3 reasons you shouldn’t close your open iPhone apps

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Should You Quit Your Apps?
Betteridge's law of headlines says no.
Image: CollegeDegrees360/Wikimedia Commons/D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

It’s good to know how to close apps on iPhone for those times when an app is acting buggy or becomes unresponsive. It’s really easy — just swipe up to see your running apps and swipe up again to close them.

Does this mean you should you quit open apps? No, not at all. Despite what you may have heard, quitting apps on iOS makes things worse, not better. It’s a myth that quitting apps will save battery life, make your iPhone run faster or free up memory. Overall, it makes things worse.

Here are three reasons why.

How to close open apps on iPhone

Closing apps on iPhone
Swipe up and hold from the bottom of the screen to see open apps. Swipe up on an app to close it.
GIF: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

To close open apps on iPhone, swipe up from the bottom of the screen and hold for a moment to bring up the app switcher. (Or, on an older iPhone, double tap the Home Button.) Swipe up on any app to close it.

If an app you’re using becomes unresponsive or buggy, this will reset it and may solve the problem.

Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to have the bad habit of force-quitting all the open apps on their iPhones every time they use them. You might start doing this thinking that you’re saving your battery, or boosting your iPhone’s performance, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Nonetheless, you do this enough and it becomes habitual. But here are three reasons you shouldn’t — and why quitting iOS apps does more harm than good.

You can click here for a video if you’d like to watch instead:

1. Quitting apps drains your iPhone battery and slows it down

It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s better for your battery to just leave the apps as is. Just go back to the Home Screen or lock your phone.

When you force-quit an app, your iPhone must do extra work to end all the running processes and clear everything from its memory. When you open the app again, your phone must load it from scratch, which slows you down.

If you make a habit out of it, the battery power you waste by quitting apps and waiting for them to open back up will be far greater than the battery power it takes to leave apps in the background.

Your phone will clear apps from memory on its own if it needs to — you don’t need to do it yourself.

2. Your apps aren’t doing anything in the background anyways

Scott Forstall introducing multitasking in iOS 4
These are the only background activities that apps are allowed to do.
Photo: Apple

So, what actually happens when you leave an app running? If an app isn’t on screen, especially if your iPhone is locked, there’s very little that an app is allowed to do. It’s as good as if it’s closed entirely, without the need to force-quit it.

There are only a few things that iOS allows an app to do in the background, as former Apple exec Scott Forstall explained when iPhone multitasking was introduced:

  • Stream/play audio (music, podcasts, video)
  • Receive or make phone calls
  • Ask for your location
  • Send notifications
  • Finish a task you just started, like uploading a photo or making a post

Pandora, Skype and TomTom were hailed as the top apps of the day that would adopt these features first — that’s how long ago this was (2010!). And a few more background features have been added in the years since, but again, none of these will occur without your knowledge:

  • Run Live Activities
  • Talk to Bluetooth/NFC devices
  • Record your screen
  • Run a Shortcut action
  • Run a VPN

Basically, if an app isn’t on your iPhone’s screen, it’s not doing anything. It’s just waiting for you to open it back up again.

3. There’s a better way to stop background activity

Turning off Background App Refresh in Settings
If you really want to turn it off, here it is.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Later, Apple introduced a feature that let apps update content in the background, too, called Background App Refresh. Your phone judges which apps are allowed to do this based on your usage.

If it really matters to you, you have a single switch you can use to prevent apps from refreshing themselves in the background. Turn it off in Settings > General > Background App Refresh and reduce it to Wi-Fi or turn it off entirely.

Once you’ve done that, you can stop clearing your apps, because nothing will happen in the background without you knowing.

And even so, Background App Refresh is really smart about preserving your battery in the first place. I would only selectively disable it for the apps that are the worst offenders: Amazon, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.

I know it’s hard to change habits

Once you learn how to close apps on iPhone, you may mistakenly think it’s good for your phone to do it all the time. This is not the case.

Force-quitting your apps doesn’t save your battery or speed up your phone — it’s actually depleting your battery and slowing it down.

Just swipe up to the Home Screen and don’t worry about it.

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