Android supports devices with 512 MB of RAM. This documentation is intended to help OEMs optimize and configure Android kernel 4.4 for low-memory devices. Several of these optimizations are generic enough that they can be applied to previous releases as well.
Android kernel 4.4 platform optimizations
Improved memory management
- Validated memory-saving kernel configurations: Swap to zram.
- Kill cached processes if about to be uncached and too large.
- Don't allow large services to put themselves back into the A Services classification (so they can't cause the launcher to be killed).
- Kill processes (even ordinarily unkillable ones such as the current IME) that get too large in idle maintenance.
- Serialize the launch of background services.
- Tune memory use of low-RAM devices: tighter out-of-memory (OOM) adjustment levels, smaller graphics caches.
Reduced system memory
system_serverand System UI processes (saved several megabytes).
- Preload dex caches in Dalvik (saved several megabytes).
- Validated JIT-off option (saves up to 1.5 MB per process).
- Reduced per-process font cache overhead.
ArraySetand used extensively in framework as a lighter-footprint replacement for
Added a developer option to show memory state and app memory usage ranked by how often they run and the amount of memory consumed.
to allow apps to detect when running on low-memory devices and choose to disable
Added memtrack HAL to track graphics memory allocations, additional information
dumpsys meminfo, clarified summaries in meminfo (for example, reported free
RAM includes RAM of cached processes, so that OEMs don't try to optimize the
Low RAM Device flag
ActivityManager.isLowRamDevice() flag determines if apps should turn off
specific memory-intensive features that work poorly on low-memory devices.
For 512 MB devices, this flag is expected to return
true. It can be enabled by
the following system property in the device makefile.
PRODUCT_PROPERTY_OVERRIDES += ro.config.low_ram=true
The default wallpaper setup on launcher shouldn't use live wallpaper. Low-memory devices shouldn't pre-install any live wallpapers.
Tuning kernel/ActivityManager to reduce direct reclaim
Direct reclaim happens when a process or the kernel tries to allocate a page
of memory (either directly or due to faulting in a new page) and the kernel
has used all available free memory. This requires the kernel to block the
allocation while it frees up a page. This in turn often requires disk I/O to
flush out a dirty file-backed page or wait for
lowmemorykiller to kill a
process. This can result in extra I/O in any thread, including a UI thread.
To avoid direct reclaim, the kernel has watermarks that trigger
background reclaim. This is a thread that tries to free up pages so the next
time a real thread allocates, it can succeed quickly.
The default threshold to trigger background reclaim is fairly low, around 2 MB on a 2 GB device and 636 KB on a 512 MB device. The kernel reclaims only a few megabytes of memory in background reclaim. This means any process that quickly allocates more than a few megabytes is going to quickly hit direct reclaim.
Support for a kernel tunable is added in the Android-3.4 kernel branch as
patch 92189d47f66c67e5fd92eafaa287e153197a454f ("add extra free kbytes
tunable"). Cherry-picking this patch to a device's kernel allows
ActivityManager to tell the kernel to try to keep three full-screen 32 bpp buffers
of memory free.
These thresholds can be configured with the
<!-- Device configuration setting the /proc/sys/vm/extra_free_kbytes tunable in the kernel (if it exists). A high value will increase the amount of memory that the kernel tries to keep free, reducing allocation time and causing the lowmemorykiller to kill earlier. A low value allows more memory to be used by processes but may cause more allocations to block waiting on disk I/O or lowmemorykiller. Overrides the default value chosen by ActivityManager based on screen size. 0 prevents keeping any extra memory over what the kernel keeps by default. -1 keeps the default. --> <integer name="config_extraFreeKbytesAbsolute">-1</integer>
<!-- Device configuration adjusting the /proc/sys/vm/extra_free_kbytes tunable in the kernel (if it exists). 0 uses the default value chosen by ActivityManager. A positive value will increase the amount of memory that the kernel tries to keep free, reducing allocation time and causing the lowmemorykiller to kill earlier. A negative value allows more memory to be used by processes but may cause more allocations to block waiting on disk I/O or lowmemorykiller. Directly added to the default value chosen by ActivityManager based on screen size. --> <integer name="config_extraFreeKbytesAdjust">0</integer>
ActivityManager configures the thresholds of the LowMemoryKiller to match its
expectation of the working set of file-backed pages (cached pages) required to
run the processes in each priority level bucket. If a device has high
requirements for the working set, for example if the vendor UI requires more
memory or if more services have been added, the thresholds can be increased.
The thresholds can be reduced if too much memory is being reserved for file-backed pages, so that background processes are being killed long before disk thrashing would occur due to the cache getting too small.
