Why Apple Geniuses sometimes tell people to kill all their apps

Yes, sometimes you  do need to kill all the apps in your multitasking dock

A little over a year ago I wrote a rather controversial editorial stating that iOS users don't ever need to kill all the apps in their multitasking dock (fast app switcher). A couple of months ago the subject was brought back to the spotlight, with other developers and bloggers reaching pretty much the same conclusion.

It remains true. There's no need to regularly "clear out" all the apps in your multitasking dock. We've said it, other developers and bloggers have said it, even Apple has said it.

But here's the thing -- sometimes Apple Geniuses will tell users to do just that. Which is what makes it controversial. Here's why:

Trouble-shooting is sometimes a slow, complicated process.

If a customer comes to the Genius Bar with one poorly coded app or rogue process that's continuously slowing down their iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, or causing massive battery drain, figuring out which app it is, and fixing it, can take a lot of time and effort. It can involve buying system monitoring apps, rebooting a lot, launching apps, testing, checking system status, killing apps, rebooting, deleting apps, reinstalling apps, etc. etc. It can involve a lot of things that some Apple Geniuses believe mainstream, non-technical users will have trouble understanding and doing.

It flies against Apple's recommendation, it flies in the face of best trouble-shooting practices, and it makes advanced users cringe, but...

Killing everything, in that specific case, for mainstream users, is the fastest, easiest path to problem resolution.

So if a Genius tells your mom to kill all her apps every day or week, that's why.

It's wrong. It's unnecessary, and you can certainly take the time to properly Unless you want to take them time to trouble shoot it for them.

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Why Apple Geniuses sometimes tell people to kill all their apps


Every now and then(usually once a month), I do hard reboots on my iPhone, iPad and PC, after being kept on and in sleep for a while.

I do it every night. I find that sometimes when alot of apps are open, the phone slows down a bit. I sometimes believe it causes your battery to drain faster but that's just my opinion.

another !00% from me. Phone definitely slows down when apps run in the background. SBSettings essentially proves as much. Just look at the available memory after you close the apps

Agreed SBSettings is great for monitoring your available RAM, freeing up memory, and closing all apps quickly.

This is a case of too much knowledge leading you astray. The amount of free memory is irrelevant in iOS because the OS manages memory availability automatically. If an app needs memory, older apps are warned to give some back such as by clearing cached data. If that doesn't free enough memory, the app is killed. So, only a few apps are really using memory at once.

I, too, close everything each night. Why leave everything open if it's not being used? There was once a good process killer but it got neutered.

How do you know what's in the list because it's running vs. what's there just because it's launched recently? So, what, dou you end up removing them all, every night? That's madness.

I have to kill email app once or twice a day. For some reason I stop receiving emails and killing the app gets it working again. I'm using Exchange active sync push. To be fair I also had this problem with 3 different windows phones.

How do you know what's in the list because it's running vs. what's there just because it's launched recently? So, what, dou you end up removing them all, every night? That's madness.

if it was lanced recently, it is still running. back in iOS 3.0 days, they did not have multitasking capabilities. Now, we have multitasking, which is what the bar is for. All apps in the bar ar running at all times, for quick and easy access, otherwise, the system would have to restart apps all the time, including iMessage and apple apps, making it harder to do minutely tasks.

Sorry but this simply is not true. Some apps are still running, and some are in a frozen state until launched again, and some are simply there because they were recently launched (but aren't running currently.) Their presence in that list simply means they were launched recently. It does NOT mean they are all running.

Sometimes you have to quit one app if it's acting up but i never had to quit all apps. It's a waste of time.

Rene's argument for killing all apps is that often one doesn't know exactly which app is making the device wonky - easiest just to kill 'em all. Apple ought to add this function to iOS 6.

I clear my apps when i finish using them. it doesn't take long to do. I find my phone slows down and my battery drains quicker if i leave them in the switcher. games like cod black ops zombies requires you to close all apps from the switcher which suggests to me that they still use up memory.

I'm not sure how you came to the conclusion you don't need to quit apps. Try keeping an eye on your location icon - several apps use the GPS or internet in the background and the only, only, only way to stop them is to force quit the App. Some very popular examples are NAVIGON and TuneinRadio.

And it can be very embarrassing to leave your phone on, in a broadway production, when TomTom chirps up and says "turn right." Yes, it happened to me. ALWAYS force off your navigation software :)

LOL! Similar think happened to me. I usually turn off Navigon when I get to the end of the trip. I was going to a wedding and saw a friend as I was entering the parking lot so I parked and hurried over to walk in with him.....and forgot to turn off the volume and app. Luckily, as I was walking into the building, the app recognized where I was and announced "You have reached your destination!" Several people turned to look. I was so glad it happened at the door rather than during the vows.

