Confessions Part II: An iOS myth believer sees the light

iOS Multitasking Bar

They say confession is good for the soul. I may know a lot of things about iOS and Apple in general, but I’ll be the first to admit when I am wrong. Earlier this week, blogger Fraser Speirs posted an article highlighting myths about multitasking on the iPad and iPhone. Specifically, the myth that you need to manually close previously open apps on a regular basis to improve device performance, reduce memory consumption, and increase battery life.

Let me be as clear as I can be: the iOS multitasking bar does not contain “a list of all running apps”. It contains “a list of recently used apps”. The user never has to manage background tasks on iOS.

I don’t religiously close out of my open apps, but I did so on a somewhat regular basis, and have advised my friends and coworkers to do the same. So when I first saw the post, I was skeptical. My iPhone and iPad just seem faster when I close out of my previously used apps. I even took my iPad to the Apple Store in Roseville, MN, last August because the home button wasn’t responding like it should. The Genius Bar staff told me “quit the apps from the multitasking bar.” My iPad did seem more responsive after that. I also downloaded System Activity Monitor, an app that, well, monitors system performance. It seemed to confirm what I was seeing.

But as Fraser points out in his post, the folks who work the Apple Genius Bar are flat wrong. Now, in defense of the guy at the store whose name I can’t remember, my son Carter had been using the iPad recently and it seemed like nearly every one of Carter’s education and game apps were open (which is not a small number).

Fraser recently posted a video showing exactly how iOS handles closed apps, whether they are allowed to run in the background, and when they are put into the iOS version of suspended animation to free up memory as needed.

He does conclude with a couple of caveats about when manually closing apps makes sense. Some apps, like the built-in Mail app or GPS navigation apps, are always running in the background and may affect performance and battery life. Finally, sometimes an app will freeze, and you have no choice to quit it manually. Freezes are rare, but they do happen. Even on iOS devices.

Fraser’s final word of advice is this: “killing apps manually is fine as a troubleshooting step but it shouldn’t be part of your daily routine.” Duly noted. I’ll more careful in the future.

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