Vasile Jureschi Vasile Jureschi - 1 year ago 211
Android Question

How does getSystemService() work exactly?

At first glance in the code below the

object should go out of scope after
is finished, and the expected behaviour is that
is never called or called a few times until the object is garbage collected. However the object returned by the
seems to be singleton which lives outside the scope of
(appropriately so since it is a system service :) )

After taking a heap dump and going through it with the Eclipse Memory Analyzer it seems that ContextImpl keeps a reference to a LocationManager instance. In the memory dump there were two references to a LocationManager object while in the code there is clearly only one, which means that another reference is created somewhere else.

My questions are:

Does someone have a complete description of what is exactly happening when calling the implementation of:

public abstract Object getSystemService(String name);

is the object returned a singleton lazily created and where exactly is the reference created/kept ?


import android.location.Location;
import android.location.LocationListener;
import android.location.LocationManager;
import android.os.Bundle;
import android.content.Context;
import android.util.Log;
import android.view.Menu;

public class MainActivity extends Activity {

protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {

Log.v("TAG", "STARTED");
LocationManager mLocationManager = (LocationManager) this

LocationListener locationListener = new LocationListener() {

public void onLocationChanged(Location location) {
Log.v("TAG", "onLocationChanged");
Log.v("TAG", "Latitude: " + location.getLatitude()
+ "Longitude: " + location.getLongitude());

public void onStatusChanged(String provider, int status,
Bundle extras) {}

public void onProviderEnabled(String provider) {}

public void onProviderDisabled(String provider) {}


// Register the listener with the Location Manager to receive location
// updates
600, 0, locationListener);

public boolean onCreateOptionsMenu(Menu menu) {
// Inflate the menu; this adds items to the action bar if it is present
getMenuInflater().inflate(, menu);
return true;


is created as singleton

private LocationManager getLocationManager() {
synchronized (sSync) {
if (sLocationManager == null) {
IBinder b = ServiceManager.getService(LOCATION_SERVICE);
ILocationManager service = ILocationManager.Stub.asInterface(b);
sLocationManager = new LocationManager(service);
return sLocationManager;

but I have trouble understanding what happens when calling
even after reading the

Answer Source

See if my discussion makes sense...

dissection of android service internal

As suggested by one of the readers I am trying to copy some portion of the write-up here.

Have you ever wondered how an app gets an handle to the system services like POWER MANAGER or ACTIVITY MANAGER or LOCATION MANAGER and several others like these. To know that I dug into the source code of Android and found out how this is done internally. So let me start from the application side’s java code.

At the application side we have to call the function getService and pass the ID of the system service (say POWER_SERVICE) to get an handle to the service.

Here is the code for getService defined in /frameworks/base/core/java/android/os/

44     * Returns a reference to a service with the given name.
45     *
46     * @param name the name of the service to get
47     * @return a reference to the service, or <code>null</code> if the service doesn't exist
48     */
49    public static IBinder getService(String name) {
50        try {
51            IBinder service = sCache.get(name);
52            if (service != null) {
53                return service;
54            } else {
55                return getIServiceManager().getService(name);
56            }
57        } catch (RemoteException e) {
58            Log.e(TAG, "error in getService", e);
59        }
60        return null;
61    }

Suppose we don’t have the service in the cache. Hence we need to concentrate on line 55 return getIServiceManager().getService(name);

This call actually gets a handle to the service manager and asks it to return a reference of the service whose name we have passed as a parameter.

Now let us see how the getIServiceManager() function returns a handle to the ServiceManager.

Here is the code of getIserviceManager() from /frameworks/base/core/java/android/os/

private static IServiceManager getIServiceManager() {
34        if (sServiceManager != null) {
35            return sServiceManager;
36        }
38        // Find the service manager
39        sServiceManager = ServiceManagerNative.asInterface(BinderInternal.getContextObject());
40        return sServiceManager;
41    }

The ServicemanagerNative.asInterface() looks like the following:

28     * Cast a Binder object into a service manager interface, generating
29     * a proxy if needed.
30     */
31    static public IServiceManager asInterface(IBinder obj)
32    {
33        if (obj == null) {
34            return null;
35        }
36        IServiceManager in =
37            (IServiceManager)obj.queryLocalInterface(descriptor);
38        if (in != null) {
39            return in;
40        }
42        return new ServiceManagerProxy(obj);
43    }

So basically we are getting a handle to the native servicemanager.

This asInterface function is actually buried inside the two macros DECLARE_META_INTERFACE(ServiceManager) and IMPLEMENT_META_INTERFACE(ServiceManager, "android.os.IServiceManager"); defined in IserviceManager.h and IServiceManager.cpp respectively.

Lets delve into the two macros defined in /frameworks/base/include/binder/IInterface.h

The DECLARE_META_INTERFACE(ServiceManager) macro is defined as

// ----------------------------------------------------------------------
74#define DECLARE_META_INTERFACE(INTERFACE)                               \
75    static const android::String16 descriptor;                          \
76    static android::sp<I##INTERFACE> asInterface(                       \
77            const android::sp<android::IBinder>& obj);                  \
78    virtual const android::String16& getInterfaceDescriptor() const;    \
79    I##INTERFACE();                                                     \
80    virtual ~I##INTERFACE();                                            \

And the IMPLEMENT_META_INTERFACE(ServiceManager, "android.os.IServiceManager"); has been defined as follows:

