Mastering the Art of Avoiding ANRs in Android Applications

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Author: Muhammad Raza Saeed,

Android applications have revolutionized the way we interact with mobile devices. However, a common problem faced by Android developers is the dreaded Application Not Responding (ANR) error, which can lead to a frustrating user experience and potentially negative reviews. ANRs occur when the main thread of an application is blocked for too long, resulting in unresponsiveness. In this article, we will explore effective strategies, examples, and best practices to avoid ANRs and ensure smooth and uninterrupted user experiences in Android applications.

Understand the Android Application Lifecycle: To avoid ANRs, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the Android application lifecycle. Familiarize yourself with key components such as activities, services, and broadcast receivers. Ensure that time-consuming tasks are offloaded from the main thread to background threads or services, leaving the main thread available to handle user interactions promptly.

Best Practice:

Use Intent Service for long-running operations that don’t require user interaction, such as uploading files to a server. Intent Service automatically handles worker threads and stops itself when the work is complete.


Optimize UI Rendering:

UI rendering plays a vital role in maintaining a responsive application. Here are some optimization techniques to consider:

Best Practices:

a. Use the Layout Inspector and Hierarchy Viewer tools provided by Android Studio to identify any rendering bottlenecks or excessive view hierarchies that might hinder performance.

b. Employ lightweight UI components and avoid nested layouts whenever possible.

c. Optimize resource usage, such as using appropriate image sizes, minimizing overdraw, and reducing the complexity of vector graphics.

d. Implement view recycling and lazy loading techniques for lists and grids to avoid rendering excessive UI elements at once.


Asynchronous Task Execution:

To prevent long-running operations from blocking the main thread, use asynchronous task execution mechanisms such as:

Best Practices:

a. AsyncTask: Deprecated as of Android 11 but can still be used for earlier versions of Android.

b. Handlers and Looper: Employ Handler and Looper classes to execute tasks on dedicated worker threads.

c. Executors: Utilize thread pools with Executors to manage background tasks effectively.

d. Kotlin Coroutines and RxJava: Leverage these libraries to simplify asynchronous programming and handle background operations efficiently.


Proper Network and Database Operations:

Network and database operations are often time-consuming and can lead to ANRs if not handled correctly. Follow these best practices:

Best Practices:

a. Perform network operations on a separate thread using libraries like Volley, OkHttp, or Retrofit.

b. Utilize Content Providers or Room Persistence Library for database operations, as they handle threading and asynchronous tasks efficiently.

c. Implement proper caching mechanisms to minimize unnecessary network or database queries.

d. Use background services for long-running tasks such as file downloads, uploads