Android 2.1 update causes major 2D slowdown on Droid

Android 2.1 update causes major 2D slowdown on Droid

Summary: Verizon has begun rolling out an over the air update for the Motorola Droid Sholes, but early adopters say that the Android 2.1 update is causing noticeable performance problems for some applications. In one case, frame rates dropped from a smooth 60 frames per second down to 30.

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Verizon has begun rolling out an over the air update for the Motorola Droid Sholes, but early adopters say that the Android 2.1 update is causing noticeable performance problems for some applications. In one case, frame rates dropped from a smooth 60 frames per second down to 30.

In the Tesuji Games blog, developer Phil Issler writes:

I was excited to see Verizon begin rolling out the upgrade to Android 2.1 this week. Although I haven't yet received the upgrade, a friend has, and the results were...well, disappointing. Oh, I have no problem with the new features - they seem to work fine. And the live wallpapers? Very nice. My problem is with the performance of my application, which sees its framerate cut virtually in half when run on a Droid with 2.1.

Phil made a video that demonstrates the issue. It shows two Droid phones running the same test program. The one at the top has the stock Android 2.0.1, and the one at the bottom has been upgraded to Android 2.1.

That's actually my phone at the bottom of Phil's video. I used the instructions posted at MobileCrunch and the update image hosted at google.com to manually update to 2.1, but it's supposed to be the same upgrade that Verizon is sending to everyone over the next couple of weeks. The phone has been rebooted several times, all tasks killed, no live wallpaper, battery removed a couple of times, and anything else we could think of to get rid of the problem but it remains.

Phil continues:

So what's going on? Both phones have virtually no other apps running (just what's necessary for the operating system to function). The test application is doing about as little as it possibly can do, at least from a game perspective. There is a loop that draws a black background bitmap, then the moving dot, and finally the text to display the frame rate statistics. Most games have a lot more work to do for each frame than this, so it would seem that the best frame rate one would consistently be able to achieve on a 2.1 Droid is 30 FPS. In case you are new to game design, that's not a particularly impressive number. 60 FPS is the accepted standard for smooth game play.

Phil showed me both the game and his test app running on the two phones and the difference is dramatic. With the original Android 2.0.1 installed we got 60 frames per second, very smooth and consistent. With Android 2.1 installed we got an average of 30 frames per second, but it is choppy: sometimes it jumps up to 60 for a little while and then falls back to 30, or drops below 30 and then comes back up. Before I "ruined" mine with the 2.1 update, both phones performed the same: 60fps.

Phil isn't the only one having trouble with the update. A search of user forums turned up numerous complaints from others. Here's a sample:

"I don't know about you guys, but mine is running really slow after the update was applied" - Kenny

"mine is running really choppy!!" - Dont do it

"I’m definitely seeing some slowness. Dragging down the menu-screen and scrolling up/down is very choppy-feeling." - Daniel C (he later says a reboot fixed his problems but it didn't fix ours)

"The lags I am experiencing is when my phone goes to sleep and I hit the power button to wake it up, I have to hit it about 3-4 times before my screen will light. Also the unlock slide does not want to respond." - dlwhtrose

Another problem with the update is that it messes up any Gallery shortcut that you have on your home screen. Fortunately, the fix to that one is simple - delete the Gallery shortcut and re-create it.

By the way, I've noticed choppiness on the Droid with the 2.1 update on a few other apps in the Android Market too, such as PapiJump, Pong Multi Touch, and Ethereal Dialpad (in swarming mode). It's not as dramatic as it is in Phil's program but you can tell if you watch it long enough.

Topics: Android, Apps, Mobile OS, Security, Smartphones, Verizon

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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38 comments
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  • People must be doing it wrong

    only Winblows upgrades make computers run even worse.

    Android is Linux based, the only way upgrading the phones can make this happen is if someone tampered with the code or the people are doing it wrong.
    Ron Bergundy
    • Bad software

      Bad software is bad software no matter what OS it's written for. You assume that people writing software for google are all that, when in fact they are no better than anyone else.
      dougstanton
    • Now I know you are Mike Cox.

