Have you ever wondered what would happen if you turned off the Background App Refresh on your phone?
The simple answer to this question: Your device will most likely not work as well as you want (and expect) it to!
Allow me to explain.
Smartphones earn their name from how well they’re able to execute their operations.
You’re able to read the latest emails on your smartphone, as soon as you’ve received them.
The calendar is always up to date, preventing you from ever missing a crucial business meeting.
The device syncs with the cloud automatically for backups, securing all your most important and valuable information.
And all your social media apps serve the latest stories and messages from the people you love, providing a sense of connection and mode of communication whenever you need!
It can sometimes feel like your phone knows your every move, what you’re thinking about, and can sometimes seemingly predict the future.
This type of user experience is possible largely because of the Background App Refresh feature.
Background App Refresh is a feature of mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad that allows apps to update their content from an active internet connection- even when they’re not actively in use.
What many people believe is that when you close an app, it’s completely closed and only updates its content the next time you open it.
That would however take quite a lot of time, and you may miss important information in the interim as well.
A good example is a messaging app like Facebook Messenger.
Your friend might send you a message while you are preoccupied with other activities. What if it were an urgent matter, but you only checked your phone later on?
You would’ve then have missed out on something important- perhaps even an emergency!
However, because of Background App Refresh, you’ll instead receive a notification the moment your friend sends the message- and thus allowing you to immediately offer your assistance.
Depending on your phone setup, Background App Refresh can be pretty resource-intensive.
Your phone may be locked, but apps with permission to do so can still use the battery, mobile data, Wi-Fi- or even your camera!
Additionally, if you have an app that you’re actively using, it will share those resources with the apps that are running in the background.
Some people that are justifiably concerned about memory and storage use, and as such consider turning the Background App Refresh function off.
Another reason why some opt to turn off Background App Refresh is to conserve battery power and mobile data as much as possible.
It is actually perfectly safe to turn this feature off as it doesn’t cause any direct harm to your phone.
However, you will miss out on the intuitive aspect of your device (which arguably is pretty vital), and will likely experience longer app loading times as well.
Besides collecting the latest information for apps and widgets running in the background, your phone operating system loads commonly used files as cache in its RAM.
The moment you open the app, it takes a short time to load it fully with the latest content.
Turning Background App Refresh off means loading the app and downloading associated content off the internet from scratch (like when your iPhone photos says “Restoring”.
Therefore, you can expect the smartphone to be delayed and offer a more inconsistent user experience!
Additionally, certain apps that rely on constant user input- such as health and fitness trackers like the Samsung Heart Rate Monitor– may also provide inaccurate data.
With Background App Refresh off, apps will open afresh and then connect to the internet to download new content.
You will likely notice a small period of lag between tapping an app on the screen and its home screen fully loading.
The app will then take a few seconds to refresh its content- which may be the reason behind why you sometimes see things like a white loading circle on your iPhone pictures.
In the meantime, all you’ll see are the stale headlines and information that was previously loaded!
There will also be an associated battery and data consumption spike as the phone speeds up the process.
The reality is that whatever power and data resources you saved earlier from turning off Background App Refresh will be lost when you open an app.
Therefore, it’s still best not to turn off Background App Refresh indiscriminately!
Instead, enable the feature and turn it off only for apps that do not need it- or those that share too much private information.
You may want to consider turning off Background App Refresh if you want to fully protect your privacy.
When you allow all apps that update in the background to constantly refresh, you do put some measure of your privacy at risk.
Certain apps will collect and send data to third-party tracking firms. These apps know information about you such as your phone number, email address, IP address, and current location.
Tracking firms collect this information and then sell it to companies that tailor their products and marketing language to target you!
(Getting calls from 4-digit phone numbers, anyone?)
Turning off Background App Refresh helps to reduce the amount of personal information tracked and shared.
That’s why it is essential to read the terms and conditions carefully before granting an app access to your phone- especially if it did not come from an official app store or website.
Another major reason to turn off Background App Refresh is to save battery power.
Certain apps constantly refresh in the background and cause a significant impact on battery life.
Bugs in the app or operating system can also cause severe battery drainage. Turning off Background App Refresh therefore leads to longer battery life in these cases!
iPhones arguably exhibit smartphones’ intuitive and well-organized capabilities more so than their Android competitors.
(Which is probably why they’re the most popular and iconic phone brand in the world!)
In addition, Apple exercises more control over its iOS ecosystem, which means background refreshing is critical to the iPhone user experience.
As such, you’ll typically see a significant change in your user experience when you turn off Background App Refresh. However, it still remains your discretion whether you want Background App Refresh to be active or not!
Disabling the Background App Refresh function for iPhone is pretty simple:
- Go to Settings, then tap on the General tab.
