No, you don't need to kill all apps on your iPhone or iPad

One of the most frequent questions we're getting these days is how to close all apps at once -- basically how to force quit or kill every app from the new multitasking/fast app switcher dock Apple introduced in iOS 4 for iPhone and iPod touch and iOS 4.2 for iPad.

The short answer is you don't need to. Really. If you've been worried about it, relax. It's all good.

For the long answer, read on after the break!

Multitasking is more of a marketing terms these days than a technical one. Don't think of your iPhone as a Windows or Mac OS X machine because it's not. It isn't Windows Mobile or even Android either. iOS doesn't work that way. It doesn't (most of the time) leave a bunch of rogue processes running in the background that have to be force-quit.

iOS manages all that for you. Most applications, when you exit them, save their state and "go to sleep". So if you were playing a game or looking at Settings and then hit the home button or switch to another app, it keeps track of where you were in the game or what page you were on in Settings, then stops the app. When you tap the icon to launch the game or Settings again, it reads the state and returns you to the same place in the app. It only seems like it was multitasking -- it wasn't. If you haven't used an app in a long time, iOS might not even keep the saved state (you'll notice the app re-launched and shows you a splash screen instead of going back to the last place you left it.)

This means, for most apps, you never -- not ever -- need to "delete" them or close them from the multitasking dock. You might feel a desire to, even an obsession to. But you really don't need to. Really. (Breath out!)

The only exceptions are:

  1. Streaming audio like Pandora. This can keep playing in the background but if you pause or turn off the music, it ends. No need to force quit these apps either. (Just check to make sure volume isn't off, otherwise you might as well pause the music...)
  2. VoIP apps like Skype. These can keep running in the background and Skype especially can drain your battery. You can close Skype or other VoIP apps if you aren't actually waiting for a call.
  3. Turn-by-turn navigation like TomTom. These can stay in the background and give you location and voice instructions and if you don't need it anymore you can quit it to spare your battery the aGPS hit
  4. Task completion, like finishing uploading a picture to Facebook or downloading your Twitter stream. These will automatically close when the activity is finished. Even if the activity doesn't finish they'll close after a short period of time anyway. So again, unless you really want to stop what they're doing there's not need to close them.

There will be rare -- rare -- occasions when a specific app, even an Apple app like Mail, stops working properly and a force-quit can get it to restart and behave itself. Once an a while your iPhone or iPad might get really sluggish and closing any big, recently played games might help.

But when it comes to closing ALL apps, ALL the time, just remember:

