iPhone and iPad users: Do not regularly force quit apps by swiping them away, warn experts

“Potentially millions of people are wasting time, battery and finger energy on an entirely unnecessary and perhaps unhelpful exercise, every single day,” Andrew Griffin reports for The Independent.iPhone users are busily swiping away apps to force them to quit when there is no need to at all.”

“Experts have warned yet again that there is hardly ever any need to force quit apps – done by double tapping the home button and then flicking the apps up and away – despite the fact that it is common practice,” Griffin reports. “The latest round of warnings came after Apple pundit John Gruber wrote a blog post warning people that there is no need to flick the apps away.”

“The practice of swiping away apps is based on a misconception about how iOS works on iPhones and iPads, he said. And not only is swiping away apps unnecessary, it might even be counterproductive,” Griffin reports. “People might presume that it’s important to quit apps to stop them taking up memory or battery while they are sitting in the background. But that’s wrong.”

Read more in the full article here.

“That’s not how iOS works,” Gruber writes. “The iOS system is designed so that none of the above justifications for force quitting are true. Apps in the background are effectively ‘frozen,’ severely limiting what they can do in the background and freeing up the RAM they were using. iOS is really, really good at this. It is so good at this that unfreezing a frozen app takes up way less CPU (and energy) than relaunching an app that had been force quit. Not only does force quitting your apps not help, it actually hurts. Your battery life will be worse and it will take much longer to switch apps if you force quit apps in the background.”

“There’s an entire genre of YouTube videos devoted to benchmarking new phones by running them through a series of apps and CPU-intensive tasks repeatedly, going through the loop twice. Once from a cold boot and the second time immediately after the first first loop,” Gruber writes. “Here’s a perfect example, pitting a Samsung Galaxy S8 against an iPhone 7 Plus. Note that no apps are manually force quit on either device. The iPhone easily wins on the first loop, but where the iPhone really shines is on the second loop. The S8 has to relaunch all (or at least almost all) of the apps, because Android has forced them to quit while in the background to reclaim the RAM they were using. On the iPhone, all (or nearly all) of the apps re-animate almost instantly.”

“An awful lot of very hard work went into making iOS work like this. It’s a huge technical advantage that iOS holds over Android,” Gruber writes. “And every iPhone user in the world who habitually force quits background apps manually is wasting all of the effort that went into this while simultaneously wasting their own device’s battery life and making everything slower for themselves.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Force quitting apps in iOS is only for extraordinary circumstances when an app is misbehaving, not something to be done on a regular basis.

So, as we’ve been saying since 2010, if you’re doing it, just stop.

Seriously.

Don’t worry, not all of these apps are “running.” In fact, most of them are not. Those 42 apps are the last 42 apps you used, they’re not churning in the background, sucking up your battery life. Think of them sort of like Han Solo encased in carbonite; they’re in suspended animation, so they spring back to life right where you left them when tapped. So, that app list is there for your convenience, not to stress you out, so don’t worry, be happy! … Your iPhone is taking care of multitasking, so you don’t have to. — MacDailyNews, June 28, 2010

Still not convinced? Take it from no less than the ultimate authority:

Just use [iOS multitasking] as designed, and you’ll be happy. No need to ever quit apps. – Steve Jobs’ email, June 29, 2010

SEE ALSO:
Apple’s software SVP: Quitting multitasking apps in iOS not necessary – March 10, 2016
Steve Jobs on iOS multitasking: ‘Just use it as designed and you’ll be happy’ – June 29, 2010
Why is my iPhone 4 running 42 apps? Don’t worry, it’s not – June 28, 2010

34 Comments

  1. If Apple would post some instructions on how we can best use their devices- to include the hidden keystroke combos on Mac OS/ OS X (there are many) and hidden settings- they would not have to be telling this stuff to us.

    As Apple has dumbed down the UI on the Mac, the command formerly in plain sight are now only on the UI is you know keystroke-mouse click combos that are not listed anywhere for the user to see nor are they in the Help menu.

  2. This is fiction. I swipe out apps all the time. Having so many running often hoses apps I’m trying to use.
    I use an blood glucose tracker (Dexcom) and when it fails, I have to close all apps and reboot. These “frozen” apps are eating up memory, all denials of same notwithstanding.

    1. Frozen apps are NOT eating any memory. When your glucose tracker app freezes, closing other apps won’t do it any good. Rebooting is an altogether different matter.

      For reasons that were more complicated than the simple explanation above tried to make them appear, there is literally NO difference in memory footprint between the apps that were been force-closed (swipe-up) and those that haven’t.

      Your impression that your app is somehow working better when you force-close other apps is just that — an impression. It cannot be anything else.

  3. In other news, clearing the Recent Items menu on your Mac has no effect on performance. Seriously, it’s the same thing as swiping apps on iOS, yet somehow people believe it’s productive. The “multitasking interface” on iOS has always been just a list of recently used apps. It’s weird how these urban myths begin.

