What is an Android Binder “Transaction?”

By | October 30, 2018

I’m getting an TransactionTooLargeException when sending messages between two Android processes running from a single APK. Each message only contains small amounts of data, much smaller than the 1 mb total (as specified in the docs).

I created a test app (code below) to play around with this phenomenon, and noticed three things:

  1. I got a android.os.TransactionTooLargeException if each message was over 200 kb.

  2. I got a android.os.DeadObjectException if each message was under 200kb

  3. Adding a Thread.sleep(1) seems to have solved the issue. I cannot get either exception with a Thread.sleep

Looking through the Android C++ code, it seems like the transaction fails for an unknown reason and interpreted as one of those exceptions


  1. What is a “transaction“?
  2. What defines what goes in a transaction? Is it a certain number of events in a given time? Or just a max number/size of events?
  3. Is there a way to “Flush” a transaction or wait for a transaction to finish?
  4. What’s the proper way to avoid these errors? (Note: breaking it up into smaller pieces will simply throw a different exception)



<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<manifest package="com.example.boundservicestest"

        <activity android:name=".MainActivity">
                <action android:name="android.intent.action.MAIN"/>

                <category android:name="android.intent.category.LAUNCHER"/>
        <service android:name=".BoundService" android:process=":separate"/>



class MainActivity : AppCompatActivity() {

    private lateinit var sendDataButton: Button
    private val myServiceConnection: MyServiceConnection = MyServiceConnection(this)

    override fun onCreate(savedInstanceState: Bundle?) {

        sendDataButton = findViewById(R.id.sendDataButton)

        val maxTransactionSize = 1_000_000 // i.e. 1 mb ish
        // Number of messages
        val n = 10
        // Size of each message
        val bundleSize = maxTransactionSize / n

        sendDataButton.setOnClickListener {
            (1..n).forEach { i ->
                val bundle = Bundle().apply {
                    putByteArray("array", ByteArray(bundleSize))
                myServiceConnection.sendMessage(i, bundle)
                // uncommenting this line stops the exception from being thrown
//                Thread.sleep(1)


class MyServiceConnection(private val context: Context) : ServiceConnection {
    private var service: Messenger? = null

    fun bind() {
        val intent = Intent(context, BoundService::class.java)
        context.bindService(intent, this, Context.BIND_AUTO_CREATE)

    override fun onServiceConnected(name: ComponentName, service: IBinder) {
        val newService = Messenger(service)
        this.service = newService

    override fun onServiceDisconnected(name: ComponentName?) {
        service = null

    fun sendMessage(what: Int, extras: Bundle? = null) {
        val message = Message.obtain(null, what)
        message.data = extras


internal class BoundService : Service() {
    private val serviceMessenger = Messenger(object : Handler() {
        override fun handleMessage(message: Message) {
            Log.i("BoundService", "New Message: ${message.what}")

    override fun onBind(intent: Intent?): IBinder {
        Log.i("BoundService", "On Bind")
        return serviceMessenger.binder


07-19 09:57:43.919 11492-11492/com.example.boundservicestest E/AndroidRuntime: FATAL EXCEPTION: main
    Process: com.example.boundservicestest, PID: 11492
    java.lang.RuntimeException: java.lang.reflect.InvocationTargetException
        at com.android.internal.os.RuntimeInit$MethodAndArgsCaller.run(RuntimeInit.java:448)
        at com.android.internal.os.ZygoteInit.main(ZygoteInit.java:807)
     Caused by: java.lang.reflect.InvocationTargetException
        at java.lang.reflect.Method.invoke(Native Method)
        at com.android.internal.os.RuntimeInit$MethodAndArgsCaller.run(RuntimeInit.java:438)
        at com.android.internal.os.ZygoteInit.main(ZygoteInit.java:807) 
     Caused by: android.os.DeadObjectException: Transaction failed on small parcel; remote process probably died
        at android.os.BinderProxy.transactNative(Native Method)
        at android.os.BinderProxy.transact(Binder.java:764)
        at android.os.IMessenger$Stub$Proxy.send(IMessenger.java:89)
        at android.os.Messenger.send(Messenger.java:57)
        at com.example.boundservicestest.MyServiceConnection.sendMessage(MyServiceConnection.kt:32)
        at com.example.boundservicestest.MainActivity$onCreate$1.onClick(MainActivity.kt:30)
        at android.view.View.performClick(View.java:6294)
        at android.view.View$PerformClick.run(View.java:24770)
        at android.os.Handler.handleCallback(Handler.java:790)
        at android.os.Handler.dispatchMessage(Handler.java:99)
        at android.os.Looper.loop(Looper.java:164)
        at android.app.ActivityThread.main(ActivityThread.java:6494)
        at java.lang.reflect.Method.invoke(Native Method) 
        at com.android.internal.os.RuntimeInit$MethodAndArgsCaller.run(RuntimeInit.java:438) 
        at com.android.internal.os.ZygoteInit.main(ZygoteInit.java:807) 

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