What exactly goes on if Background App Refresh is enabled?

DramaLLama

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Feb 6, 2011
291
0
It almost seems useless to me but maybe I'm missing something. Say for Alien Blue (an app for Reddit).. if I have background app refresh enabled, is it just updating my subreddits that I visit? If it's turned off, they'll just update when I open the app, taking all of 1-2 seconds longer right? Will I still get notifications of new messages if background app refresh is disabled for Alien Blue? What about other apps?

If someone could please explain the benefits and your personal usage/benefits, that'd be great. I feel like disabling almost everything would benefit you more to save battery life. Maybe I'm wrong.
 

bkends35

macrumors 6502a
Feb 24, 2013
937
397
USA
It almost seems useless to me but maybe I'm missing something. Say for Alien Blue (an app for Reddit).. if I have background app refresh enabled, is it just updating my subreddits that I visit? If it's turned off, they'll just update when I open the app, taking all of 1-2 seconds longer right? Will I still get notifications of new messages if background app refresh is disabled for Alien Blue? What about other apps?

If someone could please explain the benefits and your personal usage/benefits, that'd be great. I feel like disabling almost everything would benefit you more to save battery life. Maybe I'm wrong.
It seems like your understanding is correct. The apps will auto-update so they're ready for you when you open them next, saving a whopping second or two while eating some battery. I have all mine turned off and I still get push notifications instantly from all my apps that were enabled like tweetbot, snapchat, etc. The only downside is if you use google maps, the apps won't work when you exit it like apple maps do. Other than that, I don't see any reasons to have them enabled. I've disabled all of mine and I don't see a reason to enable the,
 

Armen

macrumors 604
Apr 30, 2013
7,375
2,249
Los Angeles
It seems like your understanding is correct. The apps will auto-update so they're ready for you when you open them next, saving a whopping second or two while eating some battery. I have all mine turned off and I still get push notifications instantly from all my apps that were enabled like tweetbot, snapchat, etc. The only downside is if you use google maps, the apps won't work when you exit it like apple maps do. Other than that, I don't see any reasons to have them enabled. I've disabled all of mine and I don't see a reason to enable the,
Funny, I have background refresh turned on for ALL my apps and don't see a difference in battery usage at all.
 

bkends35

macrumors 6502a
Feb 24, 2013
937
397
USA
Funny, I have background refresh turned on for ALL my apps and don't see a difference in battery usage at all.
That doesn't surprise me at all actually. I haven't noticed any change in battery life with mine off. I just like to know that unnecessary things won't be refreshing in the background.
 

Armen

macrumors 604
Apr 30, 2013
7,375
2,249
Los Angeles
That doesn't surprise me at all actually. I haven't noticed any change in battery life with mine off. I just like to know that unnecessary things won't be refreshing in the background.
I follow your thinking. I turn off things like Stocks and whatnot because I don't use stocks at all but I do leave some of them on like Weather, Find my friends, etc.
 

C DM

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Oct 17, 2011
48,130
16,778
Funny, I have background refresh turned on for ALL my apps and don't see a difference in battery usage at all.
I wonder if it's more related to perhaps most of them actually not really using background updates (at least so far), despite having the option available for them.
 

GreyOS

macrumors 68040
Apr 12, 2012
3,285
1,610
The example you give isn't massively useful.

However consider some kind of subscription service app. The app publisher can send silent notifications to your phone when new content is available, which can trigger a download.

Or an app like Dropbox, which can now upload photos in the background- this is triggered by location change.

Or consider someone sending you a large file in some messaging service app. The app could download the file before showing you the notification. Feels more streamlined.

Apps that download / upload very large files don't require you to actively be in the app and are no longer limited to the 10 min courtesy background period. So you can leave the app or lock your phone.

These simple examples require background app refresh. How many real world apps are making novel use of it I don't know, but it can potential be more useful than just saving you a couple of seconds as you described.
 

