Obsessive Closing Disorder
August 9, 2011 6:58 AM   Subscribe

Do I gain any performance benefits by closing inactive apps on my iPhone 3GS?

I have developed a habit of frequently double-clicking my HOME button and closing all of the inactive apps on my 16GB iPhone 3GS (IOS 4.3.3). I do this several times a day, and I'm wondering if I should bother.

I'm not really concerned with battery life, but is closing all of these applications going to make my iPhone faster in any meaningful way?
posted by DWRoelands to Technology (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Unless those apps are doing something in the background, they're already closed. You could think of it more as a recently used apps list rather than a task manager.
posted by ftm at 7:03 AM on August 9, 2011

You gain nothing. When an app enters the background, it is for all practical purposes already closed. An application has the option of requesting some time to perform background tasks when you exit it, but they only do it for discrete tasks, like an in progress photo upload.
posted by AaRdVarK at 7:09 AM on August 9, 2011

Best answer: Nope, it won't make your iPhone any faster, but will in fact slow you down.

The way background apps work on iOS is more or less as follows:

1. User presses the home button.
2. iOS tells the app it's about to go into the background.
3. If the app needs to actually do something while in the background (e.g., play audio, receive location updates, finish a finite-time task) it tells the OS and requests to stay active in the background.
4. If the app doesn't need to do anything in the background, it gets frozen by the OS and does not consume any CPU or battery resources. It may retain a bit of RAM allocation, but if the OS later decides it needs that RAM for other purposes, the app will be killed automatically.
5. The user launches the app again (either from the home screen or the multitasking switcher, doesn't matter). If the app was still active in the background, it's simply brought to the foreground. If it was frozen in the background, it is quickly resumed and brought to the foreground. If it was killed (either automatically by the OS or manually by the user) it is relaunched from scratch.

So, as you can see, manually killing apps on a regular basis only serves to slow you down the next time you launch them, because they cannot quickly resume where you left off.
posted by Nothlit at 7:26 AM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

What others have said is generally correct. There are, however, times when it is useful to fully quit an app. In particular, if an app is misbehaving it can be useful as a first step to fully shut it down and restart it. That will often clean up the misbehavior.
posted by alms at 7:30 AM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yes. If you have enough apps open to constrict available memory, you'll have performance issues. Source: I have this problem. Usually it's because I have too many Safari tabs open.
posted by michaelh at 7:45 AM on August 9, 2011

I've had occasional misbehaving apps that were clearly doing something unnecessary in the background as measured by battery life. There are some specific cases but also sometimes I just notice battery life dropping unexpectedly fast, and killing all the apps usually fixes this.
posted by advil at 7:46 AM on August 9, 2011

You might find the Memory Status app helpful: it'll show you whether closing backgrounded apps is making any difference to the amount of available memory.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 7:53 AM on August 9, 2011

Anecdotally, I find that the tilt-scrolling in Instapaper is slow and jerky if I have too many apps open. After closing unneeded ones, the scrolling is much smoother. I suspect it is because open apps take up some of the smaller main memory.
posted by procrastination at 7:56 AM on August 9, 2011

It seems to make a difference to me when playing games. If the frame rate is a little jerky, I'll go on a rampage and kill the first 5 or so. Apps beyond that are unlikely to be actually running.
posted by chairface at 8:12 AM on August 9, 2011

Response by poster: Excellent! Thank you!
posted by DWRoelands at 8:21 AM on August 9, 2011

Most of the answers above are wrong. For most apps it won't matter, but if an app is doing background work it makes a difference. Two examples are Google Latitude and MotionX: both will sample your phone's current location every few seconds and upload it to the Internet or store it locally. Both run your battery down significantly more than when they are not running.

I don't know of a way to tell for sure whether an app is actively doing something in the background. Most apps don't.
posted by Nelson at 8:23 AM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

I know you said you are concerned about performance rather than battery life. But I still think this bit from David Pogue is relevant:
• Background apps. Nicole the Genius discovered that my friend had a huge number of apps open — maybe 40 of them. She maintained that they were using battery power, too, in the background.

Now, I kept my mouth shut. But I’d been led to believe that background apps are generally frozen into suspended animation precisely so that they don’t use battery power. In fact, Apple was criticized when it introduced “multitasking” in the latest iPhone software, precisely because apps don’t actually keep operating in the background. Only a few sanctioned features keep running in the background (Internet radio playback and GPS tracking, for example).

Even so, Nicole quit all 40 of the apps that were still open. (To do that, double-press the Home button to open the multitasking app switcher. Hold your finger down on any icon until they all start wiggling. Tap the little X close boxes to manually quit open apps.)
The bit at the end of the second graf supports what Nelson says.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:15 AM on August 9, 2011

There's no way the person in that article has 40 apps "open." I can double-click my home button and see apps listed that I haven't run in *months*.
posted by The Lamplighter at 1:30 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know it affects battery performance when more applications are open, and I'm guessing that's due to cpu usage. So I'd say yes, kill the apps.
posted by Sonic_Molson at 4:26 PM on August 9, 2011

The Lamplighter: "There's no way the person in that article has 40 apps "open." I can double-click my home button and see apps listed that I haven't run in *months*."

I think that is more or less the point. I think "open" was just shorthand for "apps supposedly in suspended animation that are displayed in the app switcher." As Sonic says, if they're draining battery, then they're probably using some processing power.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:27 AM on August 11, 2011

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