• After 15+ years, we've made a big change: Android Forums is now Early Bird Club. Learn more here.

Need an explanation of the difference between Background Data & Auto-Sync


Feb 9, 2011
Can someone here please describe in sufficient detail the differences between Background Data & Auto-Sync. I've read several responses to this question both on this site and on other forums but I have never come across an actual answer.

I "get" that push Gmail requires Auto-Sync. I got it! Is Auto-Sync used for accounts (Gmail, Facebook, etc.) while BD is used strictly for apps?
I too have had quite a bit of an adventure find an answer to this. Per the Android 2.2 user manual:

Background data
Check to permit applications to synchronize data in the background, whether or not you are actively working in them. Unchecking this setting can save battery power and lowers (but does not eliminate) data use.

Check to permit applications to synchronize data on their own schedule. If you uncheck this setting, you must touch an account in the list on this screen, press Menu , and touch Sync now to synchronize data for that account. Synchronizing data automatically is disabled if Background data is unchecked. In that case, the Auto-sync checkbox is dimmed.
Upvote 0
form what I know... it seams to be very simple.

background data.. for apps that need to get data from internet site. ex: weather, news...

Auto-sync .. for apps that have to check online data with data on phone.. and make updates for one or the other.. so they both match. ex: contacts, calendar.

weather and news dont care what data is on the phone... it just updates the data.

Contacts and calendars.. wants to keep the news info .. the same.. so it synchronizes the info.
Upvote 0
I'm not sure of the answer to any of those questions...which is why it's so confusing I suppose. I've found through experience that auto-sync applies to the integrated apps like Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, and the native email app if you have that set up. I say this because my Tweetdeck app, which is set up update every 15-minutes, is unaffected when I turn of auto-sync (which seems to contradict the description). Background data supersedes auto-sync to include things like weather and news widgets.

So, I'm still not 100% sure what the difference is between the two and what each controls. It would be nice if a future version of Android would have a "data lock down" mode where it prevents any data from being transferred (other than calls and texts, of course), but my guess is that app developers have more control over data flow than Android would.
Upvote 0
^^^ there is...

homescreen > menu > settings > accounts & Sync > uncheck the 2 ..

Actually there's not, because even though the two are unchecked, I still have apps on my phone that like to update (Tweetdeck being one of them). Not sure if this a bug with the app or what. Plus I can sit and watch my phone continue to move data over 3g even with the two are unchecked.
Upvote 0
Thanks, I might do that. I was wondering about it the whole time why it was updating on its own even though I had both sync settings turned off. My other thought was that it just updates so fast when I open it, especially over wifi, that it just looks like the it's been updated in the background but instead it just updates very quickly when I open the app. I guess I'm used to slower networks or phones that take a few seconds to update.
Upvote 0
Background Data is a much larger category that includes background polling of data without syncing.

Autosync falls with Background Data, but it is only one of the forms of background data. Tweetdeck for Android, or generally third party Twitter apps don't really sync. They just poll data. News apps also poll. Some weather apps sync, some poll.

Among Twitter apps, only Twitter for Android or specific UI later stuff like Twitter for HTC Sense would sync. Ditto with the Samsung or Motoblur equivalents.

Yahoo Messenger, GTalk would sync, but other chat apps would poll.

You can tell who polls and who syncs by looking at your Accounts and Sync settings on the phone. Basically who is not there, polls.
Upvote 0


We've been tracking upcoming products and ranking the best tech since 2007. Thanks for trusting our opinion: we get rewarded through affiliate links that earn us a commission and we invite you to learn more about us.