Armen

macrumors 604
Apr 30, 2013
7,375
2,249
Los Angeles
I wonder if it's more related to perhaps most of them actually not really using background updates (at least so far), despite having the option available for them.
During WWDC last year Apple introduced Background Refresh as an intelligent feature in which iOS 7 would learn your app usage trends in order to always have the latest information available to you when you opened an app.

I open notification center at least 2-5 times every few minutes just to peek at e-mails without marking them read. This in turn forces the weather feature in notfication center to update.

Given my usage pattern with notification center background update should be updating my weather every few minutes in anticipation that I will need the latest weather right then and there.

Well, either the feature is working as intended and does not consume a lot of battery given the polling intervals contrary to most people's belief or the feature is indeed broken and it doesn't matter if it is turned on or not.
 

DavidBlack

macrumors 6502a
Jan 27, 2013
606
239
Somewhere In Apple's HQ ;)
It almost seems useless to me but maybe I'm missing something. Say for Alien Blue (an app for Reddit).. if I have background app refresh enabled, is it just updating my subreddits that I visit? If it's turned off, they'll just update when I open the app, taking all of 1-2 seconds longer right? Will I still get notifications of new messages if background app refresh is disabled for Alien Blue? What about other apps?

If someone could please explain the benefits and your personal usage/benefits, that'd be great. I feel like disabling almost everything would benefit you more to save battery life. Maybe I'm wrong.
This is how background refresh works based on the session they had at WWDC you can view it at:https://developer.apple.com/wwdc/videos/ I know this reply is going to be long so here goes.

In iOS 6 only a selected few type of applications can run in the background or program tasks in the background:
  • Background Audio (Music apps like, Spotify can run in the background)
  • VoIP (Like Skype)
  • Newsstand Apps
  • Location Services which includes: Region Monitoring, Significant Location Changes, and Continuous Location Monitoring. I think Reminders use this when using GeoFencing.

In iOS 7 apps can continue to update there content in the background without sacrificing much battery life. Apps can take advantage of a new API called, 'Background Fetch'. For example let's say you social networking app you may notice that when your app becomes frontmost, you refresh your feed. And the user has to wait for that feed to be updated which is not the best user experience. Now with Background Fetch your social media app can update it's content before the user returns to your app, in this case the feed.

Some key points about Background fetch:
  • System-scheduled fetch
  • Coalesced across applications (Saving a lot of battery life)
  • Adapts to actual usage patterns on device
  • Sensitive to energy and data usage
  • Indifferent to actual app running state
Background fetch adapts to how you use your device. So say for instance you check Facebook every morning at 7:00 AM iOS will notice this and will try to give the app an opportunity to fetch content before 7:00 AM. It also coalesces fetches across apps so it doesn't drain to much power it even, avoids frequent fetching during periods of inactivity and when you have a low signal on your phone.

Remote Notifications

You may have noticed in the previous versions of iOS say, you got a message on Facebook and a notification pops up on your lock screen, and you swipe to you it there is a delay before the app downloads the message. Well in iOS 7 in Remote Notifications simply put is downloaded before you even receive the notification.
I have noticed in iMessage on iOS 7 the app is in the background, and I receive a message the app snapshot is updated, this also happens when the user is composing a message. I think that covers most of it, and I hoped I help in some way. Looking forward to your reply.
 

FatPuppy

macrumors 68000
Jul 14, 2012
1,707
149
Background app refresh and keychain are very very useless and bad for the battery.
 

kas23

macrumors 603
Oct 28, 2007
5,627
291
I have background refresh on for a number of different apps and I don't really see what it's actually doing. Examples:

Dropbox: if I change/rename a file on Dropbox using my computer, this change will not show up until I physically open Dropbox on my iPhone. I'll open it, then I'll see it update right in front of my eyes. Takes a few seconds though.

Google Maps: type in directions and drive your car. "Minimize" maps and drive a bit more. Open it back up and it will take a couple of seconds before maps updates your location.

Safari: go on MRs and post something inflammatory. Close app. Go back an hour later and open Safari. Responses stating you are a troll will not be there until page reloads.
 

