Apple exec: Background apps on iPhones don't gobble up battery

Apps running in the background don't eat up your battery charge or other system resources, so you can leave them alone, says Apple.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Don't bother closing your background apps if you expect that to preserve battery life, says Apple.

screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

If you constantly close apps running in the background on your iPhone to save battery life, you are wasting your time.

Background apps don't affect your battery, according to a top Apple executive.

A reader of blog site 9to5Mac apparently sent an email to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking if he shuts down background apps and if doing so extends battery life.

The email wended its way to Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, who responded with a simple "no" to both questions.

Was it actually Federighi who answered the reader's email? Yes, 9to5Mac reported Thursday, confirming that the headers on the messages were verified as legitimate.

Apple introduced multitasking, or running multiple apps with the release of iOS 4 in 2010. You can jump to another already-running app by double tapping the Home button and then tapping the app. You can also close an app running in the background by swiping away its icon from that screen.

Poor battery life is one of the top complaints among mobile phone owners, especially as they run power-hungry apps that can chew up a battery charge before the day is half over. There have been long-running debates over whether closing a background app helps preserve battery charge.

Federighi's succinct response echoes a similar piece of advice on an Apple support page that explains how to close an app. The page says that closing an app isn't necessary unless it's frozen:

Generally, there's no need to force an app to close unless it's unresponsive. When you press the Home button two times quickly, the recently used apps that appear aren't open. They're in an efficient standby mode to help you navigate and multitask.

Another support document clarifies the process in greater detail:

After you switch to a different app, some apps run for a short period of time before they're set to a suspended state. Apps that are in a suspended state aren't actively in use, open or taking up system resources. With Background App Refresh, suspended apps can check for updates and new content.

Mobile phone users constantly search for tips and tricks to preserve battery life on their phones. iPhone owners can extend the charge to some degree by tweaking certain settings and apps. But unless you turn on Background App Refresh, an option introduced in iOS 7, Apple says you're just wasting your time shutting down background apps in hopes of extending your battery charge.

Apple did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.