What Apps Need Background Refresh on iOS?

What apps need background refresh on? Most notifications come through the notification system that doesn’t require apps to be running in the background. Here’s a list of all the apps that I can think need background refresh turned on:

  • August Lock, so it knows when I’m approaching my house, it can automatically unlock the door. If I don’t have that particular feature active, I don’t need the lock application running in the background.
  • Weather Apps: Only if you want immediate rain notifications.

And, that’s about it… I have a Sous Vide system that might need them if I’m out of the house, so it can tell me if my dinner is ready, but I already know when it’ll be done. The app told me that. And again, that might be part of the regular notification system too.

Maybe my mail app, so it can pre download emails, but that really only takes a few seconds at the most, and I get notification of emails anyway.

So what other apps benefit from running in the background?

I have background refresh disabled for most apps. My exceptions are:

  • My credit card mobile apps (and with background location services enabled).

    As you may be aware, cards red-flag card-present transactions that are far from your normal home/work locations. When traveling, you can call them (or use their web site) to let them know where you will be, to avoid problems. For some cards (including a few of mine), they will use your phone’s location (as reported by the app) as another factor - if the phone is physically near the location of the transaction, they will treat it as if the location was registered as a travel location.

  • Notes. If I edit notes on another device (phone, iPod, Mac), I want the content to be immediately synced to other devices. I don’t want to need to launch the app to get the changes, since I might not have Internet connectivity at that time.

  • Books. For similar reasons. I frequently add/remove PDFs on my Mac. I want them to sync ASAP.

  • Siri. I’m not sure if it strictly needs this, but I have it enabled in case it’s needed for “Hey Siri” to work while the phone is locked.

1 Like

I’ve tried both with almost everything turned off and everything turned on and noticed no difference in performance or any battery saving worth noting. So I just leave everything on.


If you listen to podcasts, it’s useful to have the podcast app download new episodes in the background so they’re ready to go when you want to listen. Especially if you only download over WiFi but listen when out and about.

1 Like

Stocks – unless you like being very surprised/disappointed at what you thought was current data. :)

Completely agree with Doug on this one. Total waste of personal time and energy to be concerned about this.

1 Like

If an app is running in the background, it can know your location. This was information that AccuWeather was tracking selling to advertisers.

Apps that talk to a watch, and presumably widgets that display assorted status info, need background refresh. Can’t think of why I’d want any others to have it on.

But there’s a separate configuration for that. Under Privacy → Location Services, you can configure apps to allow location access:

  • Never
  • Ask next time or when I share
  • While using the app
  • Always

Plus a setting to configure precise or coarse location.

(Not all apps support all of these modes)

On my phone most apps are set to Never. Those that need location (e.g. Camera or Weather), generally have it set to “While Using”. The only apps I have set to “Always” are those banking apps that can use it to enhance fraud detection.

You will still get the same amount of AccuWeather ads, just more likely to be from businesses focused on your area. I’m sure AccuWeather gets way more income from delivering ads than they get from selling your location.

1 Like

A great example of why I’m so careful to use a weather app with an excellent tracking privacy policy. (Used to be Dark Sky; I’ve been using Carrot for about a year, but I think I’m going to switch to Hello, or just use Apple’s.) Other apps without good privacy policies never get location permission, but weather apps are a lot more useful if they know your location.

1 Like

I wouldn’t be so sure – I think selling tracking data is big business.

However, the app can still get your location by triangulating between the cell towers or examining WiFi network if it’s running in the background.

There was an app used by Muslims to know which way Mecca is when they pray. The app was running in the background picking up the location of the phone using triangulation between cell towers and WiFi.

The library the open source app was using was making a call to a web API that gathered the location information and sold it to interested parties including the US government.