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Home » How To

iPhone 101: Why you need to reboot your iPhone and iPad

Submitted by on July 30, 2012 – 5:31 am 23 Comments

iPhone 4 memory usage after quitting open apps

Your iPhone is a computer. To help keep it running smoothly, rebooting should be a regular part of your iPhone’s maintenance. When I did Mac desktop support, rebooting the computer fixed about half the problems. Seriously.

I originally wrote this post almost a year and a half ago. Since then, the iPhone 4S and iOS 5 were released (UD: And now we’re on the verge of iOS 7 and a new iPhone 5 model. =M=). After I originally posted this, there was some pretty heated debate here and on a few other blogs as to the effectiveness of quitting apps and rebooting your device. I still stand by my original assertion that quitting and rebooting should be a regular part your iPhone’s routine.

Find out how and why after the jump. >>>

The iPhone really needs more than just an occasion reboot. On any iPhone running iOS 5 or iOS 6, quitting all open apps will help free up even more memory on the device and help RAM-intensive apps run more stable. I recommend this for any iDevice — iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.

iOS 4 introduced multitasking and background processes to the iPhone. Briefly, the iOS leaves apps without actually quitting them — they are “on pause” in the background. More and more apps are working — albeit slowly — in the background. To a point, the processes still use memory and CPU clock cycles. With a lot of apps on your phone, it’s easy to have 50 or more open apps in no time.

Before rebooting, I quit all of my open apps. To quit open apps, double-click the home button to show your recently accessed applications. Press and hold any of the icons. They’ll start shaking. Then just tap the red-circled minus buttons to quit each app. One tap of the home button stops the shaking. One more takes you back to your home screen.

I have read other bloggers who disagree with this, saying that apps “shut down” in the background after anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes of non-use. Regardless, in my own experience, I almost always free up a significant amount of memory by quitting out of all apps. See the screenshots above. The left screenshot shows iPhone 4 memory usage with just six apps open. The screenshot on the right shows the device’s memory usage after quitting all open apps. Even more memory was recovered after rebooting the iPhone.

How to reboot your iPhone

To reboot any iPhone, hold the Sleep/Wake Button at the top right-hand corner of the iPhone for a few seconds and run the slider across the screen when it asks. When your iPhone shuts down, wait a few seconds and press the Sleep/Wake button to power it back up again. This will fix many problems preemptively.

Reboot your iPhone when normally rock-solid apps start crashing. Although the iPhone 4 is has much more memory than its predecessors, you should still quit and reboot on a regular basis, even if it isn’t acting up. For the most part, my iPhone just works and it’s easy not to think about it. It’s one of the reasons we love Apple products.

Inside, your iPhone is a computer and as you use it — opening and using apps — its runtime free memory (RAM) can become fragmented over time. Quitting apps and rebooting your iPhone flushes the memory and the fragmentation. Instantly, your apps have a lot more memory to play with (and photo apps can be memory hogs sometimes).

I try to reboot my iPhone at least once a week just to do it — basically, when I remember to. I quit all open apps and reboot when things start crashing on me. Quitting and rebooting helps keep stable apps stable and can help cranky apps behave a little better.