<!-- Device configuration setting the minfree tunable in the lowmemorykiller in the kernel. A high value will cause the lowmemorykiller to fire earlier, keeping more memory in the file cache and preventing I/O thrashing, but allowing fewer processes to stay in memory. A low value will keep more processes in memory but may cause thrashing if set too low. Overrides the default value chosen by ActivityManager based on screen size and total memory for the largest lowmemorykiller bucket, and scaled proportionally to the smaller buckets. -1 keeps the default. --> <integer name="config_lowMemoryKillerMinFreeKbytesAbsolute">-1</integer>
<!-- Device configuration adjusting the minfree tunable in the lowmemorykiller in the kernel. A high value will cause the lowmemorykiller to fire earlier, keeping more memory in the file cache and preventing I/O thrashing, but allowing fewer processes to stay in memory. A low value will keep more processes in memory but may cause thrashing if set too low. Directly added to the default value chosen by ActivityManager based on screen size and total memory for the largest lowmemorykiller bucket, and scaled proportionally to the smaller buckets. 0 keeps the default. --> <integer name="config_lowMemoryKillerMinFreeKbytesAdjust">0</integer>
Swap to zram
zram swap can increase the amount of memory available in the system by compressing memory pages and putting them in a dynamically allocated swap area of memory. Since this is trading off CPU time for a small increase in memory, you should be careful about measuring the performance impact zram swap has on your system.
Android handles swap to zram at several levels:
- First, the following kernel options must be enabled to use zram swap
- Then, you should add a line that looks like this to your fstab:
/dev/block/zram0 none swap defaults zramsize=<size in bytes>,swapprio=<swap partition priority>
zramsizeis mandatory and indicates how much uncompressed memory you want the zram area to hold. Compression ratios in the 30-50% range are usually observed.
swappriois only needed if you don't have more than one swap area.
Label the associated block device as a
swap_block_devicein the device-specific
sepolicy/file_contextsso that it's treated properly by SELinux.
- By default, the Linux kernel swaps in eight pages of memory at a time. When
using zram, the incremental cost of reading one page at a time is negligible
and may help if the device is under extreme memory pressure. To read
only one page at a time, add the following to your
write /proc/sys/vm/page-cluster 0
- In your
mount_all /fstab.Xline, add:
- The memory cgroups are automatically configured at boot time if the feature is enabled in the kernel.
- If memory cgroups are available,
ActivityManagermarks lower-priority threads as being more swappable than other threads. If memory is needed, the Android kernel starts migrating memory pages to zram swap, giving a higher priority to the memory pages that have been marked by
Carveouts, Ion, and contiguous memory allocation (CMA)
On low-memory devices, it's important to be mindful about carveouts, especially those that aren't fully used, such as a carveout for secure video playback. There are several solutions to minimize the impact of your carveout regions that depend on the exact requirements of your hardware.
If hardware permits discontiguous memory allocations, the Ion system heap allows memory allocations from system memory, eliminating the need for a carveout. Ion also attempts to make large allocations to eliminate translation lookaside buffer (TLB) pressure on peripherals. If memory regions must be contiguous or confined to a specific address range, the CMA can be used.
This creates a carveout that the system can also use for movable pages. When the region is needed, movable pages are migrated out of it, allowing the system to use a large carveout for other purposes when it's free. You can use CMA directly with the Ion CMA heap.
App optimization tips
- Review Manage your app's memory and these blog posts:
- Remove any unused assets from preinstalled apps using
development/tools/findunused(this should help make the app smaller).
- Use the PNG format for assets, especially when they have transparent areas.
- If writing native code, use
- Don't enable code that writes Parcel data to disk and reads it later.
- Use SSP filtering instead of subscribing to every package installed. Add
filtering like this:
<data android:scheme="package" android:ssp="com.android.pkg1" /> <data android:scheme="package" android:ssp="com.myapp.act1" />
Understand the various process states in Android
||Apps that run in the background for app-related reasons.||
||Apps running in the background (not directly interacting with the user).||These add memory load to the system. Use the (%duration * pss) "badness" value to order these processes. However, many of these apps run for good reasons. The size of pss is an important part of their memory load.|
||Persistent system process.||Track pss to watch for these processes getting too large.|
||The process the user is currently interacting with.||pss is the important metric here, showing how much memory load the app creates while in use.|
||The processes the system is keeping around in case they are needed again.||These processes can be freely killed at any time and recreated if needed. The memory state
(normal, moderate, low, critical) is computed based on how many of these processes the
system is running. The key metric for these processes is the pss. In this state,
these processes should decrease their memory footprint as much as possible to allow for the
maximum total number of processes to be kept around. In this state, a well behaved app
generally has a significantly smaller pss footprint than it does in the
||When compared with
Analyzing app startup time
To analyze your app's startup time, run
$ adb shell am start -P
--start-profiler and start your app. The profiler starts after the
process is forked from the zygote and before any code is loaded into the fork.
Analyzing using bug reports
Bug reports contain several services, including
can be used for debugging. Reports can include lines like this:
------ CHECKIN BATTERYSTATS (dumpsys batterystats --checkin) ------ 7,0,h,-2558644,97,1946288161,3,2,0,340,4183 7,0,h,-2553041,97,1946288161,3,2,0,340,4183
Checking for any persistent processes
To check for any persistent processes, reboot the device and check the processes. Then, run the device for a few hours and check the processes again. There shouldn't be any long-running processes between the two checks.
Running longevity tests
To run longevity tests, run the device for longer durations and track the memory of the processes to determine if it increases or stays constant. Then create canonical use cases and run longevity tests on these scenarios.