Mobile apps have many long, complex processes. You can queue them up and run them from start to finish or break them up into smaller “slices” (pieces of work) and run them in an optimal sequence. The latter reduces resource contention. This approach is called multiplexing or time-slicing.
In gaming, many things happen simultaneously on the screen in each frame. To make items appear realistic for players – for example, spinning tires and vehicles rushing around corners – game developers use artificial intelligence (AI) and physics to make calculations. They then leverage multiplexing to determine how much movement happens in each frame. This way, they can optimize processing and rendering while ensuring the action still appears natural to the human eye.
This post will cover several ways non-game developers can leverage multiplexing in their mobile apps to maintain performance during heavy processes. For an even deeper dive, check out our eBook.
Illustrating Situations Where Multiplexing is Effective
Multiplexing can address specific tasks applicable in other situations that would otherwise be repetitive for developers and help avoid wasting time. By optimizing the development process with multiplexing, developers can spend more time on complex designs or can help reduce production time. Most importantly, multiplexing offers a means to provide consistently uninterrupted performance during startup, suspension, code migration, and even while processing videos or images. This is invaluable regarding the reputation of your mobile app as a reliable and convenient service.
Numerous tasks are initiated with different demands during the mobile startup process, leading to resource contention. This is a situation that multiplexing can help avoid altogether by ensuring that SDKs do not run simultaneously at startup and instead schedule these tasks to stagger more efficiently.
Apple’s multiplexing tool NSOperationQueue helps optimize the startup process, and there are also Android versions, these being, Executor framework and coroutines. These tools enable developers to do the following:
- Understand how much processing power specific tasks require
- Decide how and when to run processes in a sequence
- Gain greater transparency when completing processes
- Track their progress within processes more seamlessly
- Start or stop any process at any time to guarantee smooth operations
All these factors help reduce resource limits while ensuring the necessary work is completed.
Multiplexing also helps to manage your work and pause the process from relegating it to the background before you run out of time. This form of time management helps avoid situations where you exceed set resource limits that cause Watchdog terminations.
Multiplexing allows developers to run code migration as a background process so that users can continue to use the app without interruption. Before multiplexing, an app update would significantly impact the user experience while core data was being loaded into memory or adding new properties.
Images and Videos
Any complex form of media that requires additional loading time, such as images or videos, leads to greater CPU demands and strains on memory capacity. Fortunately, multiplexing can help prioritize the number of images that populate at a time upon request to avoid freezing or crashing the app.
These are only a few scenarios that utilize multiplexing outlined in the eBook. Still, it can help to organize all kinds of mobile processes, especially as they become more complex.
Benefits of Multiplexing
Multiplexing helps avoid negative user experiences from crashes that can harm the reputation of your mobile app. Namely, it achieves this by giving control back to the developers—first, by providing transparency of which tasks need to be prioritized, which ones can be run parallel to each other, and when to pause other tasks or, when possible, run them in the background. With a better sense of processing requirements of certain activities, developers can budget their resources to guarantee a seamless process for their users.
Multiplexing enables consistent functionality of your mobile app by ensuring that one task does not interfere with the practical completion of another—in other words, it reduces resource contention. Our eBook also highlights how multiplexing can help you to scale repetitive processes for your app in a way that will be easy for your whole team to understand, even if they are new which is to be expected as you plan to grow. Breaking down the most repetitive tasks into pieces that can be reused by any of the developers on the team also makes it possible to complete far more work in a shorter period to help meet demanding deadlines.
The Downsides of Multiplexing
In the name of transparency, some inevitable disadvantages must be considered when utilizing multiplexing. One of the qualities that define multiplexing is its dependency on dividing tasks into separate parts, but this is not always possible. There cannot be a sequence in order of priority unless you can divide the work in your app.
This eBook goes on to further explain other weaknesses of multiplexing, such as whether it adds value to the user experience since, in some cases, they may want access to something quickly instead of having it broken up. Ultimately, not all activities will benefit from multiplexing. Still, the eBook details when it is best to use multiplexing—such as background activities that users do not directly interact with. Multiplexing does not apply to all tasks, and given the cost of adding more complex code, this eBook offers guidance to consider all the factors before implementing this tool.
Helping Scale Your Mobile Team and other eBook Insights
Figuring out for yourself when to use multiplexing may sound complicated, but with the help of this thorough eBook breakdown, it can simplify the decision process. Ultimately, the eBook—like multiplexing—breaks down a complicated process into easily digestible parts so that you can move forward more efficiently. Multiplexing is just one of the tools that this eBook offers to answer the challenges of scaling your mobile team, but you will have to download it to find out more about our other solutions and suggested design tools.
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