Get to Know Background App Refresh on iPhone and iPad

  • What exactly does Background App Refresh do on my iPhone?
  • Which apps will actually need this feature to work?
  • Does turning it off help improve the battery life?
  • How can I use Background App Refresh the right way?

In this post, I’m going to answer all these common questions about Background App Refresh as I’ve seen many new iOS users getting confused about this feature. So if you are one of those folks and want to get to know more about it, keep going ahead!

How Background App Refresh works

Background App Refresh permits an app to refresh its contents/data even if it is not actively running on the screen. It means when you switch to another app or just press the Home button to quit the app, with this feature enabled, the app will be running in the background and receiving new data from the Internet automatically. Thus, when you open the app to use again, you don’t have to wait for it to load new data, everything is almost ready.

According to the Apple’s explanation:

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.

For example, if you have Background App Refresh turned on for the Dropbox app, then it will connect to servers and keep your files in sync in the background. When you open the app, you’ll see the new data already updated. The similar thing happens to other apps like Stock, Weather or Facebook… With the Weather app, it will pull the weather forecast data from the internet based on your location, while the Facebook app will update the notifications, messages, and even your news feed.

So it’s pretty enjoyable and convenient, right?

Note: If you turn off BAR on an app, you’ll still get new notifications, but the app itself will only load new content when you open it. And if you quit an app from the app switcher, BAR will be disabled on that app so it might not be able to run or check for new content before you open it again.

How to configure BAR

Navigate to Settings > General > Background App Refresh

Here you can disable the feature entirely for all your installed apps by switching the main toggle at the top of the page to the OFF position.

Turn off background app refresh

But normally we want some favorite apps to continue to update in the background, right? In my case, I will need to keep the Quora app and Reddit app enabled. Well, we can simply scroll down to browse the app list and toggle on the switches for the apps we need.

How BAR affects your battery life

As I mentioned in the previous article, BAR does have an impact on the battery life since it takes up system resources and refreshes data in the background.

But how much? We’ll discuss this topic in this part.

According to Apple:

To lessen the effect on battery life, normal app background refreshing is scheduled for efficient times, such as when your device is connected to Wi-Fi, plugged into a power source, or being actively used.

So basically, BAR allows apps to refresh their contents in the background, but not all the time. In fact, it will work based on the use of your device. When you do not actively use or the battery life is low, it will automatically reduce or stop refreshing data.

Even if when it is working, it won’t consume too much power since your apps will temporarily open in the background, pull data and then freeze itself again to ensure no system resources are wasting.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m not asking you to leave this feature turned on for every app without thinking about them.

It is wiser to disabled BAR for the apps that are drawing the most battery power or not necessary to use. To find out which apps are putting a strain on your battery, follow these steps:

  • Go to Settings > Battery, scroll down to the Battery Usage section
  • Tap the Last 24 Hours tab for a snapshot of your recent battery usage, or Last 7 days for a broader look at power consumption over time.
  • Tab the little clock icon next to the two tabs for details on how long your apps are running in the background.See how long your apps are running in the background
  • If you see any apps that are spending a surprising amount of time running in the background, consider cutting off their privileges on the Background Refresh settings screen.

That’s it, hope you have a good understanding about Background App Refresh in iOS after reading this article. If you have any questions, feel free to leave it in the comment section below.

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