Stop Closing Your iPhone’s Background Apps

Stop Closing Your iPhone’s Background Apps

Apple users seem unanimously convinced that closing background apps is a good habit, but it’s more likely a waste of time. For too long, I’ve watched friends and family orchestrate a frenzy of up-swipes from their iPhone’s multitasking screen to cleanse themselves of countless open background apps.

Perhaps this mythical ritual of iPhone maintenance will save battery, make your phone run faster, or stop social media companies from tracking you. While it’s not crazy to think so, it’s simply a lie we’ve all been living. Closing background apps does nothing because those apps aren’t actually “running.”

In 2016, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, confirmed that closing your background apps does nothing for your battery life, in response to a customer’s email shared with 9to5Mac. On a technical level, most of your background apps are essentially frozen, and your system just displays a screenshot of them for consistency. The impact on your battery life is negligible.

The same can be said for Android as well. In fact, closing your background apps actually uses more battery than just leaving them open. That’s because shutting down and initializing an app requires more energy than restoring it from its suspended state in your “background.”

Federighi also notes that closing background apps does nothing to improve your phone’s performance, for many of the same reasons it doesn’t affect your battery. iOS manages your iPhone’s RAM as efficiently as possible by default, and closing your background apps does not optimize anything.

In terms of privacy, force-closing apps do nothing to stop companies from tracking you, according to The Washington Post. Apps can still collect your data even if they’re closed. Contrary to popular belief, apps can still track you even if you force quit them.

The key misunderstanding here is that force quitting an app is different from turning “Background App Refresh” off. Turning off “Background App Refresh” in your settings is the most surefire way to address all these problems.

Origins of the Myth

This myth seems to have originated on community forums in the days after the first iPhone’s release. On July 5th, 2007, just a week after the iPhone’s release, one user posted about their Safari application running in the background in Apple’s community forum.

“When you click the home button after you have been using Safari, is it still running in the background and draining the battery?” said the user.

“I am pretty sure EVERYTHING is running in the background,” replied another user.

There were many other community forum posts about this same confusion at the time, including one very popular post on Stack Overflow. However, it’s clear this misconception has occurred for many users since the beginning.

Why It’s Pervasive

This myth, like others, is pervasive because it feels like it should be true. On a computer, having too many tabs or applications open can make it run slower. That much is true, but an iPhone’s operating system is fundamentally different. Apps on your iPhone are meant to permanently stay open, able to be called up in an instant at any time. This distinction was never made clear by Apple.

Apple has never claimed that closing background apps improves your phone’s performance. The company has always quietly maintained you should only force quit an application if it’s frozen.

But still, millions of people are wasting their days, and their batteries, closing their background apps. It’s one of the most pervasive myths in technology, but we need to stop performing this iPhone cleansing ritual once and for all.

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