Android tackles power management with help from the community

Google unveiled new community-written test suites for Android devices to address power management issues and other issues.

For years Android has had the Suite of compatibility tests (CTS), an automated process that ensures that a phone, tablet or other device under development complies with various Android requirements. Of course, the full Android Compatibility Definition Document (CDD) is massive and growing, and it will probably never be fully covered by CTS.

For this reason, a number of devices released over the years are not fully compliant with Android requirements, which has had a negative impact on app developers. One of the most frequently cited examples is how various Android device manufacturers handle things like foreground services and background apps. This question is presented on the website “Don’t kill my app“, created by Urbandroid, the developers of Sleep like Android.

For its part, Google decided to let the developer community tackle these problems more directly by launching “Developer-powered CTS” (CTS-D) tests that were written and contributed by the community. As such, these tests will be open source and can be run by any Android developer or enthusiast who wants to see if their device is compliant.

The first batch CTS-D testing was contributed by Petr Nalevka, Urbandroid team leader, and it verifies the use of foreground services and wake locks on Android devices. Going forward, Google is looking for input from more power management-related testing.

However, the effectiveness of these CTS-D tests in improving the Android ecosystem is unclear. Despite the fact that Google only allows tests that cover parts of the Android CDD marked as “MUST” – meaning any device that fails these tests is not a compliant Android product – the company chooses not to apply these new tests.

Instead, Google will “strongly advise” Android partner companies to use the new tests. Meanwhile, the Android community can run the CTS-D tests themselves on phones and tablets they own and report any issues they find to Google. From there, Google will “work with” device makers to “resolve it.”

9to5Google’s review

I’m personally intrigued to see how far Google takes these CTS-D tests and their application. Until there’s some action behind these tests, it just looks like Google’s posturing, appearing to want to address the concerns of the Android developer community, while blaming the OEMs.

That said, I want to remain optimistic that this could lead to real change from Android phone makers, albeit slower than Google creating and enforcing these testing requirements itself.

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Alan A. Seibert