Think you’re a responsible smartphone user? Reckon you’re saving battery by killing all those apps? Think again.
We all pick up bad habits, particularly when it comes to software. In the absence of someone telling you otherwise, you’re going to keep up your erroneous ways — and that’s where we come in.
It’s time to let the apps live.
Swiping Up to Kill Apps
This is probably the number one mistake iOS users make when using their smartphones or tablets. Unlike early versions of Android which absolutely required tasks to be managed in order to free up system resources and guarantee battery life, iOS does not allow apps to simply run indefinitely in the background.
When you minimise an app (by pressing the home button) that process is frozen and stored in memory. The app then has a 10 minute window to finish up any tasks it has left before the system puts a stop to it. There are some exceptions to this rule, including:
- Apps that are granted access to GPS information.
- Mapping apps designed to provide you with directions.
- Your built-in Phone app, FaceTime and other VoIP apps (like Skype) with currently active calls.
- Music playback, music creation apps, and audio recorders.
So what does this mean? Any app you have allowed to access GPS information can stay open in the background indefinitely. Other apps that are active and doing something are usually easy to spot thanks to a large unsightly bar at the top of the screen (pictured below).
Certain apps take advantage of Apple’s exceptions above in order to keep their apps open in the background — one such example is Dropbox, which uses location data to wake the app up and continue uploading images from the Camera Roll in the background. You should police these apps carefully, and if you think your battery is depleting at a faster rate than it should be you can revoke access under Settings > Privacy > Location Services.
When Apple introduced the new-look task switcher with iOS 7, it made it surprisingly easy for users to kill processes with a simple swipe. Many users still think that the task switcher, accessed by quickly double-clicking the home button, is a list of currently running processes but really it’s more of a quick-access point to get back to what you were doing.
Yes, you can use the multi-tasker to kill processes that have become unresponsive, or for killing GPS apps after you’ve used them so they don’t try to stay alive in the background, but there’s no need to kill most iOS apps — if anything you’re short changing yourself, removing the ability to resume where you left off and forcing the app to start from cold all over again.
Emailing Yourself Reminders
While it might seem convenient at the time, there really is little sense in emailing yourself notes and reminders any more. This is still arguably one of the quickest ways of leaving yourself a message for later, and that’s fine, except when it comes to retrieving, remembering, and acting upon the information. Simply put, email is not a great organizational tool.
It makes much more sense to store your notes and reminders using an app designed to do so. There are so many good free options around that you’ve got little in the way of an excuse. You can organise your thoughts as you jot them down by tagging notes or assigning them to specific notebooks, which makes retrieval much easier. Certain apps allow you to record other information, like your location when you created the note, audio recordings and file attachments.
So what can you use instead? Your iPhone already comes with a Notes app, and though we agree it leaves much to be desired, it will be getting a rather large overhaul when iOS 9 arrives. Evernote is a firm cross-platform favorite, with Microsoft’s OneNote offering similar levels of compatibility and support. Both of those platforms include support for attachments, like images, videos and documents but if you don’t need that then Simplenote is king of the text-only note-taking world.
Finally, if you really absolutely have to use email for note-taking purposes, many of these services support adding notes via a unique email address. Evernote is one such platform, allowing you to specify tags and a destination notebook (though you might want to use the Today screen widget instead).
Using Your Phone Without a Passcode
If you have an iPad that you only use around the house, I can absolutely understand not bothering with a passcode. But when it comes to your iPhone — a device that probably goes everywhere you do — then you’re playing a very dangerous game by not setting a passcode (or using something as simple as 1234).
There’s a very high chance your primary email account is tied to your iPhone, which would be a problem if an intruder with malicious intent were to gain access. Most of your social media, shopping and other accounts will be tied to this email address — it’s essentially a restore point for when things go very wrong.
Now imagine the intruder wanted to steal more than just your phone. They want to buy things using your Amazon account, empty your PayPal and hijack your web hosting. With easy access to the primary email address (and a lack of two-factor authentication) this isn’t just a nightmare, it’s a real possibility.
With iOS 9, Apple is introducing six-digit passcodes. This introduces an additional 990,000 combinations, which is most likely a response to the brute force hardware that rendered iPhone passcodes vulnerable in March 2015 (see the video above). Newer iPhone models even come with fingerprint scanners (which use passcodes as backup), negating the need to even type a code much of the time.
If you’d rather be extra secure, you can enable alphanumeric passwords under Settings > Touch ID & Passcode > Simple Passcode > Off.
Searching Through Folders for Apps
Like most iPhone users you probably have a well-organised bounty of apps, all neatly tucked away into relevant folders. Even if you don’t keep many apps on your phone, you probably have a “Utilities” or “Unused” folder in which to bury apps you have no need for.
Folders are great for browsing apps — like when you’ve downloaded a few games and aren’t sure what to play — but terrible for finding things in a hurry. Apple’s organisation features leave much to be desired, with folders containing pages of apps that are then spread across multiple home screens.
Launching apps with your iPhone’s built-in search feature is a much faster way of doing things, and the more you use it, the better it gets. To access the search feature simply pull down on the home screen (your list of apps), and type your query. If you really want to know where you put an app, search for it and the respective folder will be tagged in search results.
You can make this an even more effective use of your search feature by putting applications at the top of your search results (and deselecting any results you want to omit) under Settings > General > Spotlight Search.
Allowing Too Many Notifications
Push notifications are one of the greatest assets of the smartphone generation. They’re so good, in fact, that absolutely everyone seems to be using them, and it’s having a detrimental effect on their overall efficacy. It’s hard to focus amid a sea of distractions, so if you find yourself avoiding your notifications (or just not making proper use of them) then there’s a chance you’ve simply got too many.
Notifications may also be severely reducing your battery life. Cellular data usage is fairly battery intensive, as is turning on the screen and backlight all the time. If you’re walking around and your phone is buzzing in your pocket all day, you’re probably wasting a large amount of battery through unnecessary data and screen use alone.
You can adjust what notifies you (and how) under Settings > Notifications. You can also take this opportunity to clear up your lock screen — think about which notifications you really need to see straight away, and those that can wait till later.
In the future, when apps ask you for permission to flood you with notifications, ask yourself, “Do I want another app clogging up the notification area and draining my battery?” before you grant it permission. This is especially true for apps that you’re more likely to find yourself checking manually.
These are just a few of our worst iPhone habits — what are yours?