LiveDroid: Identifying and preserving mobile app state in volatile runtime environments

Umar Farooq, Zhijia Zhao, Manu Sridharan, Iulian Neamtiu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Mobile operating systems, especially Android, expose apps to a volatile runtime environment. The app state that reflects past user interaction and system environment updates (e.g., battery status changes) can be destroyed implicitly, in response to runtime configuration changes (e.g., screen rotations) or memory pressure. Developers are therefore responsible for identifying app state affected by volatility and preserving it across app lifecycles. When handled inappropriately, the app may lose state or end up in an inconsistent state after a runtime configuration change or when users return to the app. To free developers from this tedious and error-prone task, we propose a systematic solution, LiveDroid, which precisely identifies the necessary part of the app state that needs to be preserved across app lifecycles, and automatically saves and restores it. LiveDroid consists of: (i) a static analyzer that reasons about app source code and resource files to pinpoint the program variables and GUI properties that represent the necessary app state, and (ii) a runtime system that manages the state saving and recovering. We implemented LiveDroid as a plugin in Android Studio and a patching tool for APKs. Our evaluation shows that LiveDroid can be successfully applied to 966 Android apps. A focused study with 36 Android apps shows that LiveDroid identifies app state much more precisely than an existing solution that includes all mutable program variables but ignores GUI properties. As a result, on average, LiveDroid is able to reduce the costs of state saving and restoring by 16.6X (1.7X - 141.1X) and 9.5X (1.1X - 43.8X), respectively. Furthermore, compared with the manual state handling performed by developers, our analysis reveals a set of 46 issues due to incomplete state saving/restoring, all of which can be successfully eliminated by LiveDroid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number160
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Programming Languages
Volume4
Issue numberOOPSLA
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 13 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality

Keywords

  • Android
  • Runtime Configuration Change
  • Software Restart
  • Static Analysis

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