note: A few of these apps require you to root your device — in other words, you need to unlock the device, giving apps the ability to use full root permissions. (Keep in mind that there’s the possibility that you could void your warranty.)
1Tap Cleaner Sam Lu Price: Free (basic version), $1.29 (Pro version)
1Tap Cleaner comes with a Cache Cleaner, History Cleaner and a Default Cleaner.
The Cache Cleaner frees up storage space by removing temporary files left by apps. You can manually clear the cache for select apps or clear all apps at once. It lists apps sorted by their cache size so you can quickly see those taking up the most space. It also displays the total and available internal storage space so you can see how much space you need to free up.
1Tap Cleaner also supports automatic scheduled cache cleaning. The free version lets you choose an interval of every three days or every week. The Pro version ($1.29) offers more interval settings, from every hour to every two weeks. It also adds the ability to auto-clear app histories as well.
You can use the History Cleaner to clear the search history from your Web browser and other apps. This is more of a privacy issue, and is useful if you don’t want others to be able to see where you’re surfing or what you’re looking up.
The Default Cleaner lists default settings that you’ve defined, such as using a third-party Web browser or launcher over the native ones included with Android. The Default Cleaner is useful if you’d like to revert back to the default.
Android Assistant offers a variety of utilities and tools to help monitor, clean and manage your Android device. It has three screens. The first is called the Monitor and shows you your CPU, memory and battery status. It also features a Quick Boost button that will automatically kill pre-selected apps/processes to free up system resources.
The second page is the Process Manager; it shows active apps/processes and lets you manually kill apps.
The remaining utilities are on the Tools page. The Cache Cleaner displays the size of the temporary files used by each app and lets you clear them to free up storage space. Batch Uninstall lists your apps and lets you select which ones to remove. It automatically starts the uninstall process for each app in succession, but you have to confirm each. (For a more efficient process, consider an app like Gemini App Manager or Silent App Uninstaller that takes advantage of root permissions, so you don’t have to confirm each uninstall.)
The Startup Manager lets you stop select user and system apps from automatically loading when you turn on your Android device. The App 2 SD feature (which is not the same as the separate app included in this roundup) lists apps installed on the phone and to the SD card, and suggests which ones you can move from the phone to the SD card to help free up internal storage space.
I found Android Assistant to be straightforward and easy to use. Though it offers an abundance of tools, some (such as Battery Saving, Cache Cleaner or App2SD) don’t do as much as some other third-party apps you could use separately. I found the most useful tool to be the Startup Manager, since you can prevent unwanted apps from starting rather than killing them later.
App 2 SD Sam Lu Price: Free (basic version), $1.49 (Pro version)
App 2 SD analyzes your installed apps and conveniently lists those that can be moved to your SD card, those already on the SD card and those that can’t be moved from internal storage. Then it helps you move all appropriate apps to the SD card (either individually or as a group) to free up internal storage space. It can also monitor new apps you install in the future and notify you when they’re movable.
The lists of apps are by default sorted by their file size, so you can quickly see those that are taking up the most space. Total space and free space of your device’s internal storage and SD card are conveniently shown on the bottom of the app. App 2 SD also has a simple cache-clearing feature that prompts you to clear app cache if it’s larger than 500KB.
Unfortunately, App 2 SD can’t automatically move the apps to the SD card. It can only pop up the Application Info screen for each app you want to move; you must then manually hit the “Move to SD card” button, and (if moving multiple apps) then hit the back button to go to the next Application Info screen.
If your device is rooted, consider using Gemini App Manager instead of (or in addition to) App 2 SD, which can automatically list and move apps — it doesn’t, however, automatically notify you after installing a movable app like App 2 SD does.
CPU Tuner is similar to JuiceDefender, but only works on rooted Android devices. It can regulate CPU speed, data connections and syncing to help save battery life and increase performance. You can configure it to control these settings automatically by creating triggers based upon the battery level and the state of the device: screen locked, call in progress, using battery, using AC power or battery too hot. In addition to triggers, it can also automatically adjust the CPU speed based upon the profile you choose: Performance, Power Save, On Demand and Conservative.
For example, you could set CPU Tuner to under-clock the CPU to save power when the battery is low or over-clock to increase performance when battery life isn’t an issue. You can also disable or limit data connections and/or background syncing when your battery is running low. Then if you need to go online, you can still manually enable the data connection and sync.
CPU Tuner is a bit more complex than JuiceDefender. Hidden in the main settings, for example, are ways to save multiple configurations and configuration scheduling. In other words, though CPU Tuner offers a very flexible configuration, it may take some time to wrap your head around the concepts of the profiles, triggers and governors.
Gemini App Manager helps you manage running and installed apps. Though it doesn’t require a rooted device, it offers enhanced functionality for those that are rooted — which is why I’m recommending it. It’s most useful if you have a rooted device and want to move or uninstall multiple apps at once.
The Phone2SD and SD2Phone features are similar to the App 2 SD feature of the Android Assistant app, but offer batch moving of apps between the internal storage and the SD card for rooted devices. Similarly, Uninstall offers silent batch removal of apps for rooted devices. You can use these features on non-rooted devices, but you’ll have to click to confirm each app move or removal.