Oh come one dude. Something like this is supposed to happen at every wedding! LoL. Would be more funny if it happened to the groom, because the announcement would be correct. ;)

Well, yeah, obviously XD Apple, devs, and various other people have said just that... it's never been that you don't have to close ANY apps. Ever. It's always been that you don't have to close most of them. The ones that run in the background, like navigation, exercising, or music apps need to be closed when you're finished with them, obviously. But the rest of the apps don't actually run in the background, they are just essentially paused -- meaning you don't need to close them. Unless it has a problem, of course. But pending any issues, leaving it "running" is fine (because it's not running at all).

Well if it's obvious you do, why write and article saying you don't need to and claiming that Apple said you don't and developers say you don't? And then follow it up with an article saying you should but I was still right and you don't need to. I think Rene just screwed-up and doesn't want to come clean and admit that it is actually good practice to do it and Apple should make it easier with a kill-all icon.

Navigon has an option to "Stop Navigating", then when you exit the app you'll see the location icon go off, no need to kill the app.
Same thing with TuneIn Radio, press the Stop button and you'll find that it stops streaming (funny that eh...)
I never shut down any of my apps unless I need to force quit one because it's doing something funky (like Facebook), but 99% of all apps are well behaved and do what they're supposed to (i.e. suspend and free memory if needed).
The argument of "kill all" is as bad as the old IT "switch it off and on again". Lazy mans excuse for not diagnosing the problem properly.

I've never understood the "controversy". I don't care what anyone - a blogger, Apple, or anyone else has to say - anyone that uses one knows once in awhile, it's necessary. Especially with certain apps.
It's ludicrous to think that having 50+ things hanging out in a suspended state isn't costing some system resources somewhere.
This is one of those "stuck in the mud" Apple things. There is no reason they cannot include a little button there to clear out all apps in one stroke, except for some reason they want you to believe you don't have to, so why would they give you a tool to do so?
It's these things that keep Apple from being a truly great company. They are amazingly, astonishingly profitable, but they don't seem to care for the actual user themselves. They want you to use it the way they want, and even if it is smarter/more convenient/just more desirable to do something another way, they don't budge. Micro-SD card, anyone?

Many of those "50+ things" are NOT in a suspended state, they're just listed there because they were recently launched.

I have regularly cleaned out my apps. I agree that having 10 or 50 apps in suspended animation slows it down a LOT....
I have no idea whether this is accurate or not, but I have an apps which shows my free memory. Before I clean out I am generally sitting at about 20-50mb of free memory. (As I type this, I have 27mb free and 477mb used).
Closing out all the apps (only 8 this morning) raised that to 250mb free and 254mb used. And it runs a LOT faster - no perception about it.
I for one am a sceptic about all the bloggers etc who say it makes NO difference....

"Free Memory" is wasted memory. What's the point in having it if it's not being utilised?
If the system needs it, it'll force quit an app as necessary to free some up. Peoples obsession with how much "free memory" they have comes from bad advice.

Funny that if i leave my apps open and not clear them my phone runs out of memory and guess what it doesn't automatically force quit apps and instead freezes and goes non responsive until i hold the power button and the home button at the same time to reboot the phone.

I've had occasions when I've forgotten to clear & the App Store won't show the "Update All" key. Once I clear, I can update.

I find that killing apps is a must for things that drain battery like Slacker, maps, and MyWi even after you shut everything else down inside the app. Ive never suffered laggy performance but oooooohhhhhh the battery drain. My iPhone is my work phone so I keep things like the phone, calendar, and email ready on the app switcher at all times. And I don't care what anyone says, a quick reboot never hurts either.

If you are going to record a song via garage band, or other music recording app, it is a good idea to shut down the apps to stop unwanted noise.

I never close them in the new iPad <3, but my 1 year old iphone 4's battery have been descreasing fast so, the best way to do it is: jailbroken > cydia > remove background app > activator > activate in homescreen, Icon spread/icon pinch. and whenever you feel like it, works like magic.

I always do it because I don't need a bunch of apps running that I'm not actively using. Can't Apple just devise a way to kill apps that aren't actively in use?

And such a tiny amount you could have a hundreds of them "running" in the background and never see a real performance difference. Anyone saying they can see the difference are buying into the placebo affect.

