iOS Multitasking Misconception

Recently, I was having problems with the Home button on my iPhone. I took it to the local Genius Bar to get the unit replaced since it did not seem to be a software issue.

The genius there told me I had too many apps running in the background and that can cause the button’s response to lag. Which I knew was false and I told him so. I had this phone for nearly a year and has never manually closed any applications unless they were acting up. It took some explaining (and the phone continuing to act up even after he quit all those running applications) but I got my replacement.

Fraser Speirs recently wrote a great article about why there is no need to manage applications on the iPhone or iPad.

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.
Fraser Speirs

Read the quote and read it again. There is no need to close all those “running” apps on your iPhone or iPad. They are not running at all. They are identical to the “Recently Used” applications list in Windows. They are not running. They are not using precious battery power nor are they taxing the device’s processor or memory.

If you’re technically inclined read the entire article for a great explanation of how background processing works in iOS. If you aren’t then read no further.

To review: The only time you ever need to forcibaly quit an appication is when it is misbehaving.

All those apps you see in the multitasking bar are not running. They have recently been used and closed when you switched away from them.

Most applications will close within 5 seconds of switching away from them. Some applications can run for 10 minutes in the background to complete a task. ((Such as podcast downloaders, news apps updating new issues and things like this.))

The only exceptions to these rules are,

Five classes of apps – audio, GPS, VOIP, Newsstand and accessory apps – and some built-in apps such as Mail may run indefinitely in the background until they complete their task.

These applications can run in the background so you can listen to audio, nagivate, chat, download subscribed content and use specific accessories.

The entire article is a good read if you’re interested at all and is easy to understand even if you’re not an iPhone developer.