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Actually, closing your apps might be making your battery life worse

iPhone Battery Life Tips

I have a confession to make: I’m an app closer. The iPhone 6s is my main smartphone and it’s so fast that opening apps from a closed state barely takes any longer than opening apps from a background state. Why do I close apps? Sure, I might still have some delusions in the back of my mind that I’m helping extend my iPhone’s battery life — and I might be helping despite what everyone is saying right now, but I’ll circle back to that — but there’s another reason I manually close most apps when I’m done with them.

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There has been a lot of talk about this topic recently in light of the fact that Apple confirmed closing your apps doesn’t improve battery life. But I still close my apps. Why? It’s mainly because I’m a heavy user of the app switcher.

There are a handful of apps that I use constantly on my iPhone and the rest are only used every once in a while when the need arises. When I’m in one of my commonly used apps and I want to switch to another, I open the app switcher and flip to the appropriate app.

Now, if I leave all of my apps open in the background, it could take me a while to find the app I’m looking for. If I close the ones I don’t use often, it only takes a second to find the app I’m searching for among the six or seven open apps.

At this point it has become so routine for me to close apps when I’m done with them that I don’t even think about it anymore. Finish with app, double-tap, flick. But am I actually hurting my phone’s battery life by manually closing my apps like this?

The notion seems odd, but someone much better positioned to answer that question than I am says it’s a definite possibility. His name is Hiroshi Lockheimer and he’s Google’s vice president of engineering for Android. In other words, he probably knows a thing or two.

A senior writer at Wired recently posed the question of whether or not closing apps could have a negative impact on battery life, and Lockheimer replied on Twitter.

As noted by Lockheimer, there are instances where closing apps could minimally worsen your battery life if system processes try to access something that has been closed.

Fair enough.

Despite all these recent revelations and despite word now coming down from experts at Apple and Google, there’s a problem with all this advice: It assumes third-party developers haven’t made mistakes that might impact battery life negatively when apps are minimized but not closed.

Developers aren’t perfect. In fact, some of them are pretty bad. I have personally had issues multiple times in the past where minimized apps have decimated my iPhone’s battery life. But lo and behold, closing the app completely instead of leaving it minimized would return things to normal.

The most recent instance I can think of involved Jawbone’s UP app constantly connecting and disconnecting from my band while minimized. The problem actually persisted even while the app was fully closed, but it was less of an issue. When I closed the app instead of minimizing it, battery consumption dropped to around 10% from over 40%.

The bottom line is that this isn’t a cut and dry case. Most of the time, closing apps completely instead of just minimizing them will not impact your battery life on iOS or Android devices at all. But in some rare cases, it might actually make your battery life worse. And in other rare cases, it might help.

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content.

Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment. His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.