      Only someone not serious could say this and keep a straight face.
      Personally, however, this is what I expect from Google's immaturity when
      it comes to software. Lots of very very smart people. Not much
      discipline.
      Bruizer
    • How are people doing it Wrong

      And what is the right way?
      charliann
  • RE: Android 2.1 update causes major 2D slowdown on Droid

    Any reports from people who received that actual OTA update (not the one hosted at google.com)? Are they have the same issues?
    wcramer@...
    • Not yet - more testers wanted

      I've asked around for testers with the OTA but nobody has come forward yet.
      Ed Burnette
      • I did OTA ...

        I had the gallery icon problem. I actually freaked for about 10 minutes because I thought I had lost my latest bunch of pictures. The sync on my laptop is kind of bad so I only sync after I add a program, song, or picture. I didn't think to sync before updating and I thought I lost my pictures. Luckily I check in the program section and found the actual program, ran it and dicovered my pictures were safe. I restored the shortcut on my main screen.

        I do realize it was my fault for not syncing before upgrading but that didn't really prevent me from freaking for the ten minutes it took me to figure out what really happened.

        I also notice the multitouch doesn't always work in the browser. I am not sure if it is website dependent or a bug in the phone.

        I haven't run a framerate test as I don't really game or stream video of any sort on my Motorola Droid. I do social media, music, texting, e-mail, maps, and basic browsing for mostly text based information (cabs, hotels, rental cars, restaurant hours, etc.).
        mr1972
  • RE: Android 2.1 update causes major 2D slowdown on Droid

    What app did you use to test it with? My android updated to 2.1 this morning via rolling update.
    MrOreo
    • The app that was used.

      The app that was used is it a custom app that Tesuji Games created for their use. Or is it available and would it be possible to get it to do the test?
      Enter Name Here
      • RE: The app that was used

        You can get the app in both source code form as
        well as an installable binary from the bottom of
        the blog post at http://tesujigames.blogspot.com
        tesujigames
  • RE: Android 2.1 update causes major 2D slowdown on Droid

    Is there a way to prevent our phone from getting the OTA update?
    jessica19087
  • RE: Android 2.1 update causes major 2D slowdown on Droid

    Yes, when it asks you to do the update, hit later, or deny the update. It will not do the update if you don't let it.
    MrOreo
  • RE: Android 2.1 update causes major 2D slowdown on Droid

    I haven't seen any slowdown at all. I did the update as soon as it
    was available and it seams to run everything smoothly. Even video
    games. The only I think I did differently then most was wipe the
    phone first (settings / privacy / factory data reset) and I downloaded
    the file, renamed it and moved it to the root on the Droid itself
    using astro to name and move the file instead of my PC via USB.
    Not sure if that would make any difference what so ever but mine is
    twice as responsive as it was with 2.0.1 with no noticeable lag. But
    that battery is taking a beating. I'm sure if I turn off live wallpapers
    and make a few minor adjustments it will last a little longer but I
    think its time to get a better battery.
    Frayed1
    • Did you try the programs mentioned?

      The problem only effects some apps, depending on how much graphics they are doing, how sensitive they are to frame rate variations, and which graphics library they use. Try the sample app at Phil's site and the ones I listed from the Market and let us know if you can see the problem or not with those programs.
      Ed Burnette
  • RE: Android 2.1 update causes major 2D slowdown on Droid

    Thank you, guys, for pointing this out so clearly and succinctly. I was looking forward to the upgrade until I saw this. Now I find myself wondering, "Why couldn't the Google wizards figure this out?"
    pfbird
  • Haven't noticed any problems ...

    My Droid updated at 10:30 PM on 4/1/10.

    Haven't seen any slowness or choppy display issues.
    OButterball
    • Depends on which programs you run

      The problem only effects some apps, depending on how much graphics they are doing, how sensitive they are to frame rate variations, and which graphics library they use. Try the sample app at Phil's site and the ones I listed from the Market and let us know if you can see the problem or not with those programs.
      Ed Burnette
  • RE: Android 2.1 update causes major 2D slowdown on Droid

    Thats why you suckers need to buy a Nexus One!!
    slicky84
    • Nexus One is slower for some things

      If you run programs that use the OpenGL 3D graphics library, the Nexus One can actually be a little slower than the Motorola Droid Sholes. For example I tried the OpenGL sample from my book on both systems. The Nexus One got 45 frames per second, but the Droid got 48 frames per second. YMMV.
      Ed Burnette
  • Gee, thanks loveshoppingus ...

    I've put that site on my blocked list.
    OButterball