AngularJS: Controllers vs Services


In Angular, a Controller is defined by a JavaScript constructor function that is used to augment the Angular Scope.

When a Controller is attached to the DOM via the ng-controller directive, Angular will instantiate a new Controller object, using the specified Controller’s constructor function. A new child scope will be created and made available as an injectable parameter to the Controller’s constructor function as $scope.

Angular services are substitutable objects that are wired together using dependency injection (DI). You can use services to organize and share code across your app.

Angular services are:

  • Lazily instantiated – Angular only instantiates a service when an application component depends on it.
  • Singletons – Each component dependent on a service gets a reference to the single instance generated by the service factory.

Angular offers several useful services (like $http), but for most applications you’ll also want to create your own.


AngularJS: Scope Lifecycle


Scope is an object that refers to the application model. It is an execution context for expressions. Scopes are arranged in hierarchical structure which mimic the DOM structure of the application. Scopes can watch expressions and propagate events.

The normal flow of a browser receiving an event is that it executes a corresponding JavaScript callback. Once the callback completes the browser re-renders the DOM and returns to waiting for more events.

When the browser calls into JavaScript the code executes outside the Angular execution context, which means that Angular is unaware of model modifications. To properly process model modifications the execution has to enter the Angular execution context using the $apply method. Only model modifications which execute inside the $apply method will be properly accounted for by Angular. For example if a directive listens on DOM events, such as ng-click it must evaluate the expression inside the $apply method.

After evaluating the expression, the $apply method performs a $digest. In the $digest phase the scope examines all of the $watch expressions and compares them with the previous value. This dirty checking is done asynchronously. This means that assignment such as $scope.username=”angular” will not immediately cause a $watch to be notified, instead the $watch notification is delayed until the $digest phase. This delay is desirable, since it coalesces multiple model updates into one $watch notification as well as guarantees that during the $watch notification no other $watches are running. If a $watch changes the value of the model, it will force additional $digest cycle.


The root scope is created during the application bootstrap by the $injector. During template linking, some directives create new child scopes.

Watcher registration

During template linking directives register watches on the scope. These watches will be used to propagate model values to the DOM.

Model mutation

For mutations to be properly observed, you should make them only within the scope.$apply(). Angular APIs do this implicitly, so no extra $apply call is needed when doing synchronous work in controllers, or asynchronous work with $http, $timeout or $interval services.

Mutation observation

At the end of $apply, Angular performs a $digest cycle on the root scope, which then propagates throughout all child scopes. During the $digest cycle, all $watched expressions or functions are checked for model mutation and if a mutation is detected, the $watch listener is called.

Scope destruction

When child scopes are no longer needed, it is the responsibility of the child scope creator to destroy them via scope.$destroy() API. This will stop propagation of $digest calls into the child scope and allow for memory used by the child scope models to be reclaimed by the garbage collector.

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