There are four different launch modes that can be assigned to an
"standard" (the default mode)
The modes differ from each other on these four points:
a)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.
b)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.
In contrast, "singleTask" and "singleInstance" activities are limited to just one instance. Since these activities are at the root of a task, this limitation means that there is never more than a single instance of the task on the device at one time.
c)Whether the instance can have other activities in its task. A "singleInstance" activity stands alone as the only activity in its task. If it starts another activity, that activity will be launched into a different task regardless of its launch mode — as if FLAG_ACTIVITY_NEW_TASK was in the intent. In all other respects, the "singleInstance" mode is identical to "singleTask".
The other three modes permit multiple activities to belong to the task. A "singleTask" activity will always be the root activity of the task, but it can start other activities that will be assigned to its task. Instances of "standard" and "singleTop" activities can appear anywhere in a stack.
d)Whether a new instance of the class will be launched to handle a new intent. For the default "standard" mode, a new instance is created to respond to every new intent. Each instance handles just one intent. For the "singleTop" mode, an existing instance of the class is re-used to handle a new intent if it resides at the top of the activity stack of the target task. If it does not reside at the top, it is not re-used. Instead, a new instance is created for the new intent and pushed on the stack.
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.