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Background data vs Always-on mobile data - What's the difference?

Discussion in 'Android Devices' started by Amin Sabet, May 4, 2010.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Member
    Thread Starter

    What is the difference between these two:

    Settings > Wireless & Networks > Mobile Networks > Enable always-on mobile data
    - Description: "Uses more power on some mobile networks"
    - Message after disabling: "Attention: Disabling always on mobile data may cause connectivity problems in some applications. Please use the manual refresh feature in applications to update online data"

    Settings > Accounts & sync > Background data
    - Seems to be the same as the 4th toggle in the Power Control widget
    - Description: "Applications can sync, send, and receive data at any time"
    - Message after disabling: "Attention: Disabling background data extends battery life and lowers data use. Some applications may still use the background data connection.".

    Disabling either one seems to extend battery life. I haven't figured our yet how they differentially affect push email, etc. Would someone kindly explain to me how these settings are different?

    rmk likes this.
  2. ttamnedlog

    ttamnedlog Android Enthusiast

    I am also interested in this.
  3. jbdan

    jbdan Extreme Android User

    Good question I would love to see a detailed break down I mean I thought I knew what these did in a general sense, but would smile at any hard data regarding these 2 settings!
  4. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Member
    Thread Starter

    Does anyone have a definitive answer?
  5. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Member
    Thread Starter

    Okay, I did some testing and thought others may find the results useful. I should clarify that none of this applies if you have notifications disabled in any of the individual application settings or have misconfigured something else. I have "Auto-sync" enabled (Settings > Accounts & sync > Auto-sync). All testing was done with Wifi off and the phone set to idle/sleep.

    Note: The settings discussed above can be found here:
    - Settings > Wireless & Networks > Mobile Networks > Enable always-on mobile data
    - Settings > Accounts & sync > Background data
    - Settings > Wireless & Networks > Mobile Network

    Test 1: Always-on mobile data ON / Background data ON
    - Push Gmail works properly
    - Push Exchange mail works properly

    Test 2: Always-on mobile data OFF/ Background data ON
    - Push Gmail works properly
    - Push Exchange mail works properly

    Test 3: Always-on mobile data ON / Background data OFF
    - Push Gmail does not work
    - Push Exchange mail works properly

    Test 4: Always-on mobile data OFF / Background data OFF
    - Push Gmail does not work
    - Push Exchange mail works properly

    Test 5: Always-on mobile data OFF / Background data OFF / Mobile network off
    - Push Gmail does not work
    - Push Exchange does not work

    Additional comments:

    - Regardless of the above settings, incoming phone calls and SMS messages were received properly.

    - I have my phone set to have Google Voice handle all voicemail, and this too worked properly regardless of the above settings.

    - Disabling Always-on mobile data in itself seems to make a big difference in battery life. I have this off and Background data on. So far, everything I use seems to work properly with these settings, and battery life is plenty for me to get through a day with frequent use.
    mlg2919, chrcol, Guinhu and 11 others like this.
  6. thrillerbee

    thrillerbee Newbie

    Do you use Google Voice for inbound calls and/or SMS?
  7. Vihzel

    Vihzel Destroying Balls Everyday

    I know that Facebook notifications do not push through if Always-on Mobile Data is turned off. I was wondering why mine weren't coming through until I turned it back on and they were finally coming.
    Amin Sabet likes this.
  8. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Member
    Thread Starter

    No, only to handle my voicemail. I would like to use it for inbound calls, but then I wouldn't get free in-network calls with my wife.
  9. jbdan

    jbdan Extreme Android User

    Good info thx so much for taking the time! ;)
  10. jfunk

    jfunk Android Enthusiast

    If any other industrious souls want to test another specific application, it would be great if they could copy & paste this post and add their app (Facebook for example) into this list.

    Could develop into a nice resource.
  11. howarmat

    howarmat Android Expert

    i will throw a wrench in here...