C DM

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Oct 17, 2011
48,130
16,778
Background app refresh and keychain are very very useless and bad for the battery.
How exactly is it useless and how exactly is it bad for the battery? Specifics would be more than useful with generalizations like that (unless of course the just don't exist).
 

PNutts

macrumors 601
Jul 24, 2008
4,839
347
Pacific Northwest, US
Funny, I have background refresh turned on for ALL my apps and don't see a difference in battery usage at all.
I don't disagree with your experience, but I did a remote wipe and restore yesterday morning and yesterday my battery life wasn't as much as it had been. Reading this thread I realized I forgot to turn off Background App Refresh. Obviously anything that uses any radio is going to use some battery, but my evidence is anecdotal and I'm on a beta so it's also meaningless. :)

I have background refresh on for a number of different apps and I don't really see what it's actually doing.
Apple's page mentions that an app has to take advantage of this so I assume the number of apps that do is small but growing.
 

Vetvito

macrumors 6502a
Sep 30, 2012
529
8
I will send you a snapshot of some examples of apps that are using background refresh.

No, none of those are really updated for iOS 7 new background refresh.

We're talking about ios 7 new "smart" background refresh. Where when you wake up in the morning, and check Facebook at a certain time, the app should already be updated for you.


No apps are really taking advantage of this. Yet.
 

kas23

macrumors 603
Oct 28, 2007
5,627
291
No, none of those are really updated for iOS 7 new background refresh.

We're talking about ios 7 new "smart" background refresh. Where when you wake up in the morning, and check Facebook at a certain time, the app should already be updated for you.


No apps are really taking advantage of this. Yet.
Really? Turn on background refresh for Safari. Go to MRs and make a thought provoking post. "Minimize" Safari (don't even fully quit app, just send it to the multitasking bar). Put phone in pocket. After waiting an hour or 2, click on Safari and, without hitting refresh, see if there are any responses after your post.
 

BaldiMac

macrumors 604
Jan 24, 2008
7,410
7,488
Really? Turn on background refresh for Safari. Go to MRs and make a thought provoking post. "Minimize" Safari (don't even fully quit app, just send it to the multitasking bar). Put phone in pocket. After waiting an hour or 2, click on Safari and, without hitting refresh, see if there are any responses after your post.
What are you talking about? Safari doesn't even support Background App Refresh. :confused:

----------

No, none of those are really updated for iOS 7 new background refresh.

We're talking about ios 7 new "smart" background refresh. Where when you wake up in the morning, and check Facebook at a certain time, the app should already be updated for you.


No apps are really taking advantage of this. Yet.
:confused: All of the apps in the screenshot are taking advantage of Background App Refresh. And those are just his apps through "H".
 

kas23

macrumors 603
Oct 28, 2007
5,627
291
Silly me. I thought if there was even one single app that supported Background refresh, it would be Apple's own Safari. Perhaps it shouldn't be listed as an app that you can turn BR on and off then.
 

BaldiMac

macrumors 604
Jan 24, 2008
7,410
7,488
Silly me. I thought if there was even one single app that supported Background refresh, it would be Apple's own Safari. Perhaps it shouldn't be listed as an app that you can turn BR on and off then.
It isn't. :confused:
 

GreyOS

macrumors 68040
Apr 12, 2012
3,285
1,610
Silly me. I thought if there was even one single app that supported Background refresh, it would be Apple's own Safari. Perhaps it shouldn't be listed as an app that you can turn BR on and off then.
I dunno if you're really confused or I am. Your post, starting with "Really?" and discussing new responses on MR refreshing in Safari seemed like sarcasm, i.e. pointing out that Safari doesn't update in the background. But the post you replied to was already saying that no apps are really taking advantage of it. ?!

And Safari isn't in the list of apps you can turn BR on/off for.

Very confused!

edit: and the idea that Safari should refresh pages for you in the background is bizarre... Yes, in some contexts like a forum it might make sense, but the web is a big place. Do you want it refreshing your order submission, or refreshing a temporary page and thus losing it? How can it make the assumption that you want it to refresh? Nah.
 
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