Troubleshoot Phone Lag Using Watchdog

There is a lot of debate in the Android world about whether you should even need a task killer. According to theory, if everything is well-behaved, you shouldn’t really need one. However, I was experiencing moderately severe lagginess on my MT3G, so I was pretty sure something was not well behaved. The lagginess disappeared briefly after a reboot, and completely after a Master Rese, until eventually I installed enough stuff that I got the problem app(s) back.  The problem I had was that I couldn’t figure out what app was the offending party.

I had a Wing Tseng’s Task Manager, which was a very nice task-killer, and it gave me a CPU readout, which was frequently pegged at 100%. But it did not isolate the problem app. I never did find the problem app, because I wound up using my son’s upgrade to get a new Android phone (T-Mobile Vibrant, aka, Samsung Galaxy S), and I passed the MT3G to him. He is having no problems, so I am pretty confident  it was something I had installed.

In the meantime, though, I finally discovered a good app that monitors CPU usage, and creates alerts if a user-defined threshold is exceeded. This app is Watchdog. Basically, Watchdog gives you the other half of Windows Task Manager functionality–in addition to having the ability to kill an app, it tells you which one is redlining your CPU.

I’ve had it running on my new phone, with a low threshold, and it gave me a few alerts for CPU usage in the 30% range, but those were very transient. It was comforting to know that I now had the instrumentation to troubleshoot, if need be. And as Murphy would have it, need arose soon.

I dropped my shiny, new Vibrant onto concrete, from waist height. It landed square on its face, and it suffered a number of cracks. It was still functioning and perfectly useable, but severely disfigured. Fortunately, and somewhat out of character, I had retained the protection plan. So for a “mere” $130, I got a replacement.

I first backed up from my cracked phone to the SD card, using MyBackup Pro, then popped the SD card into the new phone and initiated a restore. That all worked fine, though I noticed the calendar took a long time to restore. But it was well worth it, saved me probably 80% of the effort of setting up a new phone from scratch. Then the problems began.

I started noticing lag. My prior 2 weeks with a Vibrant had been completely lag-free, so this was really alarming. Then the Watchdog alerts started showing up. The Calendar app was consuming 30%-60% of the CPU. Of all the apps to find as the culprit, this was one of the worst, since it is a built-in Google experience app. I don’t think you can un-install it, even if you wanted to.

After 30 minutes of typical flailing, I started thinking a little more deeply about the symptoms. I remembered that Watchdog had asked me to back up Calendar and Contacts. I wondered a little about that–since auto-synch of those Google Apps is a core Android feature, but I had proceeded to say “Yes”. Then I remembered how long it had taken to restore the Calendar. I decided to do another Master Reset, and this time, not restore the Calendar.

That worked like a charm. So I think the Calendar restore must have gotten into some kind of infinite loop with the Calendar synch. Never a dull moment.

I think that CPU monitoring and logging is pretty critical instrumentation. Even if not directly exposed to users, it seems like something Google would want to have built in (just as Windows NT and beyond has Task Manager). And if not Google, I think it woudl be in the best interests of the carriers or phone manufacturers to pre-install something.

Posted in Droid. 1 Comment »

One Response to “Troubleshoot Phone Lag Using Watchdog”

  1. Robert Says:

    Glad Watchdog helped you, even though you still had to do a reset.

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