    Always-on mobile data OFF

    the phone will go to "sleep" and NOT get emails etc after a period of time (20 minutes maybe) if you dont touch the phone. The reason it looks like it works still is because you are probably not letting the phone site long enough.

    there are several other threads you can find these results. So basically to always have everything update as it should, both need to be on. If you can live with email updating when you "wake" the phone back up then you can turn the "always on data" off

    Now other settings might also keep the phone "awake" then allowing you to turn the "always on data" off. I think having wifi always staying on and not sleeping is one of them.

    Bottom line leaving both settings on only decreased my battery life 1.5 hours maybe out of a 18-22 hour day. so i leave both on.
    CzarMatt, khanusma and Amin Sabet like this.
  12. jfunk

    jfunk Android Enthusiast

    Good point. It's going to be really difficult for people to actually test this with a high degree of certainty. There's not really any way for them to know when certain functions actually get to "sleep" (some things won't shut down until long after your screen goes dark).

    Also, people will have different apps configured, some of which may "wake up" data functions on their own, causing your other apps to get updates they would not have on their own, leading to inconsistent results with some apps, as well as results that vary by user based on what other apps they are running.

    In reality, I think the only true way to know is if we can get the app developers to tell us exactly which phone functions their app relies on to perform certain actions.
  13. Kyuss

    Kyuss Member

    Yup I was going to add what howarmat said above. I played around yesterday with the Always-on mobile data setting and got the same results as he described above, although I think it may be less than 20 minutes.
  14. howarmat

    howarmat Android Expert

    i am thinking its 15, same time as the wifi sleep timer is set to
  15. CzarMatt

    CzarMatt Member

    Registered to say thank you for this.
  16. stev32k

    stev32k Lurker

    I just registered to say I have different experience with disabling always-on data. I disabled the setting about 10 days ago and it has more than doubled my battery life. Prior to disabling the setting my battery would be at the 10% level in 6 - 8 hours with normal use - less if it had heavy use. Now after 8 hours of normal use the battery is at about 60%. There is a long thread about the same subject on the android forum at DSLreports. In addition I still get gmail, can use navigation, weatherbug, and all other apps seem to work just fine with always-on data disabled and they work with wifi or the T-Mobile 4G network.
  17. yungwunn911

    yungwunn911 Newbie

    Would google voice receive SMS message with background data turned off?
  18. bobarr

    bobarr Newbie

    Thanks for all the info!

    If Gmail & phone calls work OK with the data off setting, how about TEXT messages? If they work then it's a DONE DEAL with it turned off.

  19. alexbk66

    alexbk66 Lurker

    SMS don't use data, MMS do, so MMS could be affected. But I guess that MMS are sent when screen is on, so it should work anyway.

    Personally I use Juice Defender (pro) - it almost doubles battery life, just requires very careful setup (in Advanced mode) to achieve best saving.
  20. Tom Barrister

    Tom Barrister Newbie

    I realize this is an old thread, but it's the first "hit" from Googling "Always on Mobile Data."

    Here's how it was explained to me by a tech:

    "Background data" must be on in order to receive anything sent via Google's "push" technology and various other services and apps (including Android Market). Therefore, it's best to leave "Background data" on at all times.

    The rest of this post assumes that "Background Data" is on.

    The phone has several radios, among them the phone (i.e. calls) radio and the data (i.e. internet) radio. These are independent of each other.

    SMS uses the phone radio and is unaffected by the data radio's status. As long as the phone's radio is on (i.e. not in Airplane mode), you'll get SMS.

    If "Always on Mobile Data" is checked, all data transmission happens in real time, as it's sent from or received by the phone. There's no delay.

    If "Always on Mobile Data" is unchecked, here's what happens:

    After a specified period of time (usually 10 or 15 minutes) which varies by phone, the data radio turns off. When the data radio is off, the following are in effect:

    1) About every 15 minutes (again it varies by model and carrier) the phone turns on the data radio to ping towers. At this time, anything using Google's "Push" technology that is in queue will be sent to the phone. After a minute of inactivity, the radio will be turned back off. If other things happen to be sent to the phone during this time, they'll be received.

