Background App Refresh (The Full Guide)

Background App Refresh

Background app refresh, the words sound familiar but what exactly does it mean and what does it do? Both Android and iOS users have been wondering the same thing as of late, sure, we should all be very familiar with what an app is; however, are you truly aware of all the functions it performs?

If you are curious about what the term “background app refresh” means and all that it entails, then you have come to the right place.

Background App Refresh Explained

That moment when you have not touched the Instagram app in weeks and you receive an update, or when you have not used TikTok in a while and it tells you that there is a new feature or filter.

Well, the background app refresh feature for Android and iOS is responsible for this occurrence. You may be wondering, “What does background app refresh mean?” and to put it short and simply, background app refresh essentially allows the apps on your smartphone to update their content from WiFi or mobile data internet.

This feature continues to operate even when you are not using the application and when you have not used the app in a hot minute.

Do not get us wrong this feature can be very useful, in the sense that it makes using functions of the said apps much easier to use; however, there are also negative attributes that can come along with this feature.

Sure, the background app refresh feature may make using apps like Google Maps logical, by which you do not necessarily have to interact with the app to receive a helpful ETA notification.

So, while you may not keep the Instagram app open to receive “like ” notifications, you may get them anyways due to the background app refresh feature.

The key word here is “background,” as this feature does just that, it runs app duties while you are not using them so that they perform better for you when you do use them or even if you do not.

This is how background app refresh works. You may also be questioning, “Is background app refresh necessary?” and you would be right to have such an inquiry, and to put it bluntly no, it is not entirely necessary for any smartphone user to use this feature.

Life Cycle of an App

Now, bear with us on this part as it can get a little complicated but rest assured since it is still digestible. As previously mentioned, the main word to focus on when you are trying to understand background app refresh is the “background” part. See, apps go through life cycles, which essentially are stages or “callbacks.”

You could also consider them as being modes that your apps go through, and in technical terms, they can also be referred to as execution states. You may not be familiar with these terms; however, they are an integral part of any application on a smartphone.

Let us start with the iOS software, which has five execution states for its apps. Remember, that these stages or execution states encompass all of the states that the app goes through between being downloaded (installed) and being terminated (uninstalled).

The first out of the five execution states for iOS is the “Not Running” state, which is when the app has not been launched or terminated by the iOS system.

For the second state, it can be referred to as the “Inactive” state; this is the point where the app is entering the foreground but is also not yet receiving events.

When the app is in the “Inactive” state, you have installed the app and have opened it but it will not yet send out notifications. Next, we have the “Active” state, which is when the app enters the foreground state and can now process events.

Essentially, at this point, you have opened the application, interacted with it and now it will send notifications and begin other processes. For the fourth state or cycle, we have arrived at the “Background” state.

In this state, if the app perceives an executable code, it will execute the said code and if the app perceives no executable code or the execution is complete, the app will be suspended.

Now, when we say “executable code,” you could count this as the point when you would receive an update from an app even when you are not using the application.

This is because the system is looking for any executable codes (updates, optimization, etc.) and as we stated if it finds no executable codes, the app will be suspended immediately.

Finally, we have the “Suspended” state, which is when the app is in the background (in memory); however, it is not executing any codes, and while in this state, if the system does not have enough memory, it will terminate the app.

How Does Background App Refresh Work?

As previously depicted, the background app refresh is when the app will send you a notification or update, even when you are not or have not used the application.

This is because the app is still running in the background, which means even if you have completely closed out of the app, cleared the app cache, and all of that, it will still run the background app refresh.

This is due to the set system searching for any codes to execute, which goes for both Android and iOS.

Background app refresh allows the app to perform all kinds of different functions while the app is in the background state. It is important to note that you would typically have to keep the apps open for it to access these functions.

A good example is if you are at a grocery store and one of your grocery store-focused apps detects that you are at a store, which then prepares the latest digital coupons for that store.

Background app refresh is a setting feature on smartphones that allows apps to idle in the background, which is also when you are not using the apps. Sometimes this feature is helpful and other times it may startle you with what it is running in the background.

Does Turning off Background App Refresh Save Battery?

Yes, if you were to turn off the background app refresh you would be saving battery life. Since the feature keeps apps running in the background, these apps will suck up battery life just as they do when they are running in the foreground.

So, if you are trying to squeeze out every last bit of battery percentage your smartphone has, it would be wise to disable the background app refresh feature so that you may preserve precious battery life.

Now, as to what apps need background app refresh is entirely up to you and your personal preferences. Ideally, you would keep it on for apps that you use on a regular basis and disable it for the apps you do not use often.

Luckily, you can personalize and turn off the background app refresh on both Android and iOS systems. Read on to find out how you can turn off the background app refresh.

How to Turn off Background App Refresh (iPhone and Android)

Not only can background app refresh drain your smartphone’s battery life, but it can also possibly devour data. If you are on a limited cellular data plan, this can be concerning and can also use up much more data than you may want it to, sure, it is great to have up-to-date information for some of your apps but do you want it for all of your apps?

The fewer apps you allow to use the background app refresh feature, the better for your battery and data plan.

You can also test turning off the feature so that you can make an informed decision on which ones you would like to keep it for and which apps you would prefer to have background app refresh turned off.

If you are concerned about your data plan limits or how long your charged smartphone battery will last then you are in luck today as we have some quick steps to adjust and turn off the background app refresh feature for both Android and iOS (iPhone).

How to Turn off Background App Refresh (iPhone, iPad):

Step 1. Starting at the home screen on your iPhone or iPad, proceed to the Settings app and open it.

Step 2. Once you have successfully opened the Settings app, then you can head to and select the General option.

Step 3. Under the General settings menu, you should be able to find the “Background App Refresh” option, which you can select. Under the “Background App Refresh” option you will be able to turn the feature “Off” completely.

How to Turn off Background App Refresh (Android):

Step 1. From the home screen on your Android, go ahead and go to and open the Settings app, then locate and tap on the “Connections” option.

Step 2. Next, you can proceed to and tap on the “Data Usage” option, then from the mobile section, select the “Mobile Data Usage” option.

Step 3. Under the “Mobile Data Usage” graph menu, you can go through and select an app, then from there you can select to turn off the Background App Refresh for the application.

Step 4. You will need to follow these steps for each app that you wish to stop from refreshing apps in the background.

How to Turn off Background App Refresh for Specific Apps on iPhone and iPad:

Step 1. Firstly, you can go ahead and go to and open the Settings app, then from the Settings menu, you can select the “General” option. Once you are under the General Settings options menu, then you can tap on the Background App Refresh option.

Step 2. Now, you should see a list of your iPhone or iPad’s apps and you can use the toggle to turn Background App Refresh On or Off for each application.

The background app refresh feature can be very useful for when you would like to keep up-to-date with certain apps of your choosing such as Email, news, or even Twitter. As helpful as it can be, you probably do not want it on for every single app on your smartphone.

With this feature in the palm of your hand, you will know exactly how to personalize and adjust this feature. The background app refresh feature is a clever little idea for applications but as previously stated, not everyone wants it for every single app.

David Johnson is a freelance writer with 9 years of experience writing for Techzillo and other established tech outlets like iMore. His focus and key interests are Apple and accessibility as well as consumer technology in general. Read our Editorial Guidlines and Fact Checking process.


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