Some of u apple fan boys are just ridiculous. You need to get rid of some unused apps. There is performance issues if u don't unless u r telling me that my iPhone is suppose to run like crap.

If those resources are needed then they're released by the OS. If they aren't needed then it makes no difference if they're being used does it?

It's a pain to do it after a week as you might have 30-40 apps already in there. You have to manually close each one. Unless someone have a different method on the Ipad, please let me know. Otherwise, turn off and then on again.

i can close 2-3 at a time, which saves some time. but i agree a one button does all solution would be great. maybe we'll see something of the likes around iOS 7?

How do you know what's in the list because it's running vs. what's there just because it's launched recently? So, what, dou you end up removing them all, every night? That's madness.

I remember that article and it drove me nuts that you were so insistent that it never needed to be done. Thanks for the update.

He's STILL saying that it never needs to be done, if only you'd read more closely you'd see this. And I agree with him.

Sometimes, a quick restart can save you the trouble of quitting those apps. They still linger in your multi-tasking tray but rest assured that they are killed.

I have found when an individual app is not loading correctly or having errors. I just go to the app switcher and quit that app and it solves the problem by making the app reboot fresh. This is like a computer programmer friend of mine said sometimes you need to blow up the pond and pick up the fish. It isn't going to kill anyone to kill apps.

Sometimes the audible app won't play the books. I have to either kill the app or turn the phone off and on again. I also have some older games that aren't available anymore (not made for iOS 5) which need to be killed once in a while. Elf Defence and draw something also seem to have a conflict which requires a restart to fix. Otherwise I don't bother to stop apps or restart, only when there is a conflict.

Isn't it funny how everyone here says that they need to kill all running apps for one reason or another, yet we keep being told we shouldn't...personally I find that when I kill all the apps on my iPad, Safari then keeps all my tabbed pages 'open' ie it doesn't need to reload the page when I switch back and forth. Plus it does seem to make things run smoother - so if there's proof of why we should kill all the apps...why do we keep getting told not to!?

Your experience with safari is due to the fact that it stays open while u r switching back and for. So do 90% of the apps u keep open when you switch back and forth. Hence the need to occasionally close them. Now one thing I have notice about safari is that if u leave it open for an extended amount of time it will suspend it self and when u switch to it, it will have to reload the pages on the open tabs

I just experimented a little...so I have 7 tabs currently on Safari, and I had some apps running in the background - when I switched to another tab it had to load the page. When I switched back again it had to load the page again, and so on and so on.
I then closed all running apps, came back to Safari, and now when I switch between tabs it loads the page once, then it's able to remember without reloading each time. So it DEFINITELY makes a difference...albeit a very minor one. This is on my iPad 1, I'm sure there wouldn't be any difference on my iPhone 4s...

Right. There's a performance benefit believe me... Killing all apps before resetting is also more effective plus GPS apps that have been opened are not sitting idly (sp?) by when closed.

I never listen to websites. I've always shut apps down. Why I could leave me phone sitting around with apps in the dock and would notice my battery would drop. And mind you the phone not being use no surfing or texting or calls. Just the apps in the dock.
I only what I see not what some sites try to tell me..

I love the "it's a waste of time" argument. Come on, really? 20 seconds max maybe? I close them out regularly and I've never missed an scheduled event/appointment because of it. Guess I should be careful though. :)

So everyone but the end user says you have no need to force-quit all your apps? I love it when people try and tell you categorically that their way is right.

LOL! Is this ever the Eat-Crow-ingst blog post I've ever seen! Kudos, Rene for owning up to it!
For those who jailbreak, I end up swiping the status bar for SBSettings to pop up and I hit RemoveBG many a time, usually before and after playing a game like Infinity Blade or some other resource hog.

Sometimes I feel that the argument that "iOS users don’t ever need to kill all the apps in their multitasking dock" is just a forceful way to avoid criticising iOS and, by proxy, Apple. It is obvious that iOS users do need to close the apps, everybody knows that, from genius to developers to users, so why make the argument against it at all?
Let´s admit it, Apple messed up on iOS multitasking, it is clunky and confusing, and Steve Jobs was so blase and hip about it that now most Apple fans just cannot bring themselves to say that the king is naked. To me, iOS multitasking is useless, especially because of the overload it brings to the home button, another heavily problematic item that everyone seems to be afraid to criticize. Do anybody here have a perfectly functioning iPhone 4 home button, one that reads correctly every button press?

