If there’s one thing you should probably do on your iPhone right now, it’s disable Background App Refresh for the majority of your third-party apps. You probably already know the battery life benefits of disabling it, but there are some other major reasons to turn the feature off. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Background App Refresh?
Background App Refresh is exactly what it sounds like. It allows apps to pull new content and refresh news feeds when they’re open in the background on your device.
News apps will pull the latest headlines, Facebook will refresh your feed with new content, and your email apps will silently grab the latest messages from your account.
It’s pretty simple, but there are a few reasons why you may want to disable the feature for most of your apps.
Why Should I Disable It?
First off, data privacy. A recent Washington Post investigation found that many popular apps are actively collecting user data with surprising frequency when the feature was left on.
Many of those apps were apparently collecting and sending data like phone numbers, email addresses, real-time location, IP addresses and more to third-party tracking firms.
Some of the trackers found within apps were collecting personally identifiable information, while others were collecting data late at night (or in the case of Yelp, every five minutes).
The problem, of course, is that there isn’t really any way for the average user to tell what kind of data each app is collecting or how often.
Many apps also don’t disclose what kind of data is being collected, how long it is stored for, or to whom it is shared with.
To be clear, disabling background app refresh is not going to make you invisible to trackers. But it could very well reduce the amount of data being collected and how often.
There’s also the argument that it’s not very useful for most apps. Facebook, for example, will refresh your news feed each time you open it — even if background app refresh is disabled.
And, of course, the standard advice has always been to disable Background App Refresh to help save battery life and cellular data. That advice still rings true. And combined with the privacy implications, there are many more reasons to disable background app refresh on most of your apps than to leave it on.
Which Apps Should I Leave on?
In a nutshell, the majority of your apps don’t need Background App Refresh to work properly.
On the other end of the spectrum, some apps may run into problems if you disable the feature. Navigation or mapping apps and fitness tracking apps come to mind.
Still, we’d recommend disabling Background App Refresh for most apps first and seeing if you run into issues with any specific apps.
If there’s an app that you want refreshed content on as soon as you open it, you can make a judgement about them individually. Just keep in mind that you’ll likely be trading some privacy for convenience.
You can also leave Background App Refresh on for first-party Apple apps if you’d like. While Apple apps do collect data, they anonymize it (and just generally have better privacy policies than many third-party apps).
How to Disable Background App Refresh
Disabling Background App Refresh is pretty simple. Just go to:
- Background App Refresh.
- From there, you can individually disable the feature for specific apps by tapping the toggle next to them.
Alternatively, you can tap the Background App Refresh option at the top and adjust the setting for all apps based on internet connectivity (Off, Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi & Cellular Data).