The app also offers a Kill Process feature similar to the Android Assistant’s Process Manager feature of the app. You can selectively kill running apps, let Gemini choose those to kill or kill all. It offers only basic functionality. For a more advanced process manager, consider Memory Booster that can also do scheduled app killing.
This app helps reduce battery drain by regulating your data connections and by syncing schedule, screen settings and other device components. You configure it by enabling the profile for the level of juice-saving you desire: Balanced, Aggressive or Extreme. The Balanced profile is fully automatic and doesn’t require your input. The Aggressive profile automatically disables data connectivity when the battery is low, which you can turn back on when needed by clicking the shortcut in the notification area of Android. The Extreme profile keeps data connections disabled by default; they can be turned on manually and you can whitelist apps that always need connectivity. For example, it can automatically disable the Wi-Fi if you aren’t connected to a network or you aren’t nearby networks you frequently use.
The Free version of JuiceDefender supports the Balanced and Aggressive profiles and offers limited mobile data connection controls and sync scheduling. The Plus version ($1.99) offers more setting customizations for the Aggressive profile and adds support for the Extreme profile. It also adds Wi-Fi control and more customization for the sync schedule. The Ultimate version ($4.99) adds AutoSync, screen timeout and screen brightness controls and offers additional sync scheduling customization. If you have a rooted device, it also lets you control CPU speed, GPS control and 2G/3G switching.
You can customize the functionality even more with the Customize and Advanced profiles. All versions of JuiceDefender support these profiles, but there are limitations on what settings you can configure in the lower versions. However, you can still see and review the settings to understand what the app offers in the higher versions.
Despite the rather confusing number of configurations and versions, I found JuiceDefender to be straightforward to configure and use. Sorting through the differences between the three versions was a bit of a mind-boggler, but it does offer a comparison table via a button in the app to help. Remember, if you can’t change a setting, it’s probably because it’s disabled and only included in a higher version.
LauncherPro isn’t really a performance boosting tool — it’s more of a replacement launcher that typically loads and works quicker than the native Android launcher. If you’re getting long delays and lockups when navigating your home screens and apps page, it can potentially help. It also has additional memory features to keep screens in memory to speed up loading.
LauncherPro adds a Preference menu to your main menu that offers a bunch of settings to customize your interface. You can add more screens and docks, change the number of columns and rows for icons, change dock shortcuts, hide apps, customize behavior and appearance, and change themes.
During testing, LauncherPro did indeed help the performance of my Android device, a Sanyo Rio. My only gripe is that doesn’t import your existing shortcuts and widgets from the native Android launcher, so it can take a while to set up. However, it doesn’t delete the native interface or launcher so you can revert back to it if for some reason you don’t like LauncherPro.
Memory Booster kills any running apps that aren’t necessary. Like Android Assistant, it features a Quick Boost button that automatically chooses the apps to kill; you can also manually select which processes or apps you want to get rid of. However, Memory Booster has an extra added attraction: it lets you add user and system apps to a white list so they won’t be accidentally killed.
The full version of Memory Booster ($2.99) adds the ability to schedule the killing of apps. You can choose the interval at which to kill them, set the memory threshold if you only want it to kill them when memory is running low, and set it to kill them every time you lock your device. The full version also adds another, more aggressive level that can help free up even more memory by killing more apps.
Memory Booster was easy to use, but I wish it also had the ability to edit startup apps/processes — if you’re worried about memory, it’s better to prevent unnecessary apps from starting in the first place.
Apps can take up a lot of space on your phone, and while some protected/system Android apps can’t be moved to your SD card, others aren’t movable just because the developer didn’t do the extra work to make them movable.
Move2SD Enabler, which requires a rooted Android, changes this — it enables most apps that aren’t movable to the SD card by default to be movable. Even better, it can change the default install location of apps from internal storage to your SD card.
When you open Move2SD Enabler, it prompts you to make sure you have USB debugging enabled and offers a shortcut to the Android Application settings screen. Once enabled, Move2SD Enabler is easy to use and requires only one setting change in the Move2SD app: selecting External for the default app location. Keep in mind that it enables only existing apps to be movable; you will have to manually move them via Android’s Manage Applications screen.
SD Speed Increase, which requires a rooted Android device, tries to speed up your SD card’s file-transfer rates and general read-write functions by increasing the default cache size of the SD card.
All you have to do is open the app, set it to a higher cache size and hit a button. Since the cache size isn’t kept after reboots, SD Speed Increase has an option to automatically reset it every time you start up your device.
As the developer advises, this app may not work on all Android devices. You may not see any noticeable differences in the SD card speeds — I didn’t — but it’s worth a try.
Is your audio too low when you’re using headphones or ear buds? Well, this app can boost the volume; a great feature if you’re working out or are in a noisy environment.
You can manually activate the volume boost or set it to automatically start when booting your Android device. It also offers a widget that you can add to your home screens to quickly turn it on and off with a single button click.
When I tried it, I did notice a slight audio increase when using this app. It boosts the volume just enough so you can better hear Pandora, MP3s or whatever you’re listening to. It includes a 7-day free trial and then you must purchase it for $2.12 to continue using it.
Since I go on regular bike rides and have a hard time hearing audio with my ear buds, it’s certainly worth the two bucks and change.
Eric Geier is a freelance tech writer who become a Twitter follower to keep up with his writings. He’s also the founder of NoWiresSecurity, a Wi-Fi network security firm.