The problem for those that know is the amount of misinformation spread by app closers.
The dock doesn't show running apps, it's just a list of recently used apps. The first few might or might not be running depending on what they do, thenext few may be held in RAM so they are available for quicker launch, the rest are just icons and it's a waste of time to remove then from the dock, as nothing else is accomplished.
iOS multitasking is very limited and if your phone is actually slower than you have a bad app.
I never close ore than one app thSt is misbehaving and I run my phone for months.

You said it your self, " held in ram" which is using resources and draining battery. They need to just make a real multitasking system similar to webos or windows and be done with this crap. I'm getting tired of the stupid home button double tap crap to switch between OPEN apps

I NEVER leave apps running. I close them out if I won't be using them again. Esp facebook and the like.

"Killing" (clearing) all the apps in the "multi-tasking" (recently run) bar is a waste of time, especially since it's highly likely most of those apps aren't even in memory let alone running.
I'm not sure why the "Genius" people tell people to do that. They told my Aunt that she needs to kill every app after she exits the app using the home button, so she does that including the "Mail" and "Phone" apps which is just idiotic. I told her she doesn't need to do that, but she just said that's what the "Genius guy" told her to do. In my experience, the "Genius" people are horribly misnamed. They aren't any smarter or better than Best Buy's Geek Squad and I would never recommend using the later.

So u seem to be a well informed and smart guy. So what kind of engineering degree do u hold and what's your position in apple since u know than the geniuses and everyone else here with some common sense.

Well, and things like killing and relaunching Calendar so it syncs up (also iCal on OSX). I sure hope Apple hires some good sync engineers at some point... given all the cloud and syncing they've been doing now for, oh, like 4-5 years!

I wish iOS had an option for an automatic silent restart. I have my Mac set up to do all sorts of things at night while I sleep, such as cloning hard drives, etc. I wish I could have my iPhone silently restart itself each night at 4 am.

Wait, off topic question.
Why does Rene's Tweetbot app have that bar looking thing at the top left of it?
Okay, on-subject statement:
I tend to close out all of my apps every day or so. Why? Because it doesn't hurt anything, and I'm a little OCD about it, but even if it only frees up a miniscule amount of memory, it still isn't hurting anything.

I was thinking the same thing about Rene's Tweetbot app. What is that yellow stripped ribbon?

I have an iPhone 3GS and an iPad 1 by now, and a thing that I notice a lot is that when I have too much apps opend my iPhone and iPad slows down a bit, so I like to make a regular clean to the multitasking dock.

When ever I use any type of navigation app, it will drain my battery very fast if I do not close the app on the task bar afterwards.

5 second action to clear the apps from the multitask. I do it all the time and don't plan on stopping, despite what Apple or anyone says. Apple's operating on limited-duration testing - I'm operating on everyday, wide-varietied (sp?) use. It helps my 4S run quickly and continue to do so, and it ensures the same for all the other lower generation models of iPhone I have as well. Therefore, Apple's suggestion = debunked.

This kind of reminds me of the issues of the iPhone 4 with the grip of death. Instead of Admitting to an issue and enacting a corrective action plan, they decide to blame the consumer and say that they are holding the phone wrong. Instead of admitting that the app switcher doenst work as planned and inform the consumer to close their apps they just keep telling u that there's no need and it's a waste of time. At least the geniuses admit to it since they have to deal with it in a daily basis

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Having a problem with the Mail app and Exchange ActiveSync now which is related to this. The app won't re-connect while open in multi-task and after the phone has been in sleep mode for some time. Quitting the app and reloading forces it to do something differently and it re-connects fine... There should be an option to kill multi-tasking if for any other reason, it would keep people with OCD sane...

I couldn't disagree with you more, Rene. It is definitely not wrong. It's completely right if the user is an average or novice user. We got a similar question on Episode 22 of Deemable Tech. http://dmbl.co/e22 Joel wanted to know if he needed to close all of the apps "running in the background." I told him, no, you shouldn't have to kill all of your apps, but occasionally you might get a rogue app that will use memory even after it's closed. And, if you're iPhone is running slow, that is the first thing I would try. Sure, it "makes advanced users cringe," but most of the folks that take their iPhone to the Apple Store because they are having problems are not advanced users. They don't have the time or care enough to troubleshoot the problem until they find the issue and then contact the developer to have them fix the app. The more advanced users, like you and me, can do the extra troubleshooting to help the developers. For novices and average users, just closing all the apps is a simple, easy to do and easy to remember solution that fixes the problem.

It just works.

And, that is what makes it the right thing to do.

Android. Back button. Program monitor app shows how many and what apps running even as some of you will likely realize it is an app itself. Things will never change. Things will always stay the same. - God, a long time ago.