Apple Reiterates: Force Quitting iOS Apps Doesn’t Help Battery Life

It's been a long-standing belief in some circles that using the multitasking feature of iOS to force quit apps can help save an iPhone's battery life, or improve the speediness of the software when the smartphone becomes slow. Earlier in the week, an iPhone user decided to email Apple CEO Tim Cook to put the issue to bed once and for all, and instead got a reply from Craig Federighi, Apple's senior VP of Software Engineering (via 9to5Mac).

Asked specifically whether Cook quits apps to save battery and if it's truly "necessary for battery life," Federighi jumped in with a concise "no and no." Although far from an official condemnation of the force quit belief by Apple, it is the most the company has directly said about the myth in the six years since multitasking became available in iOS 4.

multitasking battery email

Image via 9to5Mac

The simplistic nature of swiping apps off of the multitasking landing pad, and subsequently "quitting" them, helped create a widespread belief that an iPhone's battery could be preserved for a little longer. But as many have pointed out over the years, doing so could in fact do the complete opposite: you could be shortening the battery life of your iPhone.

A few exceptions can be made to certain processes, but for the most part when an app is pushed into the background it becomes completely frozen and ceases to use any of an iPhone's battery power. As relayed by a former Genius Bar technician, Scotty Loveless, force quitting an app purges all of its code from the RAM of the iPhone, requiring it to be re-loaded upon the next time you visit the app.

If it's an app you're going to often -- a weather or traffic experience, for example -- all of the forced closing and re-opening actually can worsen the life of an iPhone. Exceptions can be made by toggling off a feature called "Background App Refresh," which the Facebook app was found to be suspiciously circumventing in recent months, but in all other occurrences the process of force quitting each app to prolong battery life is erroneous.

Plus, iOS closes apps automatically as it needs more memory, so you're doing something your device is already doing for you. You are meant to be the user of your device, not the janitor. The truth is, those apps in your multitasking menu are not running in the background at all: iOS freezes them where you last left the app so that it's ready to go if you go back.

Unless you have enabled Background App Refresh, your apps are not allowed to run in the background unless they are playing music, using location services, recording audio, or the sneakiest of them all: checking for incoming VOIP calls , like Skype. All of these exceptions, besides the latter, will put an icon next to your battery icon to alert you it is running in the background.

In the case of the Facebook app, the company's mobile app was discovered to be the cause behind cases of dramatic battery drain, even when Background App Refresh was turned completely off. The social network site eventually implemented a fix for the problem, citing the major culprits as "CPU spin" in the app's code and silent background audio continuing to emanate from the service's auto-play videos after the app was closed.

That was a rare case, however, and users should stick closer to Federighi's succinct advice today instead of continuing to put long-term strain on the smartphone. If you're ever really concerned about daily battery usage, Apple offers a simple but useful tool to keep on top of things. Go to Settings > Battery > and scroll down to Battery Usage. "Last 24 Hours" and "Last 7 Days" can give you a full picture at where the heaviest-hitting battery life apps are coming from.

You can also restrict specific app access to Background App Refresh -- or turn it off altogether, although that can drastically hinder certain apps' key features -- in Settings > General > Background App Refresh.

Related Forum: iOS 9

Top Rated Comments

jdillings Avatar
88 months ago
I'm going to email him and ask him what hair product he recommends.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
arggg14 Avatar
88 months ago
In my experience quitting apps that are running in the backdrop absolutely improves battery life...
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mpe Avatar
88 months ago
Better answer would be: No and no, unless the app you are closing is Facebook.

Killing facebook is the only known way how to avoid it sucking battery in the background. (turning off background refresh won't help)
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mpe Avatar
88 months ago
My Facebook battery stats are:
8 minutes on screen, 3 hours in the background.

Federighi is wrong. Killing apps that would otherwise run in the background absolutely helps with battery life.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
pika2000 Avatar
88 months ago
My Facebook battery stats are:
8 minutes on screen, 3 hours in the background.

Federighi is wrong. Killing apps that would otherwise run in the background absolutely helps with battery life.
As such I have uninstalled Facebook. Apple should mark the Facebook app as malware at this point since it is behaving like one, and Facebook's refusal to actually do anything about it.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ChrisCW11 Avatar
88 months ago
This is one feature I can't stand about iOS. While I am confident that apps suspended in the background are not necessarily consuming battery life I can't stand the idea of going to the app switcher view and seeing every app that I have ever used on iOS hanging out there. Seriously some app that I used once 6 months ago should not be shown in the app switcher even if it not going to consume even one tiny fraction of extra battery. Having to sit there an swipe shut every suspended app that I have ever used is absolutely ridiculous.

Simply put a time and count limit on the apps shown in the app switcher. Only show the last X apps used in the last Y amount of time. If I open up more than X apps, then the least accessed and oldest app is removed from the app switcher view. This doesn't mean the app loses its current state, just that you have to access it by "launching" from its icon. Any open app that hasn't been used after Y amount of time should just disappear from the app switcher.

NOBODY uses the app switcher to go back to an app they suspect they used once a year ago possibly sometime, they simply relaunch the app from its icon. Just restore its previous state and end this ******** by keeping it shown indefinitely on the app switcher.

