What is background app refresh?

Image of Mint Fox holding up a smartphone with a low power battery icon on the screen, with the text What Is Background App Refresh next to him.

What does background app refresh mean?

Ever notice when Google Maps sends your ETA before you step foot in your car? Or when Spotify alerts you about an album release you didn’t know about? You can thank background app refresh.

Background app refresh is a smartphone feature that allows apps to idle in the background (when you’re not using them) in order to send convenient alerts and implement updates. However, these background apps drain your battery and can chug data at an alarming rate of 3-5MB per hour. So how do you turn this function off? Let’s take a dive into your phone’s settings.

How to turn off background app refresh for iPhone

  1. Open the Settings app and select General
  2. Scroll down and tap Background App Refresh 
  3. Now you should see a list of every app that has permission to idle in the background
  4. To disable refreshing for select apps, slide the switches to Off

To disable refresh for all apps, tap the option at the top of the page and select one of the following: 

  • Wi-Fi & Cellular Data: This is the default, so you won’t want to choose this
  • Wi-Fi Only: Apps only update if you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network
  • Off: This stops apps from updating in the background entirely

How to turn off background app refresh for Android

  1. Go to Settings and select Apps & Notifications
  2. Select See All Apps
  3. Tap the app you want to disable refresh for, then select Mobile Data & Wi-Fi
  4. Turn the Background Data slider to Off

Performing these steps will prevent the app from using data and battery in the background, but background usage will continue when connected to Wi-Fi. Note: “Background App Refresh” is an Apple term, but Android’s background data operates in the same way. 

So now you’ve configured your background apps; but before you start switching off your apps’ background data, you may want to know how to turn it back on for when you want suspended apps to start checking for new content again.

How to turn on background app refresh for iPhone

  1. Open the Settings app and select General
  2. Scroll down and tap Background App Refresh
  3. Now you should see a list of every app that has permission to idle in the background
  4. To enable refreshing for your most frequently used apps, slide their switches to ON

How to turn on background app refresh for Android

  1. Open Settings, then tap Connections
  2. Select Data usage
  3. Scroll down to the Mobile section and tap Mobile data usage
  4. Select the app from below the usage graph
  5. Turn on Allow background data usage

Follow these steps for each app for which you would like to permit refreshing in the background.

Image of Mint Fox's hand holding a smartphone with a low power battery icon on the screen.

Still wondering “Why is my phone dying so fast?”

Reconfiguring background app refresh isn’t the only way you can save your phone battery and data usage. For instance, did you know that YouTube can seriously impact your data allotment and battery life? Simple changes to your viewing habits such as downloading videos on Wi-Fi to watch offline, turning off autoplay, and disabling muted playback can produce instant gains to your data and battery longevity. Check out our other blog for more YouTube and video streaming tips with instructions

A battery-saving technique to pair with these YouTube hacks is programming your phone into Low Power Mode. It’s a lot easier than it sounds, and most phones automatically reduce their battery usage once power has dipped below the 20% threshold. When in this mode, your phone will disable certain animations, reduce screen brightness, and power off the display quicker when not in use. 

How to enable Low Power Mode on iPhone

  1. Open Settings and select Battery
  2. Slide the Low Power Mode slider to ON

How to enable Low Power Mode on Android

  1. Open Settings and select Battery and Device Care 
  2. Tap Battery
  3. Select Power Saving and tap the switch

Now you’ve got a whole toolbox of battery and data tricks – your friends will be so jealous. Remember, for important apps you use every day (like the Mint Mobile App), background app refresh can be a great feature that makes for a smoother experience, but at the cost of background data and battery life. Go explore your phone’s settings page and put the power back in your hands.

Now that you know how to maximize its battery life, why not learn how to supercharge your phone’s speed? Check out our blog that dares to answer the immortal question: “Why is my phone so slow?”

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