Apple’s long controversial iOS force-quit feature on the iPhone and iPad has taken another turn this week when a former Apple retail store Genius affirmed that force quitting apps in such manner has no effect on background processes or battery life. In fact he claims that habitually doing so actually has negative effects. “It does shut down the app,” says Scotty Loveless on his personal blog, “But what you don’t know is that you are actually making your battery life worse if you do this on a regular basis.” He goes on to explain that doing so removes an app from the device’s RAM memory, forcing it to be reloaded the next time that app is launched, which requires additional battery power.
Since the force-quit feature was introduced, Apple has made clear that it’s only intended for use when an individual app is frozen or behaving oddly. Initially the feature was buried fairly deep within the Home button hierarchy. But as of iOS 7, Apple has made the feature more accessible; double clicking the Home button brings up an array of recently used apps, which can then be tapped on for launch or swiped away to be force quit. Numerous iPhone and iPad users have since mistaken this feature for being a method of preventing apps from running in the background, and thus a method of preserving battery life. That misguided advice has become a persistent myth.
One iPhone user, Angie Tuel, states that she was “led astray” by the misguided advice of a tech savvy family member and had been “obsessively clearing those pages several times a day” until she became educated on the specifics of iOS background tasks. Apple limits the ability of third party apps to function in the background except for specific functions such as refresh and push notification, and can be controlled in Settings on an individual per-app basis. In contrast, when scrolling through apps after double clicking the Home button, users are merely viewing a still image of the last thing they were doing in each app before leaving it.
But the confusion persists. Another iPhone user, Frank Miller, acknowledges that the confusion led him to visit an Apple Store Genius Bar in order to inquire whether he should force quit the apps in order to conserve battery life. He was advised to “Leave em be, no problem, they just there,” and was instead steered to the Settings app. But no matter the attempts on Apple employees (or a former Apple employee in the case of Loveless) at setting the record straight, a large contingent of users continue to express the belief that force quitting apps after each use is advisable. Apple may be left with no choice but to bury the force quit feature further back down into the interface, where it had quietly resided through iOS 6, when it launches the eventual successor to iOS 7.