You don't ever -- never as in not ever -- have to close ALL the apps in your multitasking, fast app switcher dock. It's a sniper rifle, not a nuke. So just relax and enjoy your apps and let iOS do the heavy lifting for you.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • I never knew this but I have only closed apps like navigon, skype and pandora when not in use. Thanks for the tip.
  • Sometimes the mail application gets naughty and you need to kill it and relaunch to fix the problem.
  • Some apps using gps will continue to use location services needlessly, a small example where a force quit is needed. But yes, never ever need to sort through the multitasking bar
  • Actually I'm one of these obsessive app closers, so this is welcome news :)
  • Agreed. I've only had it for 8 days and I've been pretty insane about quitting everything the second I am done using it. Good to know that I can drop that obsession haha
  • I know this. I've always known this. But it doesn't stop my obsessive-compulsive force closing behavior AT ALL.
  • I don't have an iPhone yet... but every time I play with an iPhone 4 in the store... there are like 80 apps in the multitasking tray. Basically every app that has ever been opened on the phone is sitting in the tray.
    I will probably close apps when i'm completely done with them... so I don't have to scroll through all of them in the tray.
    Even if you don't have to... it seems like it would be easier to manage.
  • I don' know, I think Rene is wrong here. If you have the Activity Monitor app, you can try this yourself. Open up some of your apps, if you don't have any currently on your task bar. Now, go into Activity Monitor and go to the usage page. Look at how much free memory you have. Okay, now double-tap the home button and kill apps one at a time. You'll notice that with each one you kill, you gain more free memory. So, having said this I have had friends who have complained that their phone is running a bit slow or choppy. I show them how to close some of their apps, and voila their phones are running smoothly again.
  • Yes, he is wrong, and there are things he doesn't understand. Some apps will be pushed out of memory, if the iOS needs it, but otherwise, most will stay there.
  • I too have noticed through iStat that I can free up memory by killing the "running" apps. However I'm not clear whether or not that means anything. I'm assuming that if another application needs that memeory while running the OS will allocate it. So while it does free the memory to kill unused/idle apps I'm not so sure it helps to do so. (?)
  • Any 3rd party app can and will be removed from memory automatically if iOS needs the extra memory. It isn't hurting anything for the apps to remain in memory in a suspended state (they aren't running)
  • I'll second the dissenting voice as I've done exactly what Paul has done and seen the performance improvement first hand.
    I've also had apps (specifically I'm thinking of Monopoly by EA right now, but there have been others) that won't run because there isn't enough memory available. I go and kill any apps and resume the complaining one, and voila: the app is happy.
  • simple question- are you a operating systems engineer with experience with BSD systems?
    No? Then you can't say Rene is wrong when you have a couple of friends have issues we can't confirm about.
    Apple has made a system work for millions. Rene is right.
  • Hey Kevin, how about you try the steps Paul mentioned for yourself? You'll see first hand what he is talking about.
  • Seriously, what a stupid comment.
    Is Rene an OS engineer? No.
    Is Apple trying to sell you something? Yes.
  • Kevin just got off work in one of the foxconn factories. :-) cool down
  • Did you not read that it saves where you left off in memory? So of course an activity manager is going to notice that those apps are "running" because their save states is saved in memory.
  • Yeah, I use SBSettings to display my free memory at all times in my status bar and I also use BackgroundRemover to close all backgrounded apps at once. When I invoke BGRemover, I usually go from ~90 MB of free memory to ~300 MB of memory. It makes a huge difference to close your backgrounded apps.
  • I have had this exact issue and when I leave many apps open I can see the performance impact on my iPhone 4. There is definitely more to this than never ever having to close them. I specifically downloaded a system monitor app a few weeks ago because I was noticing the slow down. As I closed apps, I would switch back to the monitor app and see the free memory increase. The apps may not be using processor power, but they are certainly clogging up memory and that's not good. Perhaps it's bad memory management in the current version of iOS and will be fixed with 4.3. I certainly hope so.
  • My original understanding of the multi-tasking matched up to what this article states, however I have a bit of a different opinion after a couple months of use.
    I display my available RAM next to the time on the top of my iPhone screen using SBSettings. I have observed my available RAM drop from ~340mb to under 40mb, even though all of my apps were in a "sleep" state. If I delete apps from my multi-tasking dock, then my available RAM immediately jumps back above 300mb.
  • This article isn't for you. You messed with how your system runs by jailbreaking it.
  • Kevin, I haven't seen a single accurate comment from you on this article. Post less, read more, and learn.
  • Oh geez. Jailbraking doesn't rewrite the kernel and change memory management or anything like that. I personally have seen my phone get sluggish then I check the free mem and see it is down to 40MB or so. I kill a few apps and the phone becomes more responsive again. By design I am sure things cache in memory to speed up resume time but the memory is available to other tasks if needed. This just means that if another task claims the memory then relaunching the other app will take a little more time because it's cache is lost. But sometimes it seams like tasks take exclusive use of memory and don't give it up as one would expect. An no I am not talking about jailbroken apps. BTW, Backgrounder lets you specify tasks that you don't want to multitask. Like the calculator. Who the hell needs the calculator to multitask.