=M=

~~~~

UPDATED: Made a few wording changes. A few sentences struck-thru, but left in so the comments below remain relevant. =M=

Marty Yawnick

Marty is a self-employed graphic designer in the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex. He is an avid Rangers baseball, Chicago Cubs, Packers and Highbury Arsenal fan. In addition to capturing random moments with whatever camera is close by (usually his iPhone), his other interests include coffee, film, music, and traveling in seats 5E and 5F with his fiancé.

  • http://www.rhapsodyiphoneography.wordpress.com jeannie

    After my original iPhone 3GS was traded in for a replacement after I noticed it overheating and not cooling down, one of the geniuses advised me to shut down my iPhone. I’ve been doing it every night. I don’t know if it makes the apps run better. I just do it so my iPhone won’t overheat from exhaustion.

    From my experience with cranky FREE apps like WordPress and Foodspotting, the best thing to do is delete the app. Shut down the phone completely. Turn it back on and download the app again from the app store.

  • Miki

    Excellent advice. I routinely shut down apps working in the background, but always forget the hard reset. Good reminder!

  • DrNels

    I reboot because everything works much faster after the reboot, like it should.

  • devo

    What app or function are you using to display the memory and storage in the image at the top of this post? I'd like to be able to check that on my iPhone 4. Thanks!

    • http://lifeinlofi.com lifeinlofiblog

      It's a Swiss Army Knife app called AppBox Pro. Does dozens of other things as well.

      =M=

  • Macdynamite

    Wow SOO much misinformation. You really shouldn’t be writing articles on stuff you don’t understand Marty. Blocked from Zite.

    • http://lifeinlofi.com lifeinlofiblog

      Hi, Macdynamite,

      Thank you for stopping by. Please clarify your response.

      =M=

  • http://twitter.com/interealtime @interealtime

    Ooh, as a developer I really hate reading articles like this! (Sorry Marty! :D)

    The rebooting advice is excellent. I reboot my devices semi-regularly – basically, whenever something doesn't feel right, or something doesn't work properly, or the battery seems to run down faster than normal. You don't need to do it daily (although there's no harm), but if something isn't running as well as it used to a reboot will probably fix it.

    Then there's the memory thing. Memory handling (and multitasking) on iOS are widely misunderstood – and apps like the one in that screenshot do more harm than good!

    Those apps in the task-switcher bar? Most of them are *not* open at all. Likely none of them are running (however slowly), so they're no slowing anything down or using power. And they're not stopping other apps from using any memory. Here's how it actually works:

    First, that task-switching bar. It's just a list of recently used apps, nothing else. Some of them might be open, but most of them won't be. "Closing an app" from this bar will close it if it's open, if not it's just removing the icon from the list.

    Second, multi-tasking. Apps don't continue running in the background like they do on a computer. When you close them or open another app, they just pause and wait to be reactivated. They don't use any power at all – just the memory they need.

    There are a couple of exceptions. GPS navigation apps have to stay open to give you directions, music players have to keep playing music, and chat / phone apps have to stay connected if you're in a conversation. These are the only apps you need to quit manually – and even there, they'll usually handle that automatically (e.g. a music player will 'pause' if it's not playing music).

    Memory: that "full" memory bar looks bad doesn't it? It means your next app won't have enough memory to open. Wrong. When you open your next app, if it needs more memory than is 'free', iOS will automatically close an app you haven't used for a long time, freeing some memory. So that 'full' bar actually means nothing, you don't need to close any apps.

    What happens if you don't close apps manually all the time? Nothing. If you go to use an app that's still open in the background, it fires up instantly with whatever you were doing before there on screen. If you open a new app, either it'll load straight up, or worst case it'll load very slightly slower because another app had to shut down.

    If you do close apps manually all the time: Every app you open has to load from scratch. This takes time. Then it has to figure out what you were doing before, and try to get that back to how it was – which takes more time. And it's burning the battery while it does all this unnecessary stuff.

    So there you go: don't close apps manually, or you'll waste your time AND lower your battery life!

    • Miki

      A much better and thoughtful response than MacDynamite's troll post. A lot of this information makes sense.

    • http://lifeinlofi.com lifeinlofiblog

      Hi, Chris,

      Thank you for your detailed response from the perspective of a developer. One question….

      When an iOS app crashes, how does this effect what's in RAM? On a desktop when an app crashes, sometimes not all processes quit or close properly, which can cause instability throughout the system until you quit out of all open apps and reboot. How does iOS handle misbehaving and unstable apps?

      =M=

      • http://twitter.com/interealtime @interealtime

        Normally iOS just kills the app. Some desktop apps have weird setups (spawning lots of background tasks that start behaving badly when the main process unexpectedly disappears and such), but iOS is pretty tightly nailed down so this isn't normally a problem.

        What can sometimes happen is that an app triggers some bug in some part of the OS. Then the OS starts wobbling, and it doesn't matter how many apps you quit, a reboot is needed.

        I've also hit an issue recently that might affect some camera apps. Under certain conditions, each time you take a photo the OS itself leaks a big chunk of memory. The app might only use 10MB, but the OS component can use >100MB after just a few shots. Quitting the app should free the memory, but I can imagine there being some scenario where it never gets freed – and then it'll have an impact until you reboot. The app itself doesn't leak, so it's hard for devs to even notice an issue like this, and sometimes the OS kills the app to free memory while it's running, so it looks like the app crashed. Not good! (But fixed in my own apps, don't worry :D)

        • http://lifeinlofi.com lifeinlofiblog

          Thanks, Chris.

          Your apps are rock solid in my tests. I deal with *a lot* of other apps that aren't, most of which I never mention here.

          =M=

    • Nev Dorrington

      I am finding now with iphone 5 – I have to re-boot EVERY day – its a real pain – why do we have to do this?

  • http://twitter.com/interealtime @interealtime

    The comment above this one is spam btw.

    • http://lifeinlofi.com =M=

      Removed. Thanks, Chris.

      =M=

  • Mandolina

    After having many problems with my iPhone, I was told by a Apple Store Genius — Not to reboot – that I was actually causing more problems by doing that too much.

  • http://twitter.com/bismanapps @bismanapps

    I'm with Chris on this one. There is nothing wrong with quiting apps from the multi tasking bar, but not as a ritual or for memory recovery. The main reason I close apps is when the list gets too large or unwieldy. Unless the phone is acting up in some way, I usually just let things ride.

  • http://basic-electronics.blogspot.com/ gelo

    great info, but you can also reboot other devices to recover much of the memories

  • http://www.mobilecasedirect.com Mobile Case Direct

    It’s amazing how many people don’t realize how much memory is taken up by apps running in the background.

    They don’t realize that they should shut them down to improve their iPhone 5s performance & battery life.

    1. Shut Down iPhone Weekly
    2. Turn Off Apps Daily

    :)

    • Kevin Dugan

      Interealtime, in the comments above, explained why it’s a bad idea to manually close your apps. It wastes battery and doesn’t help in any way.

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  • Nuhlough

    Rebooting your iPhone or iPad’s will help your boost the system of your phone. All files that has been corrupted will be restores to its normal process wherein you can be able to turn it back to its normal flows.

  • Benjamin Lim

    Hi,

    May i ask if a soft reset of an iPhone 6 (hold sleep/wake button with the home button for 10 seconds) harms the phone in anyway? May it be battery, hardware etc? And is it advisable to do it occasionally where it actually removes caches and memory stored in the phone? Thank you.

    Also, by doing a soft reset would be better than rebooting the phone? or are they the same? Please advise