The modes differ from each other on these four points:

• Which task will hold the activity that responds to the intent. For the "standard" and "singleTop" modes, it's the task that originated the intent (and called startActivity()) — unless the Intent object contains the FLAG ACTIVITY NEW TASK flag. In that case, a different task is chosen as described in the previous section, Affinities and new tasks.

In contrast, the "singleTask" and "singleInstance" modes mark activities that are always at the root of a task. They define a task; they're never launched into another task.

• Whether there can be multiple instances of the activity. A "standard" or "singleTop" activity can be instantiated many times. They can belong to multiple tasks, and a given task can have multiple instances of the same activity.

The following sections describe what some of these flags and attributes do, how they interact, and what considerations should govern their use. Affinities and new tasks

By default, all the activities in an application have an affinity for each other — that is, there's a preference for them all to belong to the same task. However, an individual affinity can be set for each activity with the taskAffinity attribute of the <activity> element. Activities defined in different applications can share an affinity, or activities defined in the same application can be assigned different affinities. The affinity comes into play in two circumstances: When the Intent object that launches an activity contains the FLAG ACTIVITY NEW TASK flag, and when an activity has its allowTaskReparenting attribute set to "true".

For example, suppose a task's activity stack consists of root activity A with activities B, C, and D on top in that order, so the stack is A-B-C-D. An intent arrives for an activity of type D. If D has the default "standard" launch mode, a new instance of the class is launched and the stack becomes A-B-C-D-D. However, if D's launch mode is "singleTop", the existing instance is expected to handle the new intent (since it's at the top of the stack) and the stack remains A-B-C-D.

If, on the other hand, the arriving intent is for an activity of type B, a new instance of B would be launched no matter whether B's mode is "standard" or "singleTop" (since B is not at the top of the stack), so the resulting stack would be A-B-C-D-B.

As noted above, there's never more than one instance of a "singleTask" or "singleInstance" activity, so that instance is expected to handle all new intents. A "singleInstance" activity is always at the top of the stack (since it is the only activity in the task), so it is always in position to handle the intent. However, a "singleTask" activity may or may not have other activities above it in the stack. If it does, it is not in position to handle the intent, and the intent is dropped. (Even though the intent is dropped, its arrival would have caused the task to come to the foreground, where it would remain.)

When an existing activity is asked to handle a new intent, the Intent object is passed to the activity in an onNewIntent() call. (The intent object that originally started the activity can be retrieved by calling getIntent() .)

Note that when a new instance of an Activity is created to handle a new intent, the user can always press the BACK key to return to the previous state (to the previous activity). But when an existing instance of an Activity handles a new intent, the user cannot press the BACK key to return to what that instance was doing before the new intent arrived.

For more on launch modes, see the description of the <activity> element. Clearing the stack

If the user leaves a task for a long time, the system clears the task of all activities except the root activity. When the user returns to the task again, it's as the user left it, except that only the initial activity is present. The idea is that, after a time, users will likely have abandoned what they were doing before and are returning to the task to begin something new.

That's the default. There are some activity attributes that can be used to control this behavior and modify it:

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