What is Background App Refresh on iPhone and iPad

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Pau Monfort
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Disabling background app refresh on your iPhone or iPad is a great tip for improving battery life. But you may be concerned about what happens by turning off background app refresh. In this post, we will tell you what background app update means in iPhone and iPad settings and whether you should keep it enabled or not.


Apple introduced the background app update with iOS 7 and has continued to be a part of every iOS update ever since. At the end of the post, you will know the benefits of background app refresh and how to enable or disable it.



1. What is background app update in iPhone and iPad settings

To understand the background app refresh functionality in iOS and iPadOS, you need to know the life cycle of an app. To put it simply, when 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 to the background. You can still access it from multitasking or from the app switcher screen (recent apps), where it is said to be in a suspended state after a short time.

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


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



For example, if you don't open the Facebook or Instagram app for several days, you won't immediately see the latest posts when you open it later as it was inactive or not running. The app will take some time to update and show the latest posts.

Therefore, with background app refresh, suspended apps periodically refresh background content so that new content is available.


Suggestion: find out how to make a full backup of your iPhone

2. Which apps support background app refresh

The background app update functionality must be implemented by the app developer for third party apps. So it varies from app to app.

3. What is the benefit of updating the app in the background

Many people are wondering what the background app update is for. The main advantage is speed. When you switch to an app from the app switcher, it will be ready with the new content as it has already been updated in the background.


Let's take the example of Facebook. If you switch from a different app, the feed will automatically update to show the new content. In case the background app update is disabled, you may have to wait to allow the app to update.

Similarly, background app refresh is useful for news apps. If you like to read the news at regular intervals, you will get the latest news when you open the app, as long as the app has not been closed completely. Basically, background app refresh doesn't let you wait for your data when you launch an app.


4. How to enable or disable background app refresh

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


Here are the steps for both:

  1. Open Settings and go to General.
  2. Tap Background App Refresh.
  3. Now, if you want to enable / disable for all apps, tap Background App Refresh again on the next screen. Tap Off if you want to disable. Alternatively, you can keep background app refresh enabled on WiFi only or for both WiFi and mobile data.

In case you want to disable or enable it for a single app, go to Settings> General> Background App Refresh. Turn off the switch next to the app you want to disable background app refresh for. You can also disable or enable it from the app settings, for example go to Settings> (app name)> Background app refresh.

Final report: The main background app update switch from step 3 should be kept enabled to customize the behavior of individual apps.

What happens when I turn off background app refresh

For starters, updating the app in the background doesn't affect notifications. You will still receive notifications from an app even if background app refresh is disabled. That is, you will receive emails, chat messages, etc.


Secondly, as you may 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.

Aside from that, Apple lists disabling background app refresh as one of the tips for improving battery life on iPhone and iPad.

You should turn off background app refresh

Now to the million dollar question: Should you turn off background app refresh? Well, it varies from app to app. Most apps will work normally with background app refresh turned off. However, some apps require it to be active. So you shouldn't completely disable it for all apps. But try each app manually, then see how it works without background app update enabled.


Further Reading:

  • IPhone power saving mode, how it works
  • How to stop automatic updating of iPhone and iPad apps
  • How to disable and delete Siri history on iPhone and iPad
  • iOS 13: here is the list of compatible iPhones
  • Here are the devices that will receive iOS 13

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