How an AT&T tool can make your app more efficient

AT&T's Application Resource Optimizer can make apps more network and battery friendly.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
Expertise Mobile, 5G, Big Tech, Social Media Credentials
  • SABEW Best in Business 2011 Award for Breaking News Coverage, Eddie Award in 2020 for 5G coverage, runner-up National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award for culture analysis.
Roger Cheng
3 min read

There are a lot of apps out there with a bit too much fat on them.

These apps continuously ping the network, require multiple redundant downloads, fail to close a connection when shut down, or needlessly drain the phone's battery. Either way, that's bad for consumers and the carrier networks strained by these apps.

Most developers don't know about these issues, and they generally don't affect how the apps run. But AT&T is taking a proactive approach in getting these apps back in shape.

For the past few months, AT&T has been offering a tool called the Application Resource Optimizer. It comes in two parts. The first is an app (Android only for now) that can be downloaded onto developer test phones. It runs in the background and captures all of the data on a developer's app as it runs.

The data is then transferred where it is analyzed by the second part of the ARO offering, a piece of software for PCs and Macs that can analyst how efficient or inefficient an app is. The software can make recommendations on how to make it more efficient.

A more efficient app means I can run them on my phone without worrying about it dying midway through the day. It also means I don't have to panic and scramble for a power cord and outlet as often as I do.

AT&T isn't doing this out of altruism; a more efficient app means a less congested network and less headaches for the carrier.

A lot of these changes consist of reducing how often an app uses the phone's radio to ping the network, reducing bandwidth and power consumption in the device. Beyond the display, the cellular radio is the second biggest drain on a phone's battery, said Doug Sillars, an engineer on AT&T's developer support team.

Pandora, for instance, is using the app to make its Internet radio app more efficient. It discovered after using ARO that the app pinged the network every 60 seconds to ensure the user was still listening to the radio. The company is working to reduce the frequency of the network connection, allowing the app to run longer on the phone, Sillars said.

He noted that playing the music took up half the power consumption in the app, while 40 percent was related to the network connection, something Pandora is looking to greatly reduce.

ARO was unveiled at AT&T's developer summit right before the Consumer Electronics Show kicked off in January. Today, the company plans to release ARO as an open-source tool, allowing developers to take the code and enhance it to further help them create a more efficient app. It also expanded its use to track data sent over the LTE network.

"It really promotes innovation to let them add their ideas and adapt the tools to their needs," said Lisa Burks, senior product manager for AT&T's developer program.

While AT&T wouldn't say how developers are using it, there are indications that others are starting to recognize its benefits. Without naming names, Sillars said other domestic and international carriers have been looking at ARO for their own use. The GSMA trade group has also embraced ARO.

I would recommend developers check it out, since it's a free to use. There's nothing to lose.