#define IMPLEMENT_META_INTERFACE(INTERFACE, NAME)                       \
84    const android::String16 I##INTERFACE::descriptor(NAME);             \
85    const android::String16&                                            \
86            I##INTERFACE::getInterfaceDescriptor() const {              \
87        return I##INTERFACE::descriptor;                                \
88    }                                                                   \
89    android::sp<I##INTERFACE> I##INTERFACE::asInterface(                \
90            const android::sp<android::IBinder>& obj)                   \
91    {                                                                   \
92        android::sp<I##INTERFACE> intr;                                 \
93        if (obj != NULL) {                                              \
94            intr = static_cast<I##INTERFACE*>(                          \
95                obj->queryLocalInterface(                               \
96                        I##INTERFACE::descriptor).get());               \
97            if (intr == NULL) {                                         \
98                intr = new Bp##INTERFACE(obj);                          \
99            }                                                           \
100        }                                                               \
101        return intr;                                                    \
102    }                                                                   \
103    I##INTERFACE::I##INTERFACE() { }                                    \
104    I##INTERFACE::~I##INTERFACE() { }

So if we replace expand these two macros in IServiceManager.h & IServiceManager.cpp file with the appropriate replacement parameters they look like the following:

class IServiceManager : public IInterface
   static const android::String16 descriptor;  
    static android::sp<IServiceManager> asInterface( const android::sp<android::IBinder>& obj);  
    virtual const android::String16& getInterfaceDescriptor() const; 
    virtual ~IServiceManager();  

And in IServiceManager.cpp

const android::String16 IServiceManager::descriptor("android.os.IServiceManager”);             
const android::String16&  
       IServiceManager::getInterfaceDescriptor() const {  
    return  IServiceManager::descriptor;
android::sp<IServiceManager> IServiceManager::asInterface(   
        const android::sp<android::IBinder>& obj)  
    android::sp< IServiceManager> intr;    
    if (obj != NULL) {     
        intr = static_cast<IServiceManager*>(   
        if (intr == NULL) {   
            intr = new BpServiceManager(obj);  
    return intr;    
IServiceManager::IServiceManager() { }    
IServiceManager::~IIServiceManager { } 

So if you see the line 12 which shows if the Service Manager is up and running (and it should because the service manager starts in the init process during Android boot up) it returns the reference to it through the queryLocalinterface function and it goes up all the way to the java interface.

public IBinder getService(String name) throws RemoteException {
116        Parcel data = Parcel.obtain();
117        Parcel reply = Parcel.obtain();
118        data.writeInterfaceToken(IServiceManager.descriptor);
119        data.writeString(name);
120        mRemote.transact(GET_SERVICE_TRANSACTION, data, reply, 0);
121        IBinder binder = reply.readStrongBinder();
122        reply.recycle();
123        data.recycle();
124        return binder;
125    }

from In this function we pass the service that we are looking for.

And the onTransact function for GET_SERVICE_TRANSACTION on the remote stub looks like the following:

public boolean onTransact(int code, Parcel data, Parcel reply, int flags)
51    {
52        try {
53            switch (code) {
54            case IServiceManager.GET_SERVICE_TRANSACTION: {
55                data.enforceInterface(IServiceManager.descriptor);
56                String name = data.readString();
57                IBinder service = getService(name);
58                reply.writeStrongBinder(service);
59                return true;
60            }
62            case IServiceManager.CHECK_SERVICE_TRANSACTION: {
63                data.enforceInterface(IServiceManager.descriptor);
64                String name = data.readString();
65                IBinder service = checkService(name);
66                reply.writeStrongBinder(service);
67                return true;
68            }
//Rest has been discarded for brevity…………………..


It returns the reference to the needed service through the function getService. The getService function from /frameworks/base/libs/binder/IServiceManager.cpp looks like the following:

  virtual sp<IBinder> getService(const String16& name) const
134    {
135        unsigned n;
136        for (n = 0; n < 5; n++){
137            sp<IBinder> svc = checkService(name);
138            if (svc != NULL) return svc;
139            LOGI("Waiting for service %s...\n", String8(name).string());
140            sleep(1);
141        }
142        return NULL;
143    }

So it actually checks if the Service is available and then returns a reference to it. Here I would like to add that when we return a reference to an IBinder object, unlike other data types it does not get copied in the client’s address space, but it's actually the same reference of the IBinder object which is shared to the client through a special technique called object mapping in the Binder driver.

To add more details to the discussion, let me go a little deeper into it.

The checkService function looks like the following:

virtual sp<IBinder> checkService( const String16& name) const

        Parcel data, reply;



        remote()->transact(CHECK_SERVICE_TRANSACTION, data, &reply);

        return reply.readStrongBinder();


So it actually calls a remote service and pass CHECK_SERVICE_TRANSACTION code (its an enum value of 2) to it.

This remote service is actually implemented in frameworks/base/cmds/servicemanager/service_manager.c and its onTransact looks like the following.

switch(txn->code) {
           case SVC_MGR_CHECK_SERVICE:
        s = bio_get_string16(msg, &len);
        ptr = do_find_service(bs, s, len);
        if (!ptr)
        bio_put_ref(reply, ptr);
        return 0;

Hence we end up calling the function named do_find_service which gets a reference to the service and returns it back.

The do_find_service from the same file looks as follows:

void *do_find_service(struct binder_state *bs, uint16_t *s, unsigned len)


    struct svcinfo *si;

    si = find_svc(s, len);

//    ALOGI("check_service('%s') ptr = %p\n", str8(s), si ? si->ptr : 0);

    if (si && si->ptr) {

        return si->ptr;

    } else {

        return 0;


find_svc looks as follows:

struct svcinfo *find_svc(uint16_t *s16, unsigned len)


    struct svcinfo *si;

    for (si = svclist; si; si = si->next) {

        if ((len == si->len) &&

            !memcmp(s16, si->name, len * sizeof(uint16_t))) {

            return si;



    return 0;


As it becomes clear that it traverses through the svclist and returns the the service we are looking for.

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