  • The apps stay in memory so they can be reloaded fast when they get re-opened, but they don't use any of the processor, so battery is unaffected. If your iphone needs battery, it will remove 'inactive' apps from the memory. You honestly never need to close apps!
  • So what are you saying, that I don't have to close down apps manually (LOL)?
  • But what if I want to close them all? Why not have that option? Sometimes I have so many apps open that I just want to clean it up.
  • Stop looking at the activity monitor. This isn't Windows or Mac OS X.
    Yes, RAM will be taken up by resident apps but iOS will flush that as needed. Slow downs are rare and you can close a big game if you need to. But you don't ever need to close ALL apps.
    Stop it.
  • Why should we stop paying attention to the activity monitor all of a sudden? It is logic to believe that our iPhone4s (especially ipad)will work under optimal conditions when the memory resources is fairly high (200+mb available) versus the 20-40megs of free memory that I usually find myself left with when several apps are left open.
  • Disagree.
  • IOS does recover memory from suspended - and running - apps when it gets into a low-memory state. However it waits rather too long to do this and, as many people have mentioned, the phone has already slowed down by that point. I hope Apple improves their IOS memory management as there's clearly plenty of room for it. Until then I'll keep closing apps I know are memory hogs to keep my free mem above 40MB on my iPhone 4.
  • Actually slow downs and even frequent crashes from leaving to many apps in the fast switch area are pretty common on 3rd gen devices from what I've observed.
    I've especially done detailed testing of this on my personal device and now use the fast switch bar for essentially all it's really good for, a secondary, dynamic quick launch bar. Because of this it would at times be more convenient to have a way to mass wipe everything on the fast swap bar.
  • You should have ran some test to be 100% sure which you are not.
    When you say iOS you do know we have a good line of different devices to fit the bill. Mainly used ones are the iPad iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS.
    With iPad and iPhone to some extent this is true. They have the power to have the multitasking bar semi full. You have to remember these aren't short cuts to apps, whichyou are practically claiming them to be. Each app uses memory. Just like you don't have to close them all essentially you don't have to leave them all open.
    However the iPhone 3GS has serious issues with multiple apps open in the app tray. I've witnessed this in person and couldn't understand why it would lag and become useless, until I opened the app tray.
    While you don't need to close them all you essentially don't need to have them open either. It doesn't make a difference. For better performance I say close them all, it wouldn't matter.
  • Like others said, killing apps seems to be beneficial. I tried multitasking with a jailbroken iPhone 3G and the more apps I had in the multitasking tray, the more sluggish my phone would become (even with apps that only saved the state and weren't running in the background). Killing those apps in the tray helped with the responsiveness of the phone.
  • This article isn’t for you. You messed with how your system runs by jailbreaking it.
  • This article is misleading. Leaving things open in the multitasking bar does drain memory but just how much is different for each app. Scroll up & read Paul H's comment. Right on the money.
  • It does take up memory. Paul h got it right. Apple needs to make it where you are able to limit (if you want to) the number of apps in the multitasking bar. 8 apps would be a good number for me
  • Apps in suspended state DO remain in memory, the RAM. They just aren't "running", if RAM runs low iOS purges the app but it remains in the switcher. If you have a bunch of apps in the switcher go to the last one and start it, it will do a full load like in iOS 3 and lower; the saved state was purged.
  • I only ever close everything when Apple apps start to crash and do strange stuff or I see animations/the system start to drag a little. Otherwise I close out games and apps I use rarely only.
  • Again, we're talking about ALL apps, not specific ones.
  • Specific apps fall into the "all apps" category.
  • Have to +1 that reply. :p
  • If this is true, why is multitasking not available on older devices like my iPod 2nd gen? I thought the reason was that they were not powerful enough to handle the job, but if all that happens is persisting state to storage, the only limit should be free space, right?
  • The Times Newspaper app doesn't have the capability to do save states because the developers of the app didn't program the save state capability into the app so of course it's going to do a full close.
  • Doesn't it use alot of battery life??
  • He's talking about a generalization of apps that are built for iOS 4. If the app you're using was not built for iOS 4 then it's not going to multitask. iOS's multitasking is creating a save file and closing the app and then reopening the app and loading the file. Think of it this way, you're typing in Microsoft word, you save your progress and close the program, then when you want to go back to your document, the program is opened first then your file is loaded where you left off. That's how iOS 4 multitasking works, an activity monitor is going to show the save state that's saved in memory. So when you hit the home button to go to the Springboard or switch to another app, your previous app closes and makes a save state, but if the app isn't made to create a save state, then it'll reopen from the beginning.
  • I say before and I say again. As the owner of the device if I want to close them i will.
