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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Quick Tip: Finding apps running down your iOS device’s battery

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

A 9to5Mac reader recently wrote in to ask Tim Cook if he should quit apps running in the background on his iPhone, and Apple’s software chief Craig Federighi succinctly shot down this long-running myth with a definitive “No.”

This is one of those behaviors that will just never die. I know plenty of folks who religiously close all their background apps, convinced it will save them battery life, even though the way the system is designed should make that impossible.

And yet…here’s the thing. There are apps which, even when running in the background, use features that can deplete your battery much quicker—location information, especially. And the thing about software bugs is that they can often make software behave in unpredictable ways that you might otherwise seem impossible. So it’s not out of the question that you could have an app running in the background that’s running down your battery life. Which is exactly the grain of truth that keeps this practice alive.

Battery Usage

Does that mean you need to quit all your apps every time you’re using the phone? No. Turning down your heat at home will save you money, but you don’t turn it down every single time you leave the house. If you’re worried about leaking heat, the smarter approach is to find the window you left open.

As of recent versions of iOS, you can look in Settings > Battery and get an idea of which apps are using the most juice, which can help clue you in to apps that might be getting too big for their virtual britches. Once you’ve found those apps, you can either quit them or perhaps disable the features that they’re using most of the time. You can disable an app’s access to cellular data under Settings > Cellular or its ability to find your location under Settings > Privacy > Location Services; in most cases, you can also just scroll down in Settings until you find the name of the app in question and disable those features (and others too). As of iOS 9, you can even search the Settings app to find the app in question.

Targeting apps that are actually using a lot of battery life is a much better way to tackle that problem than quitting all apps indiscriminately. I think Craig would agree.

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]

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