I think fixing this stupid concept this will address a lot of the FUD around the app switcher and people thinking all these apps are consuming battery in the background. Personally the idea of having to "manage" the app switcher is one of the dumbest features that Apple ever implemented and someone with half a brain at Apple needs to re-engineer this feature as they have done it WRONG on iOS and now TVOS and OS X.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

Emergency SOS via Satellite iPhone YT

Apple's iPhone 14 Emergency SOS via Satellite Feature Saves Stranded Man in Alaska

Thursday December 1, 2022 4:37 pm PST by
With the launch of iOS 16.1, Apple rolled out a Emergency SOS via Satellite, which is designed to allow iPhone 14 owners to contact emergency services using satellite connectivity when no cellular or WiFi connection is available. The feature was put to the test in Alaska today, when a man became stranded in a rural area. In the early hours of the morning on December 1, Alaska State Troopers ...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

iOS 16.2 for iPhone Launching This Month With These 8 New Features

Thursday December 1, 2022 8:44 am PST by
Apple plans to publicly release iOS 16.2 for the iPhone in mid-December, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. The update remains in beta testing for now, with at least eight new features and changes already uncovered so far. iOS 16.2 introduces a number of new features, including Apple's new whiteboard app Freeform, two new Lock Screen widgets for Sleep and Medications, the ability to hide...
iOS 16

Apple Releases iOS 16.1.2 With Carrier Improvements and Crash Detection Optimizations

Wednesday November 30, 2022 10:09 am PST by
Apple today released iOS 16.1.2, another minor bug fix update that comes one week after the release of iOS 16.1.1 and three weeks after the launch of iOS 16.1, an update that added support for iCloud Shared Photo Library, Matter, Live Activities, and more. The iOS 16.1.2 update can be downloaded on eligible iPhones over-the-air by going to Settings > General > Software Update. According...
iPad 10 Battery Pull Tabs

iPad 10 Teardown Reveals Why Device Isn't Compatible With Apple Pencil 2

Thursday December 1, 2022 10:48 am PST by
Do-it-yourself repair website iFixit today shared a video teardown of Apple's new 10th-generation iPad, providing a closer look inside the tablet and revealing why the device lacks support for the second-generation Apple Pencil. The teardown reveals the internal layout of the iPad, including its two-cell 7,606 mAh battery, logic board with the A14 Bionic chip, and more. As suspected, the...
iOS 16

When Will iOS 16.2 Be Released?

Friday December 2, 2022 2:13 pm PST by
Apple in late October began testing iOS 16.2 and iPadOS 16.2 updates, providing betas to both developers and public beta testers. As of now, we've had four total betas, with the fourth beta having been released earlier this week. iOS 16.2 and iPadOS 16.2 are expected before the end of the year, and we thought we'd try to narrow down the launch timeline. With only four betas released since...
14 vs 16 inch mbp m2 pro and max feature 1

Major RAM Upgrade Coming to Next-Generation MacBook Pro

Friday December 2, 2022 2:03 am PST by
The next-generation MacBook Pro models could feature faster RAM, according to a recent report from a reliable source. MacRumors Forums member "Amethyst," who accurately revealed details about the Mac Studio and Studio Display before those products were announced, recently provided information about Apple's upcoming 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models. The new machines are expected to feature...
iOS 16

Apple Still Has These 5 Things to Release Heading Into 2023

Thursday December 1, 2022 7:12 am PST by
The calendar has turned to December and that means Apple has only one month left to fulfill its promises of releasing an Apple Music Classical app and expanding its self-service repair program to Europe before the end of 2022. Delays are always possible, of course, so the plans could be pushed back to 2023. In any case, we have put together a list of five things that Apple still has to release...
iOS 16

Apple Seeds Fourth Betas of iOS 16.2 and iPadOS 16.2 [Update: Public Beta Available]

Thursday December 1, 2022 10:16 am PST by
Apple today seeded the fourth betas of upcoming iOS 16.2 and iPadOS 16.2 updates to developers for testing purposes, with the betas coming two weeks after Apple seeded the third betas of iOS 16.2 and iPadOS 16.2. Registered developers are able to download the iOS 16‌.2 and iPadOS 16.2 profiles from the Apple Developer Center, and once installed, the beta is available over the air. iOS...
iPhone Measure Height

Newer iPhones Allow You to Measure Someone's Height Instantly — Here's How

Saturday December 3, 2022 10:23 am PST by
iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, and iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max models feature a LiDAR Scanner next to the rear camera that can be used to measure a person's height instantly in Apple's preinstalled Measure app. To measure a person's height, simply open the Measure app, point your iPhone at the person you want to measure, and make sure they are visible on the screen from...
apple ar headset concept 2

Apple Now Calling AR/VR Headset Operating System 'xrOS'

Thursday December 1, 2022 12:57 pm PST by
Apple has decided to call the software that will run on its upcoming AR/VR headset "xrOS," an update from the original "RealityOS or "rOS" naming the company was planning on, according to Bloomberg. Render created by Ian Zelbo based on rumored information The name change comes as Apple begins to prepare for the launch of the headset, which is expected at some point in 2023. The headset will...