In my opinion the windows phone platform is great in kind of development tools and also user experience. When working extensively with an platform you also learn about it’s bugs and limitations.
One of this limitations has to do with Live Tiles, which are a nice features of windows phone that allow to show information to a user without starting an app.
A common example for this is: A weather app that uses a live tile to show the current weather. My app ‚Week View‚ uses live tiles too to show a list of the next appointments.
A developer can create a ‚background task agent‘ for it’s app. When a user installs the app, the background task agent for it is installed too. You can see the list of installed background tasks agents on your phone at: settings – applications – background tasks. You can also manually disable background tasks here but usually there is no reason to do this.
A common usage scenario for a background tasks is to update the live tile of an app.
A background task is executed automatically about every 30 minutes by the windows phone OS. This time span cannot be changed by a developer.
The idea of background task agents is simple: On windows phone developers cannot create services that are running in the background (like it is possible for example on android). This is ‚by design‘ of windows phone and it has the advantage that since no service can run in the background, it’s technically impossible to write a service that always runs and drains the battery, which is a good thing.
The downside of this: An app that shows a live tile with the current time on it is not possible since the background task is only called every 1/2 hour and so updating a tile every minute is not possible by design.
Until now everything is fine 😉 Live tiles are updated by background tasks every 1/2 hour and your phone shows most recent information to you.
Unfortunately there are some scenarios where live tiles stop updating.
Some of these scenarios are specific to Windows Phone 7.x, one issue is specific to Windows Phone 8.0.
Live tiles in Windows Phone 7.x stop updating, if ‚too many‘ apps are installed on your phone that can use live tiles.
It’s important to know that the background task agent for an app does not even need to be enabled! Only the number of installed apps matters. Once about 20 apps are installed on your phone that can use live tiles, they stop updating.
Important: This is my personal experience and exactly the same problem was reported ot me by users of my apps. Simply uninstalling some of the apps to get below this ‚ about 20 apps limit‘ that can use live tiles solved the problem and the automatic live tile update was working again.
For Windows Phone 8 i cannot tell from my own experience but recently i got an email from a user of my app ‚Week View 8‘ that reported me that the live tiles stopped updating but he was able to solve the problem by himself:
Hi Hannes,sorry for your time, but the problem is in MS and WP8.I found that WP8 has a problem with a lot of installed applications with live tile. And it does not matter whether or not the tile/applications active.
I had about 20 apps with live tiles, but only 5 were active. I uninstalled 10 apps which were inactive, restarted the phone, and heureka – live tiles work OK! (include Week View 8).After I again installed ca. 10 apps that have been uninstalled, restart phone, and – live tiles DO NOT WORK!I think, WP8 live tile work correctly only with the 10-15 apps that use live tile.
This are some bad news since i was really hoping, MS fixed the ‚live tile limitation problem‘ in Windows Phone 8 but as it seems this has not been done so far.
Additionally there is another problem with live tiles in Windows Phone 8: The mechanism that triggers live tile updates is not executed, when the phone has no network/internet connection.
Important: This has nothing to do with the app or the background task itself. Even if the app or background tasks do NOT require a network connection, the mechanism that triggers live tiles updates DOES.
This is a known problem by MS, you can read details about it here: http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/wpdevelop/thread/216a9f3d-9284-4d1e-ac2a-83f2d13e361c
I hope, these problems will be solved in the next update of Windows Phone 8.