Google engineers made to use gimped Nexus 4 with 512 MB of RAM when optimizing Android KitKat

Google engineers made to use gimped Nexus 4 with 512 MB of RAM when optimizing Android KitKat
After Project Butter that improved the general Android interface fluidity, Google introduced Project Svelte with 4.4 KitKat, targeting smooth performance of the stock Android system even on devices with meager 512 MB of RAM. We already explained how Google did the core services optimization, and now Dave Burke, the head of engineering for Android, gives more juicy details on the technicalities of it.

The team decoupled Google Apps suite from the system itself, and started analyzing each app's flirt with memory, as some of those are running services in the background 24 hours a day. The software engineers made a tool called ProcStats, which you can see in the Developer options on KitKat phones, that shows exactly how much memory each app and process are consuming over time. The goals were as follows:

  • Reduce the footprint of the system.
  • Reduce the footprint (memory usage) of the apps that run on a Google Experience (Nexus) device. 
  • Fix how apps react and crash during bad memory situations.
  • Provide better measurement and instrumentation of how apps are running in Android so developers can see how memory-conscious their apps are.

Armed with this knowledge, the team isolated the GApps culprits that were consuming too much memory and didn't need to, optimized their code, and also made Android shut down any apps like those that it deemed unnecessarily thirsty for memory. The fun part was during testing, though, as Dave Burke made each engineer carry a gimped Nexus 4 as a daily driver, which apparently sped up the development of Project Svelte significantly:

This way, isolating the bad memory situations and reducing the system and Google Apps footprint, the Android engineering team managed to make a giant step towards reducing fragmentation. Even low-end white box Chinese handsets, which very often ship with Gingerbread even, can now ship with the latest version of Android without their makers worrying about the phone's performance.

source: ReadWrite



1. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

This gave me a chuckle. It's such a brilliant and simple way to motivate the guys responsible for making Android slimmer, to force them to use the crippled Nexus 4 all the time. I imagine that after the 10th force close or so they stocked up on Mountain Dew and Kitkats and went to town, muttering many bad words to themselves the whole damn time, lol.

2. pokharkarsaga

Posts: 547; Member since: Feb 23, 2012

Finally,its fun to use low end devices.only problem is skin overlay will still ruin performance.

3. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

You're probably going to see minimal overlay on the lowest end devices, just like you do currently. Samsung is also trying to get people in its ranks to help redesign its software so it's a lot better.

4. ScottSchneider

Posts: 336; Member since: Dec 06, 2011

Nice Article... Kudos...o_0

5. techguyone

Posts: 214; Member since: May 18, 2013

Samsung need to, their UI is ridiculous, they need to do like motorola did with blur and just lose it, and go stock 99% Android. It'll make a huge difference & will have the added side effect of not making their updates so prone to borkiness.

6. JakeLee

Posts: 1021; Member since: Nov 02, 2013

Does it matter? Nexus4 will be ditched maybe after 4.5 or so anyway, just like Galaxy Nexus with 4.3.

7. 1701nino unregistered

Exactly my point,i have a nexus 4 and im scared that this is the last official version that my device will support,although the hardware of the device is pretty powerful and able to run android 6.0 at least.And if the new kit kat is so efficient how come galaxy nexus wasn't supported???(don't tell me it's the chipset) I think a lot of people see apple as "evil" and google as "good" but the truth is none of them are like that,they are in essence profit driven companies that will not hesitate to cut off millions of their customers who bought older hardware after 1 year.In my experience(i am an ios and android user) google is even worse at this then apple.

13. indianapple89

Posts: 47; Member since: Feb 28, 2013

Sorry to burst your bubble but it is the chipset. It has a Texas Instruments OMAP based chipset and TI went out of the mobile business. With no support from the chipset manufacturer, it doesn't get it.

18. 1701nino unregistered

They are marketing kit kat for way slower devices they should have gone through hell to make kit kat possible for GN.At least in my pointbof view.

27. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

Google didn't make Kit Kat for older devices, they made Kit Kat for the low end devices of the future. It was just everyone's assumption (including my own) that Kit Kat would give new life to older devices, but that was sadly not true. Practically no SoC manufacturer supports their products from 2011 or earlier; Qualcomm has already dropped support for the Snapdragon S3, which was used in the U.S versions of the Galaxy S2, so it and any other phone using the Snapdragon S3 will not get another official major OS update unless the manufacturer (Samsung, HTC, LG, etc.) develops it themselves entirely, which is much more trouble than it's worth. Your Nexus 4 with the S4 Pro will definitely see Android 5.0 (Kit Kat will be the last of the 4.x Android revisions) and most likely one or two updates after. It's hardware is much more future-proof than the Galaxy Nexus' was, and the fact that Qualcomm isn't out of the mobile business like Texas Instruments is helps a lot.

14. meeaaoon

Posts: 25; Member since: Oct 02, 2012

Its google policy to support phone till 18 months of phone production date and Galaxy Nexus is 2 years old. I am sure even google is not supporting GN there will be penalty of custom ROM.

19. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Well your other option is iPhone which after the first free update will give you an update that cripples your phone. Then you are forced to update anyway. So at least thank google for not making your phone a lemon and letting you update when you want. Also, you can use customs if its really burning you. WP is no better, some of their year old devices aren't getting 8.1, so really, you're already with the best.

9. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

And they messed up the update like hell. I got the update last night, and installed it. Then, BOOM! I am into a bootloop. For all their chest-thumping, they can't even handle a upgrade process properly. I then had to waste time to recover the phone from a previous backup. Now, not updating it till they fix the issue.

11. 1701nino unregistered

Too bad,i have no issues with kit kat,i installed factory image at first the i got OTA update for the leatest firmware and i works 95% great except for a few reboots here and there.(by the way that never hapend on my ipad):)

8. YuLeven

Posts: 50; Member since: May 14, 2013

After two years of quick updates to the newest version of Android, my US$299 high-end phone will be ditched from official support, albeit still having huge community support and a large array of custom roms. Google, how dare you do this to me!

10. 1701nino unregistered

Thats not the point,not every one wants a custom rom,why would they?On the ios side you have jailbreaking and all kinds off tweaks soo what.And by the way galaxy nexus was ditched just after 14 months thats not nearly 2 years smart a** :D and don't give me that bull about you having custom roms because every major company should support their devices at least 2 years,my old iphone 3gs was suported for 3 years.And nexus 4 and 5 in most countries around the globe don't cost that cheap.I paid mine in Croatia around 530 dollars.

15. sum182

Posts: 229; Member since: Nov 19, 2011

You can't compair iOS and android updates. While your iphone may have been "supported" for three years, after the 1st year, you receive an upgrade, but they strip features from the firmware for you. Thats not a real upgrade. You get maybe some bug fixes, and with iOS 7, the new Theme. Where on android, if you get the upgrade, you get everything it has to offer, nothing striped out. Sorry, but getting everything to work will naturally take longer than removing everything you can't get to work right away, then passing it off as an upgrade. Also, you can't compare Jailbreaking to Rooting/flashing Roms, Its FAR from the same thing lol. Jailbreaking an iPhone makes it a little more like android with some of the tweaks you can do, but even still, its limited (show me the day where i can use it as mass storage!!). Flashing ROMS, your literally replacing the system, everything on it except the bootloader and recovery. It allows you to change pretty much everything. It adds dev support and a community that you can contact directly anytime, unlocks features and options (more than android already has surprisingly), and honestly, its faster updates. I already have 4.4 on my Droid DNA (yea, the one that should still be on 4.2) And it works perfectly. Finally, go ahead and get mad that Google can't support the phone because the CHIP MANUFACTURER WENT OUT OF BUSINESS!!!! They can't do anything about it lol If you want 4.4, flash a ROM, they're already out. You can't blame Google because a company went out of business. I wouldn't worry about your Nexus 4, it will be supported longer.

17. 1701nino unregistered

Listen man i get your point,but you're wrong,you said when android phone gets updated i gets all the cookies, you have no idea.Android kit kat for N4 is a stripped down version,its got no new google experience launcher, basicly it looks like jellybean(i'm talking about stock vanilla rom not custom ones),and again not everyone wants to use a custom rom(or knows how to flash it). On my 3GS the first two big updates gave me everything. Oh and for galaxy nexus users they should made the drivers or whatever(the customer doesn't care what the problem is).

21. AfterShock

Posts: 4146; Member since: Nov 02, 2012

What is stripped out other then GEL? Art? Have that. Pay by tag, have that. Which (GEL) is expected to be released for it and other phones. His point stands IMO.

22. 1701nino unregistered

Everybody's got the right to their own opinions but again as a ios user and android user i saw both side of the coin,and i must say i like the security and stability of ios(maybe cause i'm gettin older),my N4 had 4 reboots just in the last 2 weeks,that never happend to my any ios device. Oh and by the way GEL is the only visual difference to tell appart jellybean and kit kat.

20. 1701nino unregistered

Oh and by the way i can compare ios jailbreaking with custom roms for android,jesus mass storage tweak for iphone has been on cydia for years.I've seen people do tweaks for ios that could shame android no sweat. Just because you can change roms for android doesn't make better.

23. sum182

Posts: 229; Member since: Nov 19, 2011

lawl you assume i just used android. I've used both, had an iPhone for 2yrs before leaving and never looking back. Its not true mass storage, as you need iTunes still to move/add anything. What are these tweaks that put android to shame btw? lol And just download the GEL apk and install it....i know, its hard

26. 1701nino unregistered

And you assume too much,already have N5 launcher, but don't say you get everything out of the box with every new version of android.You're just a fanboy that doesn't want to admit the facts.

12. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

Nice testing..

16. sum182

Posts: 229; Member since: Nov 19, 2011

That a great way to fully test the memory usage haha. Pretty clever and shows they're willing to do what it takes (well....idk if willing would be the word, but they didn't quit =P)

24. mike2959

Posts: 694; Member since: Oct 08, 2011

Android vanilla? Is it truly vanilla anymore? Google is integrated more of their once either non existing apps, to having a choice, to now unless you root and custom ROM it I'm stuck with maps, stuck with Google Now, stuck with Google +, I understand I can download other apps if I don't likethose, but I DON'T WANT THOSE. I love Android... Rocking the G2, but man it doesn't seem much different than not being able to delete that B**ch SIRI....

25. mike2959

Posts: 694; Member since: Oct 08, 2011

The other thing is The reason for the 512K operating system is for Future Low end, Chinese made phones. Don't think OEM's, or even the NEXUS phones from the Galaxy NEXUS backwards will be getting Kitkat any time soon.

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