When an application is launched, the system creates a thread called "main" for the application. The main thread, also called the UI thread, is very important because it is in charge of dispatching the events to the appropriate widgets, including drawing events. It is also the thread where your application interacts with running components of the Android UI toolkit.
For instance, if you touch the a button on screen, the UI thread dispatches the touch event to the widget, which in turn sets its pressed state and posts an invalidate request to the event queue. The UI thread dequeues the request and notifies the widget to redraw itself.
This single-thread model can yield poor performance unless your application is implemented properly. Specifically, if everything is happening in a single thread, performing long operations such as network access or database queries on the UI thread will block the whole user interface. No event can be dispatched, including drawing events, while the long operation is underway. From the user's perspective, the application appears hung. Even worse, if the UI thread is blocked for more than a few seconds (about 5 seconds currently) the user is presented with the infamous "application not responding" (ANR) dialog.