- Scroll down to the Background App Refresh tab and tap it.
- You should then see a list of apps and toggles beside each. Tap the toggle for each app you wish to disable Background App Refresh for.
There is also the option to automatically set Background App Refresh to work when connected to Wi-Fi.
If your concern is mainly to do with heavy data usage, you can elect to allow Background App Refresh to run on Wi-Fi only!
The Android operating system does not have a specific setting for Background App Refresh.
However, the function is still present in the operating system- just implemented differently.
The following steps may be slightly different for your specific device, but should still be similar enough:
You first need to go into Settings > Apps or Apps and Notifications > See All Apps.
There, you’ll find a list of all the apps on your phone. Simply tap on one app to reveal more options.
You can then limit background activity in two ways:
First, tap on the Mobile Data & Wi-Fi tab.
It would be best if you then tapped on the Background Data slider.
Disabling the use of data in the background will prevent the app from running unless there is a Wi-Fi connection.
Secondly, you can disable the app from running in the background entirely.
You can do this by going into Settings then tapping the Battery tab. You can search for Background Restriction at the top, or look in the Advanced tab.
Tap on the Background Restriction tab, then select the Restrict option.
Note that the second option prevents the app from sending push notifications. Therefore, it should only be considered if you do not need constant notifications from the app!
You can also disable Background App Refresh by changing the Account Sync settings.
You can access synced accounts in one place in the Android settings:
- Go into Settings, then scroll down to Passwords & Accounts.
- Tap on Passwords & Accounts, then choose Account Sync.
- Tap on individual sync accounts, then select the items you wish to stop syncing.
You also have the option to disable syncing app data entirely at the bottom of the page. If chosen, you will have to sync all app data henceforth manually.
Every Android phone comes with the Battery Saver function.
Whenever you turn on the Battery Saver, you effectively restrict app background activity.
There is also a more complicated option called the Adaptive Battery function.
The Adaptive Battery feature studies app behavior, and then determines from there how to best distribute battery power among apps for optimal user experience.
It’s also possible to tweak each individual app’s settings to produce the best operating environment.
Take some time to set the frequency of feed syncing, fetching of new emails and messages, and so on!
You can also restrict specific app actions while maintaining optimal user experience and limiting resource wastage.
The decision to turn off Background App Refresh remains contentious.
On one hand, you may save battery power and mobile data, but on the other you’ll definitely suffer worse user experience.
We can help you to weigh your options and make your choice based on these factors:
The latest Android phones and iPhones come with large battery capacities.
To wit, flagship Android phones come with no less than 4,500 mAh batteries! Upper mid-range Android phones pack even more power, with 5,000 mAh batteries as the minimum.
It’s also the same with the latest iPhones.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max can, at the moment, last a full day of heavy use and a day and a half or moderate use on its 4,352 mAh battery.
The new Apple silicon is also more power-efficient, leading to better battery performance.
Therefore, you don’t really need to worry about Background App Refresh decimating your battery life with these kinds of hardware improvements.
It’s totally worth it in our opinion to leave it on for those apps that need it, and only lose a small percentage of battery power in exchange!
Huge data bills may be your next cause for concern.
Some background app activities do use a surprising amount of data.
However, hefty data usage shouldn’t be a problem if you have access to a good Wi-Fi connection for most of your day.
Most homes, offices, and even public places allow people to connect their phones to a specific Wi-Fi source.
Additionally, Wi-Fi is available for home connections at very competitive rates; you just need to shop around a bit for the best deals!
With your worry over scary data bills abated, you can comfortably let the Background App Refresh run unfettered.
How important is it for you to constantly receive the latest information?
Your work may require you to respond to emails as soon as you receive them, for example. If you work from home, you may need to respond to messages from your colleagues immediately!
This kind of networking and exchange of information means that you might not be able to afford turning off Background App Refresh completely.
However, if your work or life does not tequirefast access to the latest information, you may want to save your battery and data by turning off the feature.
Background App Refresh is a critical component of the functionality of smartphones.
While certain apps may drain resources when this feature is on, others need it just to function properly!
The question of, “What happens if I turn off Background App Refresh?” Can therefore only really be answered by considering your individual needs.
In general though, the pros of keeping Background App Refresh on far outweigh the cons.
Background App Refresh allows your phone to keep you updated to the world around you, whether that means being aware of the latest breaking news or keeping abreast of imminent weather changes.
It does come at a cost of battery, memory, and potentially mobile data, but there are ways to minimize these aspects so that they’re little more than a blip in your overall experience.
For example, smartphone processors are now incredibly efficient, and the newest models come with large batteries capable of lasting for a very long time.
We now also generally have access to better Wi-Fi coverage and more affordable data plans as well.
Therefore, our final recommendation is to keep the Background App Refresh turned on most of the time!