Why You Can't Quit iPhone Apps to Improve Battery Life

Learn how to actually extend the battery for your iOS device

iphone on desk
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Quitting iPhone apps to save battery life isn't an effective strategy to get more performance out of a device. Unfortunately, you can't get greater longevity out of your Apple device by quitting your apps, so you'll have to find other ways to improve your iPhone's battery performance.

Information in this article applies to all iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices running any version of iOS.

Does Quitting Apps Save iPhone Battery Life?

Quitting apps has no positive effect on the iPhone's battery life according to Apple. This is because of how iOS handles multitasking.

An iPhone user emailed Apple CEO Tim Cook to ask this question in March 2016. The head of Apple's iOS division, Craig Federighi, responded and told the customer that quitting apps doesn't improve battery life. Federighi is in charge of the team of programmers who create and maintain the iPhone's operating system.

How Multitasking Works on iPhone

If you double tap the iPhone Home button (or swipe up from the bottom of the screen on iPhone X), you'll see how many apps are running at once. These apps are ones you've used recently or are using in the background (such as listening to the Music app while you browse the web).

An iPhone in multitasking mode
Apple Inc.

Almost none of these apps use battery life. To understand why you need to understand multitasking on the iPhone and the five states of iPhone apps. According to Apple, every iPhone app on your phone exists in one of these states:

  • Not Running: The app isn't running or was automatically quit by iOS.
  • Inactive: This is a brief transitional state, generally used when switching from one app to another.
  • Active: The app is presently in use.
  • Background: The app is running behind the scenes.¬†Most apps can't run in the background, but apps that play music, provide GPS/mapping features, and a few other types can.
  • Suspended: The app exists in the background, but it's not actually running.

The only two of these five states that use battery life are Active and Background. So, just because an app displays when you double tap the iPhone Home button doesn't mean it's using battery life.

Can Quitting Apps Actually Harm iPhone Battery Life?

Quitting apps in order to get more battery life may result in less longevity from the battery. The reason for this has to do with how much power it takes to launch an app.

Launching an app that hasn't been running takes more power than restarting an app that's just been suspended since it was last used. Therefore, keeping apps in multitasking view helps the iPhone maximize battery performance.

Think of iOS apps like a car on a cold morning. When the car is started, it may take longer to get going. Once the engine is warm, the car starts faster the next time the key is turned. While the amount of extra battery life that is used to launch apps that aren't running probably doesn't make a huge difference, it certainly isn't helping.

When Quitting iPhone Apps Is a Good Idea

Just because quitting apps isn't good for saving battery doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. Situations in which closing apps is the best thing to do include:

  • When the app is malfunctioning: If an app is causing problems for the phone or is not responding, quitting is often the best way to fix it.
  • When the app is using background data: Want to make sure an app is only using data when you expect it? Quitting the app ensures it won't use data in the background (this also requires that Background App Refresh be turned off).