  • I tend to agree with Rene. Sure more mem gets tied up. But Apple builds its ios devices for people who don't think or ask questions (not the people here). The Average Joe on the street wouldn't even think that he would have to close apps, etc and cannot even comprehend this subject. This entire article here is what Apple tries to avoid with its easy to use products. iOS is not designed for people like us that think, ask questions, and like to understand what they are doing before they do something.
    So my point is that Rene is probably right because Apple would NEVER expect users to have to close apps in order to save memory.
  • I share my phone with my wife and kids. I might not want one or all of them to see the last state of any given app that I've used. The safest thing to do would be to kill all the app who's state is stored in RAM, therefore closing all the apps in the dock at once. People will always have a reason for doing something and they are fully entitled to it.
  • A very good point about privacy. Also, some apps only refresh data at load time. You need to fully close them and re-launch to get them to pull from their servers again.
  • The commentator who mentioned the Monopoly app made a very valid point. It uses a huge amount of RAM and often won't run if the iPhone is low on available RAM. Closing apps in the dock fixes this. Sure, Apple might plan for things like this by deleting apps states from memory, but it doesn't do it as well as it could, or RAM intensive apps like this wouldn't have this problem would they?
  • Does more RAM memory being used mean that more battery life is being drained? Because my battery tends to drain quicker when I have a lot of apps suspended, especially ones like Infinity Blade. When I used to play that a lot, if I didn't completely exit out of the app then my battery would drain significantally faster.
  • It is true you don't need to close ALL of your apps. However, there are apps in memory.
    1) Rene's article is mostly for intermediate level people who just obsessively kill apps. In that sense he is right.
    2) The key here is that Apple saves the state in memory and pushes it out of memory "As the phone needs it." That's what Rene said and it is correct. The deal is, all those apps stay in memory if there's enough memory to hold them. Those of you looking at activity monitor and killing apps and seeing memory reclaimed... of course you are correct, you are just proving what Rene said, that the OS keeps the saved state in memory until it no longer needs it. You are killing apps that have a saved state! Try closing every app in your multitasking bar after a few days of work and opening every single app on your phone. Eventually, you'll get to a point where you won't see any more return, because those apps are closed.
    3) The multitasking bar saves an icon of the apps you have run in the past in order. It's not a 100% accurate reflection of tasks running in the background. the last 6-12 apps might be in memory but after scrolling to the right far enough, all they are are shortcuts, not actual running processes.
    4) Killing all the apps on the multitasking bar is a waste of time, because if you really want to recover from a slow down, reboot the damn phone. It does the same thing as killing 20 apps.
    5) I disagree with people not looking at activity monitor. I recommend an activity monitor so that you learn more about your phone in general. I do believe it was not used properly here, however.
    6) Rene I do believe a positively spun article would be more beneficial here. In general, if I experience a slow down, I look at the multitasking menu and see if any big apps show and kill a couple. Otherwise, a reboot of my phone clears things up. i see slow downs after playing games, and sometimes memory is squeezed by a saved state of a game taking up most of the memory and occasionally it needs a little help getting out of memory.
    7) For those of you debating this, let's have a logical discussion and not be insulting. Kevin, you aren't a operating systems engineer with BSD experience either. Let's not degenerate into name calling because we disagree.
  • Georgia has a positively spun, Tip of the Day on how to fix slowdowns, including selectively quiting apps, pending. It'll likely go up Monday or Tuesday.
  • She's making a "positively spun" (whatever that means) Tip of the Day that essentially counters this article you just posted???
  • Geeze Rene, Most of the time you are so calm and collected. Somebody must have really irritated you to get your panties in a ward this way. Still Love you (and the tipb team) Man.
  • I'm not irritated at all. This article is only meant to help people not waste their time. Consider it a myth-buster.
    Love. Up.
  • A myth? Wow. You're stubborn. I usually like your articles but couldn't disagree with you more regarding this topic.
  • Liking articles and agreeing with them are two different things. There are lots of articles I love that have different points of view than mine.
    And yes, it is a myth. Just because a lot of people keep insisting otherwise doesn't make it any less of a myth.
    You absolutely, positively, do not have to close ALL apps in your fast app switcher.
  • Rene, you're being facetious! Take my point about the Monopoly app needing more available RAM to run, I don't need to close ALL of the docked apps, but which of the 100 or so do I close? How do I know when I've closed enough of them for the app to run smoothly? Quick answer, close them all? Question is, how do you do this quickly, in one go? You didn't even bother to answer the question that in your opening statement you said you'd been asked a lot.
  • Hold down Sleep until the shut down slider appears. Then hold down Home until you're sent back to the Home Screen. According to Apple, this flushes the RAM. (I actually don't believe it does post-iOS 4.0 but Apple keeps saying it does when asked).
  • That just quits and removes the active app from memory and does nothing from the homescreen as far as I can see. Other apps that were suspended are still there and come back immediately.
    Sheesh there's a lot of unnecessary hostility in the comments. It was a good article.
  • Okay, I made the post more love uppy. :)
  • Not taking sides here but did want to chime in:
    Since December, my non-JB iPhone 4 had been randomly going into "iPhone coma." I tried soft/hard resets, restoring back