Difference between getContext() , getApplicationContext() , getBaseContext() and "this"


What is the difference between getContext() , getApplicationContext() , getBaseContext() , and "this"?

Though this is simple question I am unable to understand the basic difference between them. Please give some easy examples if possible.

This question is tagged with android this android-context

~ Asked on 2012-05-17 18:07:13

The Best Answer is


  • View.getContext(): Returns the context the view is currently running in. Usually the currently active Activity.

  • Activity.getApplicationContext(): Returns the context for the entire application (the process all the Activities are running inside of). Use this instead of the current Activity context if you need a context tied to the lifecycle of the entire application, not just the current Activity.

  • ContextWrapper.getBaseContext(): If you need access to a Context from within another context, you use a ContextWrapper. The Context referred to from inside that ContextWrapper is accessed via getBaseContext().

~ Answered on 2012-05-17 18:15:25


Most answers already cover getContext() and getApplicationContext() but getBaseContext() is rarely explained.

The method getBaseContext() is only relevant when you have a ContextWrapper. Android provides a ContextWrapper class that is created around an existing Context using:

ContextWrapper wrapper = new ContextWrapper(context);

The benefit of using a ContextWrapper is that it lets you “modify behavior without changing the original Context”. For example, if you have an activity called myActivity then can create a View with a different theme than myActivity:

ContextWrapper customTheme = new ContextWrapper(myActivity) {
  public Resources.Theme getTheme() { 
    return someTheme;
View myView = new MyView(customTheme);

ContextWrapper is really powerful because it lets you override most functions provided by Context including code to access resources (e.g. openFileInput(), getString()), interact with other components (e.g. sendBroadcast(), registerReceiver()), requests permissions (e.g. checkCallingOrSelfPermission()) and resolving file system locations (e.g. getFilesDir()). ContextWrapper is really useful to work around device/version specific problems or to apply one-off customizations to components such as Views that require a context.

The method getBaseContext() can be used to access the “base” Context that the ContextWrapper wraps around. You might need to access the “base” context if you need to, for example, check whether it’s a Service, Activity or Application:

public class CustomToast {
  public void makeText(Context context, int resId, int duration) {
    while (context instanceof ContextWrapper) {
      context = context.baseContext();
    if (context instanceof Service)) {
      throw new RuntimeException("Cannot call this from a service");

Or if you need to call the “unwrapped” version of a method:

class MyCustomWrapper extends ContextWrapper {
  public Drawable getWallpaper() {
    if (BuildInfo.DEBUG) {
      return mDebugBackground;
    } else {
      return getBaseContext().getWallpaper();

~ Answered on 2017-02-13 18:24:07

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