Why Does My Phone Keep Restarting?

June 27th, 2014 by steve shields

Although I’ve not experienced it with regularity since I stopped using my iPod touch and Droid 2, I know that phones — from my wife’s flip phone, to the iPhone, to the Android — restart, seemingly without cause. When I had my Droid 2, I complained to Tim about this and he said, “It’s supposed to, Dad. If your phone is rebooting, it’s doing what it’s supposed to do because you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing.”

He then explained to me that deep within the firmware of every modern device is a circuit that nags the operating system. I call it the “Hey Circuit”. So when I was on vacation and my Droid 2 was…

  • playing a podcast
  • listening for calls
  • managing an alarm
  • being my calendar
  • monitoring my speed
  • recalculating my location
  • downloading data from Google maps
  • calculating my route
  • looking something up that Laurel was interested in
  • and on and on and on…

…beneath all that, there was a conversation going on inside the case:

FIRMWARE: Hey, are you still awake?
OS: Yep! I’m still here.

FIRMWARE: Hey, are you still awake?
OS: Yep! I’m still here.

FIRMWARE: Hey, are you still awake?
OS: Yep! I’m still here.

…and on and on and on…

If the OS of the phone doesn’t answer the firmware’s question in an allotted time period, the firmware assumes it went into never-never land — and that it’s never coming back. The only way to get it back is to reboot. So the firmware takes it upon itself to reboot the phone.

FIRMWARE: Hey, are you still awake?
OS: silence

FIRMWARE: Hey, are you still awake?
OS: silence

FIRMWARE: Hey, are you still awake?
OS: silence

FIRMWARE:  reboot OS now

It’s not broken. It’s doing exactly what it was engineered to do.

So what do you do if your phone is rebooting too often? SOLVED!

You evaluate the processes you have running. Many apps don’t just sit on your phone — they run in the background. That creates a load for your OS to carry. The likelihood of your phone rebooting is directly proportional to the load you have on your OS.

So the solution is easy, although not pleasant: Uninstall some apps. Don’t bother with an App Killer. Those apps will just restart, and the process of restarting will do nothing but add more load to your OS.

A couple miscellaneous thoughts:

  • This is why Motorola won’t upgrade the OS in my old Droid 2 to KitKat and why Apple won’t upgrade my buddy’s iPhone so he can use Siri. The hardware in those devices is not powerful enough to carry the extra bells and whistles. The companies aren’t being mean as they hold back those upgrades; just smart.
  • Most OSes shut down apps that are taking too many system resources. This is smart real-time maintenance, on the part of the system. However, some OSes shut down apps as you’re using them. It took me a while, when using the iOS, to realize that it wasn’t my klutzy fingers that were messing it up, it was that the OS was shutting down Safari.
  • I don’t have any hard evidence for this, but it seems that Android users experience more spontaneous reboots than other device users. I think it’s probably because they are more app-heavy users than users of other platforms. I, personally, love trying apps and pushing limits. The addition of a 64GB SD card in my phone just makes matters worse. 🙂
  • This also explains why, when your wife is speaking to you and you don’t respond in the allotted time period, she gives you the (re)boot. ……. seriously.
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2 Responses to “Why Does My Phone Keep Restarting?”

  1. Allen Says:

    I have never noticed my Galaxy or my Galaxy SIII spontaneously reboot. I did read where Android 4.2 (Jellybean) has a known problem with the location services that could cause random reboots. Luckily my AT&T Galaxy SIII just upgraded itself to 4.3 (Kitkat) and the problem is supposedly fixed in it.

  2. steve Says:

    Yeah – I have never had a undesired reboot on my Galaxy S5 either. Give me some more time — I’ll overload the OS one of these days. 😉