What Is Background App Refresh on iPhone and iPad

Turning off Background app refresh on your iPhone or iPad is a great tip to improve battery. But you might be apprehensive about what happens by turning off Background app refresh. In this post, we shall tell you what is meant by Background app refresh in iPhone and iPad Settings and whether you should keep it enabled or not.

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Apple introduced Background app refresh with iOS 7, and since then, it continues to be part of every iOS update. By the end of the post, you will know about the benefits of Background app refresh and how to enable or disable it.

Let’s get started.

What Is Background App Refresh in iPhone and iPad Settings

To understand the Background app refresh feature in iOS and iPadOS, you will need to know about an app’s life cycle. Keeping it simple, when you are using an app, it is said to be active and in the foreground. When you press the Home button or open a new app, the first app goes in the background. You can still access it from the multitasking or the app switcher (recent apps) screen, where it is said to be in a suspended state after a short period of time.

Now, this is where the Background app refresh comes into the picture. With Background app refresh enabled, the apps in suspended mode can check for new content regularly. So if you switch to a suspended app present in the app switcher screen, you will be greeted by the new data without waiting or refreshing.

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However, if you quit or close the app from the app switcher, enabling Background app refresh doesn’t do much. The app’s content will then update only when you open the app. Basically, Apple smartly understands user behavior over time and stops refreshing content in the background.

For instance, if you don’t open Facebook or Instagram app for several days, you will not see the latest posts immediately when you open it later since it was inactive or not in the running stage. The app will take its time to refresh and show the latest posts.

So with Background app refresh, suspended apps update the content periodically in the background so that new content is available to you.

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Which Apps Support Background App Refresh

The Background app refresh functionality needs to be implemented by the app developer for third-party apps. So it varies from app to app.

What is the Benefit of Background App Refresh

Many people wonder what’s the use of Background app refresh. The main benefit is speed. When you switch to an app from the app switcher, it would be ready with the new content since it has already been updated in the background.

Let’s take the example of Facebook. If you switch to it from a different app, it would have automatically refreshed the feed to show the new content. In case the Background app refresh was disabled, you might have to wait a bit to let the app refresh.

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How to Enable or Disable Background App Refresh

You can either enable/disable Background app refresh for all apps or customize the behavior and do it for individual apps.

Here are the steps for both:

Step 1: Open Settings and go to General.

Step 2: Tap on Background app refresh.

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Step 3: Now, if you want to enable/disable it for all apps, tap on Background app refresh again on the next screen. Tap on Off if you want to disable it. Alternatively, you can keep the Background app refresh enabled on Wi-Fi alone or for both Wi-Fi and mobile data.

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In case you want to turn it off or on for an individual app, go to Settings > General > Background app refresh. Turn off the toggle next to the app for which you want to disable Background app refresh. You can turn it off or on from app settings as well, i.e., go to Settings > (app name) > Background app refresh.

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Note: The main Background app refresh toggle of step 3 needs to be kept enabled to customize individual app behavior.

What Happens by Turning Background App Refresh off

For starters, Background app refresh doesn’t impact notifications. You will still receive notifications from an app even if the Background app refresh is disabled. That is, you will get emails, chat messages, etc.

Secondly, as you must have guessed by now, you will not receive updated information as soon as you open the app. However, that doesn’t make much of a difference unless the app mandatorily requires Background app refresh to be enabled.

Apart from that, Apple lists turning off Background app refresh as one of the tips to improve battery on iPhone and iPad.

Should You Turn Background App Refresh off

We come to the million-dollar question now – should you turn off the Background app refresh? Well, it varies from app to app. Most apps will function normally with Background app refresh turned off. However, certain apps require it to be on. So you should not completely turn it off for all apps. But test each app manually and see how it works without Background app refresh enabled.

Last updated on 26 October, 2021

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