How-To Geek

Lesson 4: Understanding Performance and Security

Android 4

Handset and tablet manufacturers have brought a lot of performance to their devices in recent generations. Most new devices are not wanting for power. Even so-called mid-range and budget devices can usually ably handle most everything you throw at them so the worst you might experience is some lag with your home screen.

But we all know this doesn’t hold true as devices get older. As apps grow more demanding and complex, they need more and more resources. Plus there’s the push to games, which are always demanding, even on large desktop computers.

Then there’s the small matter of security. Let’s face it, putting a password on your desktop is one thing, if you want to keep your kids from prying or share a house with roommates, but your phone goes with you everywhere and is extremely easy to misplace or lose.

Think for a moment of all the personal information you probably have on your phone: photos of your family, e-mails from your boss, texts from your spouse – phone numbers, addresses, e-mail accounts – a simple moment of forgetfulness can equal long days or weeks of worry and suffering. It’s obvious good device security is a top priority so we’ll talk about everything you can do to keep your stuff locked up safe and sound.

This lesson is dedicated to two areas: performance and security. We’ll first talk about a few areas where you might be able to improve performance on your Android device. Then we’ll launch into a bit more detailed discussion on the many ways you can and, very much should, secure your device.

Performance woes? Look to your apps and widgets!

The most likely culprit to any kind of obvious performance problems is usually apps and widgets. That’s as true today as it was five years ago. While Android devices have improved greatly over the years (today’s hardware is leagues beyond what it used to be), apps can still be hit or miss. Even high-profile apps can have versions that degrade device performance.

Also, if you use a lot of widgets, or the widgets you use are poorly performing, then you may notices some home screen lag, meaning things don’t respond as quickly when you touch them or swiping left or right seems a bit slow.

Widgets are uniquely Android, and have been a staple of the operating system since its earliest days. But not all widgets are created equally. If a widget is particularly busy or animated, it may consume a great deal more resources than a widget that simply serves as a glorified shortcut.

Suffice to say, if your device is lagging or slow, try stopping some apps (discussed in Lesson 2) or removing widgets to see if that gives things a little more pep.

Do Live Wallpapers affect performance?

This is an interesting question that no one authoritative source seems to have an answer to, especially in 2014. Given the sheer power of today’s devices, along with the increasing performance of Android, we don’t notice any performance problems with live wallpapers. That’s not to say live wallpapers can’t conspire with other resource intensive processes to slow your device down, but live wallpapers by themselves aren’t likely going to represent a huge performance hit. Again, if stuff seems to drag and lag, and your device doesn’t have the pep it normally has, try switching to a static wallpaper and see if things improve.

Maybe you just need a new phone

It’s quite possible that you just need a new phone. Let’s face it, you may think it’s too much of an expense, or maybe you don’t want to end up in another two-year contract. But if your phone is more than a couple years old, then it’s likely starting to grow a little long in the tooth. It probably doesn’t have the quickness that it did when it was new, or maybe your battery is keeping you tied to electrical outlets. You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to get yourself a handily capable device, and whatever device you do elect to go with, it’s certainly going to be faster than what you’re using now.

Of course, there’s nothing to prevent the same thing from happening to you a couple years from now but that is simply the nature of technology. The latest, greatest device of today is usually obsolete within a few months. The nice thing is, though, by using this guide you can get the most out of it, so maybe upgrading won’t be so urgent in the future.

Security – Locking your phone and data down

Whenever you walk out your front door with your phone or even a tablet, you carry with you the contents of your life. Everything that is important to you from utilities, to bank accounts, photos of your family, texts from acquaintances, and your social media accounts. All this can be accessed simply by turning on the phone; a simple swipe and you’re in.

Chance may favor you and, over the course of time, you may never lose your phone to carelessness or theft, or you might have one of “those” days. Ask yourself, then, why takes chances when protecting your data is so simple?

Security settings

Open the “Security” settings as you would open any other and you’ll see a great deal of options to choose from.


Some of this stuff is pretty simple and some, like “Device Administration,” requires a little more explanation. We mostly want to zero in on the stuff that will help keep your device locked tight.

Screen locks

Take a look at the variety of screen locks you can employ. Note, on the Samsung, you can unlock your device with your voice as well.


We’d say that out of these, the two that will be most useful to you are pattern or PIN. Pattern locks seem to be the most popular, but you can use whatever works best for you. Let’s run through your options.

Face Unlock

With the “Face Unlock,” caveats abound. It’s not as secure as a pattern, PIN, or password; and look-a-likes can possibly unlock your phone. Plus, when it comes down to it, unlocking your device with your face is kind of clunky.


It doesn’t work well in low light conditions, and you actually have to look at your phone’s front-facing camera before the phone will unlock. Luckily, you can set a “Pattern” or “PIN” as a secondary unlock but why not just use those methods in the first place?



As we mentioned, pattern unlocks seem to be the most often used type of lock, which makes a lot of sense since it works so well with touchscreens. When you first set up a pattern, it will ask you to choose a size.


Obviously, the bigger the size, the harder it is to guess.


Whatever you do, don’t forget your pattern. Pattern unlocks have proven to be extremely hard to crack, foiling even the FBI.

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Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and died-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.

  • Published 04/24/14

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