Killing Your Apps in iOS

It all started with this

I was poking around an Apple Store when an elderly gentleman came in and complained that his iPhone was frozen. The screen was locked to a running application, and pressing the home button did nothing. I hung nearby, curious as to the official tech support procedure for this type of issue. This wasn’t a genius bar appointment, it was simply a sales associate helping someone who walked up to them at the front of the store.

Micromanging your Phone

When queried, the gentleman said the phone hadn’t gotten wet, and it was fully charged, and he was not aware of how to reboot the device. The sales associate plugged the phone into a dock cable (apparently it was very low on power), and the phone responded just fine. He then proceeded to, without any further investigation, tell the gentleman the problem. “You’ve got too many apps running. You have to double tap the home button to bring up the task manager, then tap and hold on an app to make them wiggle, then tap to kill them. You’ve got to kill your apps when you’re not using them, or the system will get full and freeze up.”

I was very shocked to hear this, because I actually know how iOS manages its memory and processing power. Clearly this sales associate didn’t have a clue. I tweeted and walked away amused, only to have a very long twitter conversation with a friend about this issue. Apparently he had been told the same thing, but by a genius. To make matters worse, he had shared the knowledge of how to kill tasks (which by design is pretty difficult to stumble upon) with a friend of his. This friend now runs an app, and when he’s done, immediately kills it. Every single app, every single time. I was just flabbergasted.

I mean, I kill apps myself, but only in one specific instance: if the app has frozen and its quicker to kill it and restart than wait for iOS to decide its had enough and perform the kill itself. The thing is, I know what I’m doing. I would never tell a normal user how to kill their apps, unless I also included a hefty educational speech about when and why you do this. In everyday usage, nobody should have to do it, period. Even those rare instances should be infrequent enough that the average user doesn’t encounter it. Having a user forced to manage what apps are running strikes me as straying far into Android territory. If iOS is failing so badly at memory management that the everyday user is forced to manage running processes, why not add in an activity monitor app so I can see memory and CPU usage while I’m at it.

The Problem is Getting Attention

I spent some time poking around the dark corners of the internet, and there were plenty of confused normals spouting this “kill your apps manually” nonsense. To make matters worse, the people who knew better came off as condescending when trying to correct the normals, and every thread I found just devolved into name calling. I didn’t feel up to wading into the mess, so I made sure to educate my relatives, then let sleeping dogs lie. Fast forward a few months, and the problem is getting a little attention, at least in certain circles.

It started with Speirs, got picked up by Gruber. Then Speirs went and documented the whole process on video, which in my mind should lay to rest this issue, at least for anybody willing to watch the video in its entirety.

Who is To Blame?

The thing is that really bothers me is, how exactly are “normals” getting educated about the app kill functionality? I’m not sure, but my best guess is word of mouth many times removed, eventually traced back to uninformed apple employees or know it all children.

Clearly Apple needs to include the app kill method as part of their employee training, and make sure their employees know what it does and does not accomplish. That would at least stop the misinformation at the source.

I know Apple would be happy if most users never knew about the app kill functionality, and perhaps its best that way. However, in order to clean up the mess made by their well intentioned employees, consumers need to be educated on the facts, at least on a case by case basis. People who overuse the app kill functionality are wasting massive amounts of their time, and this needs to be stopped.

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