Controlling iPhone Background App Refresh

Posted By : Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on July 26, 2018

Question

My iPhone battery is almost dead by the middle of the day most of the time and I suspect some new apps I installed recently might be contributing. Is there a way to check them?

Answer

This question was answered on July 26, 2018.

In the early days of the iPhone, Apple essentially paused third-party apps that were running in the background, but that all changed years ago with iOS 7.

Starting with iOS 7, third-party apps were allowed to do much more than simply send push notifications when they were running in the background with a feature called ‘Background App Refresh’.

Giving third-party apps the ability to check for and download new information in the background can certainly consume both battery life and your data plan.

Apple didn’t give app developers carte blanche to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, but it’s not a surprise that many app developers took advantage of this new feature even for apps that really didn’t need to constantly update.

Battery Usage
With the release of iOS 9, users were finally given the ability to see which apps they were using were consuming the most battery life, so I would start with an overview.

When you go to Settings -> Battery you can scroll down to the ‘Battery Usage’ section to see the apps that use the most battery power.  It should reflect the apps that you use the most, but if you see any apps that you rarely use consuming lots of power, make note of them.

If you don’t actually need the app, uninstall it. If you do want to keep the app, but prevent it from updating in the background, you can do so by going to Settings -> General -> Background App Refresh.

Should I Disable It?
Before iOS 11 was released, if you had Background App Refresh turned on, it would do so whether you were connected to Wi-Fi or only had a Cellular connection, which is why it could impact your data plan.

With iOS 11, you can choose to turn it off completely, or allow it only when you are connected to Wi-Fi or allow it run no matter how your connected (Wi-Fi & Cellular Data).

If you suspect that background apps are chewing up your battery, you can easily test that theory by turning it off altogether.  This will not keep Apple’s primary apps such as Mail from continuing to update in the background, so it’s not a universal switch.

If your battery usage improves and you aren’t experiencing any negative effects when using your favorite apps, you can just leave it turned off.

Customizing The List
If the apps you use all the time suddenly start taking longer to load or fully update, you can turn it back on using Wi-Fi only, then customize the list of apps that you want to update in the background.

If you’ve never looked into this setting, you may be surprised by the types of apps that by default are set to update in the background when there doesn’t seem to be a need for it.

More Battery Tips
One of the best ways to extend battery life is by lowering your screen brightness, so keep it as low as you can.  You can also save power by turning off radios that aren’t in use such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and disable notifications for unimportant apps to keep them from turning on your display when its been locked down.

Apple has a comprehensive guide for maximizing batteries at: https://goo.gl/yy4WGi

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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on July 26, 2018

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