You’ve probably seen a lot of articles telling you to turn off background app refresh because it saves you a lot of battery. There’s a lot of confusion about whether you should turn this on or off so this article is going to show what this feature does and why many people think that turning it off is going to save you battery life.

Life Cycle of an App

A life cycle of an app is basically the stages an app goes through on your iPhone and iPad.

On your iPhone and iPad right now, you have apps that you use a lot and apps that you hardly use. Every app on your iOS device is in a specific stage right now. Whether you’ve never opened the app, or you’re using the app right now to read this article, that app is in a current state.

When you’re performing actions on a certain app such as opening it and then leaving it in the background, this app is moving from state to state as you perform certain actions to it. For example, you open the Phone app and close it, then a call comes in –  this app is moving from state to state as it is moving from one action to the other.

Here’s an explanation of all the states an app on your device is in right now explain in the Apple Documentation.

State Description
Not running The app has not been launched or was running but was terminated by the system.
Inactive The app is running in the foreground but is currently not receiving events. (It may be executing other code though.)

An app usually stays in this state only briefly as it transitions to a different state.

Active The app is running in the foreground and is receiving events.

This is the normal mode for foreground apps.

Background The app is in the background and executing code.

Most apps enter this state briefly on their way to being suspended. However, an app that requests extra execution time may remain in this state for a period of time.

Suspended The app is in the background but is not executing code.

The system moves apps to this state automatically and does not notify them before doing so.

While suspended, an app remains in memory but does not execute any code.


Here’s an image from Apple’s documentation which shows the life cycle of an app from one state to the next.

What is Background App Refresh?

Apps life cycle

Background app refresh is a feature on your iPhone that allows apps to refresh their content in the background. This allows your app to check for new information while it’s in the background.

The apps are only allowed to be checked for new content at certain times and not at random. This can also happen when your battery is at a certain level and in a certain location.

For example, you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed and you decide to leave the app for a few minutes and get back to the work you were doing. If background app refresh is turned on, the content on Instagram is going to be refreshed at a certain time in the background.

This is because you’ve given your iPhone permission for Instagram to look for new content in a suspended state.

How Does Background App Refresh Work?

When you’ve left an app in the background, it’s then left for a while until the app is put into a suspended state. This means that the app is not in use anymore and when you open it again, they’ll already be open because it was never closed.

App refresh doesn’t give the apps in the background permission to run content checks whenever it wants. If background app refresh is on, the apps check for content in an intelligent and efficient way that limits the battery your iPhone or iPad is using.

To limit the usage of your iPhone battery, background app refresh only happens at certain times which maximins the efficiency of how the feature affects your iPhone. If you’re connected to WI-FI and app refresh is turned on, this is a queue for it to refresh after a certain time.

When you start to charge your iPhone or iPad, this is also a queue for your apps to refresh in the background. So, if none of these situations is occurring and you’re not using your phone much, background app refresh isn’t going to take place.

Does Turning off Background App Refresh Save Battery?

Since background app refresh is turned on, your apps are going to check for content by itself, therefore, this causes your iOS device to ‘work’. When your phone is working, this means that your iPhone battery drains.

Although the battery drained is very negligible, the battery is still drained. This is why you see a lot of battery saving articles telling you to turn off background app refresh. They are right because it does save your battery.

How to Turn off Background App Refresh

1. Go to settings

2. Tap on General

3. Scroll down and tap on background app refresh

4. Toggle Background App Refresh off

In very simple terms, Background App Refresh allows apps to check for new content while the apps are in the background and it then updates the app (content wise) while you aren’t using them. When you go back onto the app, you’ll see the new content that it found while the app was in the background e.g Facebook will update the feed while it’s in the background.