    1. The article title and tone are misleading. It almost sounds like you will damage your iPhone by force-quitting apps!

      The tendency is for the number of apps to grow over time as you open different ones. Some of them are bigger background hogs than others. And the presence of 20 or 30 apps makes the application switcher function of the home button double-click a lot less useful to me. Why should Settings stay in the background, for instance? I know where Settings and Phone and iMessage are on my home screen. So, occasionally, I will sort through and force-quit most of the apps to clean up the clutter. If I want to do that, it is my business. Please don’t waste your time “warning” me.

      1. Reply to ajendus: I would like to be incorrect, but I have several years experience observing this drain when my camera/video and/or navigation apps are “open” in the background. My wife with her iPhone has also noted this. Why do you think it is not so? Did Apple ever say it doesn’t happen?

  4. While I haven’t done high quality, empirical testing of such, my phone’s battery seems to last longer if I quit apps that I am no longer using. Note, these are apps that I may run once in a day, not apps that are accessed constantly.
    And one would think that if a “frozen” app launches faster, it must because certain bits of data are stored in memory somewhere or some process is still alive. Where else would a speed improvement come from?

  5. Navigation apps are perhaps an exception t this general rule — or indeed any app that tracks you when you don’t want it to. I’ll tolerate a navigation app tracking me while I’m travelling. I don’t want it to track me when I’m not using it. So I force-quit it. That’s not a performance issue, it’s a security issue.

    Apps may also have memory leaks, and this may be more evident on a desktop. So although in an ideal world you might not need to force-quit apps, we don’t live in that ideal world.

    1. GPS uses a lot of battery, so it would have a noticeable effect on battery life if apps were tracking 24/7. I have seen this first-hand when I accidentally didn’t end a Runkeeper run and my battery life was horrendous until I figured it out.

      Other than that one time, I’ve never seen a battery drain issue like this, using Apple Maps (on which location tracking cannot be disabled), Google Maps (where it can be set to “while using”), and Waze (where it can only be set to “always” or “never”).

      My understanding is that iOS 11 will force all location-tracking apps to offer “while using”, which will be nice because Waze and Uber currently don’t offer this.

    1. Double click Home button, the array of currently background opened apps appears on dock, hold finger down on one until “-” minus sign in red circle appears, then start deleting them.

      I guess that’s one way to skin the cat.

  6. Those who create music on iOS devices know from experience that this is not good advice in their circumstance. Perhaps musicians are the one group that this does not regularly apply to but, then, the exception is important one 🙂

    Quoting from the Apple documentation:

    “Although OS X supports a backing store, iOS does not. In iPhone applications, read-only data that is already on the disk (such as code pages) is simply removed from memory and reloaded from disk as needed. Writable data is never removed from memory by the operating system. Instead, if the amount of free memory drops below a certain threshold, the system asks the running applications to free up memory voluntarily to make room for new data. Applications that fail to free up enough memory are terminated.”

    Each running unclosed app *DOES* take up memory and resources. (Clearly I’m not talking about daemon processes. Since several iOS revisions ago there has been no way to force terminate other non-essential background processes, the number of which has increased as more services have been added to iOS).

    Since there is no paging on iOS (see link) – an app loaded in memory is actually loaded in memory and *some* of the space (read-only data that can be reloaded from the storage into RAM) is reclaimed as needed by iOS. But not *all* RAM. Not volatile data, and that’s a problem when you want complete access to as much CPU power and RAM as possible for time critical applications like audio (I’m not speaking of streaming services, iTunes, Spotify etc. but musc creation apps like Auria Pro, Moog’s Model 15, Korg’s Gadget, iSEM, etc.

    To further quote the Apple documentation: “In iOS, the kernel does not write pages out to a backing store. When the amount of free memory dips below the computed threshold, the kernel flushes pages that are inactive and unmodified and may also ask the running application to free up memory directly”

    Further, non-music-creation apps in the background may well still be communicating via the Internet for example for refreshing feeds – news, mail etc. Each of these adds activity and takes up resources – network interrupts, CPU usage, memory usage, etc.

    While iOS certainly *does* do better in some respects than other platforms, nevertheless, for music creators using InterApp Audio (IAA) or Audiobus (based on IAA) or AUs and who have potentially multiple music apps open at the same time – synthesizers, FX apps in FX chains, a DAW, a sequencer, etc. – which have both memory and time critical constraints, waiting *at all* for memory to be freed up on a reclamation basis for buffer space to be available for audio I/O and for patch or sample loading, etc.

    This has led musicians using iPads to quite properly develop the strategy of doing a complete reboot or at the least a complete swipe closed of *every* other app that’s running before starting a new recording session.

    It is not bad advice to close apps and start afresh in this circumstance and should be followed normally by most musicians using iPads for music creation and production who are using multiple music creation apps together via IAA/Audiobus/AUs.

    For more information on iOS memory usage, see here: (I’m not sure if links make it through so I’ve removed the dots below between developer, apple and com so that the comment actually posts hopefully 🙂 )

    developer apple com/library/content/documentation/Performance/Conceptual/ManagingMemory/Articles/AboutMemory.html

    1. Sorry – couple of typos / glitches.

      “musc” should be “music” of course in parag 6.

      Also – I left a sentence unfinished in parag 9. “waiting *at all* …” etc. should end…

      “… is a problem that can can cause serious glitches, dropouts and other audio problems when recording and require restarting the recording process afresh.”

      Apologies. 🙂

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