    2) If "Auto Sync" is checked, the phone will turn on the data radio to ping the towers and perform the sync (i.e. whatever you have Auto Sync set to do). If other things happen to be sent to the phone during this time, they'll be received.

    3) Any third party applications that are set to retrieve information periodically, and which are programmed to turn on the data radio if it's off will turn it on to fetch what they need. At that point, they will turn it back off if they're programmed to turn it back off. If not, it will turn off when it's scheduled to (i.e. 10 to 15 minutes).

    4) Things that do not use push technology and/or are not programmed to turn on the data radio won't get sent until the screen is unlocked, they happen to send the data while the radio is on for something else, or until the radio is turned back on by the user (i.e. turning on the screen).

    Somebody who needs real-time information (i.e. a business professional who must have emails as they happen, somebody who needs instant information such as stocks, etc.) should leave "Always on Mobile Data" checked. If you have to have your Facebook/Twitter/etc. the second they happen, you will want to leave this checked. For those who don't need everything in real-time, leaving it unchecked will probably save a good bit of battery, depending on how many things you have going on.

    Again, this is how it was explained to me. It may vary by phone and by carrier. If anybody knows differently, please feel free to post.
    noamel and ZJavakh like this.
  21. Tom Barrister

    Tom Barrister Newbie

    I realize this is an old thread. My reply is for those who search for it on Google (where it's result #1 for "Always on Mobile Data").

    Background data is needed for Google's "push" technology to work. It's also needed by many apps (Market being the most notable). It should be checked (left on).

    If "Always on Mobile Data" is checked, it simply means that the data (i.e. 3G/4G) radio is never turned off, unless there is an active WiFi connection. All data is received and sent in real time. People who need things instantly (i.e. business executives who need real-time email, stock traders who want the latest updates, etc.) should leave this checked.

    If "Always on Mobile Data" is unchecked, then when the screen is off, the phone will turn off the data radio after a specified time with no data activity (this varies by model of phone and by carrier). The data radio stays off until the screen is turned on (unlocked on some phones), or until an application requests data to be sent or received. Generally anything using Google's "push" technology will turn on the radio to do what it needs to do. After a specified period of no data activity, the phone will turn the data radio back off.

    People who don't need their data (i.e. Facebook updates, email, etc.) in real-time can uncheck "Always on Mobile Data". The amount of battery saved will depend on how long the screen stays off and the number of apps/widgets/etc. that are requesting updates. If you're constantly using your phone, you won't notice much battery improvement. Also, if one or more apps requests updates every 15 minutes, not much battery will be saved. Somebody who leaves their phone alone for an hour or more at a time and who has updates scheduled at an hour or greater intervals will see their battery life improve dramatically.

    Note that SMS messages are unaffected by the status of the data radio, as they use the phone radio.

    I don't recommend any of the battery savers, as most don't work correctly on many phones, and they don't seem to save much battery. Your mileage may vary.

    The best way to save battery is to do it yourself with a widget that will let you manually toggle WiFi, data, Bluetooth, and GPS (and Airplane mode). Elixir 2 with Elixir Widgets 2 by Tamas Barta are excellent and are free (although naturally donations are welcome).
    noamel and ZJavakh like this.
  22. ZJavakh

    ZJavakh Lurker

    I've just registered to say thanks. This is the exact explanation of the issue, and the best answer to a question in general. I've never felt such a peace after reading an answer to a question.
  23. bobarr

    bobarr Newbie

    Thanks for the complete info on our phones. Here's. a question that I'll post elsewhere too.

    Does the Galaxy tab 10.1 have a voice/text radio? The sim card has a phone number on it, that cannot be used. wondering if it has a hidden/disabled voice radio.

    cannot get google talk going on it.

    kinda made a mistake. got a tablet, but with no extra cost. lost both phone & data on my incredible2droid! bought a used regular phone to talk/text.

    pockets now have a tablet, droid, & phone in them.

    ideas appreciated!

    thanks again

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The HTC Droid Incredible release date was April 2010. Features and Specs include a 3.7" inch screen, 8MP camera, Snapdragon S1 processor, and 1300mAh battery.

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