What is AsyncTask in Android?

Android UI Main Thread

Android handles input events/tasks with a single User Interface (UI) thread and the thread is called Main thread. Main thread cannot handle concurrent operations as it handles only one event/operation at a time.

Concurrent Processing in Android

If input events or tasks are not handled concurrently, whole code of an Android application runs in the main thread and each line of code is executed one after each other.

Assume if you perform a long lasting operation, for example accessing resource (like MP3, JSON, Image) from the Internet, the application goes hung state until the corresponding operation is finished.

To bring good user experience in Android applications, all potentially slow running operations or tasks in an Android application should be made to run asynchronously.

Here are some examples for slow running tasks

  1. Accessing resources (like MP3, JSON, Image) from Internet
  2. Database operations
  3. Webservice calls
  4. Complex logic that takes quite long time

AsyncTask in Android

What is AsyncTask?

AsyncTask is an abstract Android class which helps the Android applications to handle the Main UI thread in efficient way. AsyncTask class allows us to perform long lasting tasks/background operations and show the result on the UI thread without affecting the main thread.

When to use AsyncTask?

Assume you have created a simple Android application which downloads MP3 file from Internet on launching the application.

The below state diagram shows the series of operations that will take place when you launch the application you created:

Why AsyncTask?

As the response (MP3 file) from server is awaited, the application has become unresponsive since the Main thread is still waiting for download operation to complete. To overcome this we can create new thread and implement run method to perform this network call as similar as we usually do in normal Java applications, so that UI remains responsive.

But handling it with separate thread may create some additional issues when we try to update UI based on the result of the operation performed since Android UI toolkit is not thread safe.

Android took all these issues in consideration and created a dedicated class called ‘AsyncTask’ to handle the tasks/operations that need to be performed at the background asynchronously.

AsyncTask should only be used for tasks/operations that take quite few seconds. Some tasks may keep the thread running for long time so such tasks should be handled using java.util.concurrent package.

How to implement AsyncTask in Android applications?

  1. Create a new class inside Activity class and subclass it by extending AsyncTask as shown below
    private class DownloadMp3Task extends AsyncTask<URL, Integer, Long> {
     protected Long doInBackground(URL... urls) {
          //Yet to code
     protected void onProgressUpdate(Integer... progress) {
         //Yet to code
     protected void onPostExecute(Long result) {
         //Yet to code
  2. Execute the task simply by invoking execute method as shown below:
    new DownloadMp3Task().execute(mp3URL);

AsyncTask – The 4 steps

When an asynchronous task is executed from UI main thread, the task goes through 4 steps:

AsyncTask Steps


Invoked before the task is executed ideally before doInBackground method is called on the UI thread. This method is normally used to setup the task like showing progress bar in the UI.


Code running for long lasting time should be put in doInBackground method. When execute method is called in UI main thread, this method is called with the parameters passed.



Invoked by calling publishProgress at anytime from doInBackground. This method can be used to display any form of progress in the user interface.


Invoked after background computation in doInBackground method completes processing. Result of the doInBackground is passed to this method.

Task Cancellation

The task can be cancelled by invoking cancel(boolean) method. This will cause subsequent calls to isCancelled() to return true. After invoking this method, onCancelled(Object) method is called instead of onPostExecute() after doInBackground() returns.

AsyncTask – Rules to be followed

  1. The AsyncTask class must be loaded on the UI thread.
  2. The task instance must be created on the UI thread.
  3. Method execute(Params…) must be invoked on the UI thread.
  4. Should not call onPreExecute(), onPostExecute(Result), doInBackground(Params…), onProgressUpdate(Progress…) manually.
  5. The task can be executed only once (an exception will be thrown if a second execution is attempted.)

How to use AsyncTask in Android applications?

I showed the usage of AsyncTask in Android application with simple example in the post – Android AsyncTask Example.

Do let me know your feedback right away from the comment section below. 🙂

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Author: Udhay

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