Why forcing an iOS app to quit won't speed up your device

Apple has released iOS 7, the latest version of its mobile operating system, and it's a drastic change from all that has gone before. The changes are covered in my new iBook, Guide to iOS 7, published by Touch Press. It also includes 20 tips and tricks for iOS users. One of them seems to surprise so many people that I thought I would share it here.

A few weeks ago, I asked users of Apple's iOS devices to share the tips they would give people who were new to the OS. Lots of useful suggestions came back, via Twitter, but several people said that new users should be told that it's important to quit apps that you aren't using. I was surprised by that because, as far as I knew, it isn't true.

The theory is that forcing apps to quit - by double-tapping the Home button to open the multi-tasking menu and, on iOS 7, flicking the apps up off the screen - you will free up system resources and minimise battery drain. It seems that a lot of people consider that to be a pro tip.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work. Once you switch away from an app in iOS, it is suspended. iOS remembers the state it was in when you left it so that you can go right back to it on your return, but the app is not actually running anymore. The only exceptions to that rule are apps that have some background functionality, such as streaming music apps or apps that can upload files in the background. However, even those will be suspended after a certain period of time.

If an app is malfunctioning then, yes, forcing it to quit is the answer. But in normal use force-quitting apps will not make a difference. Explaining this can be difficult because some people simply do not believe it. They swear that they have seen an improvement in the performance of their device after doing it. All I can say to those people is that they are mistaken. I've checked with Apple and I've checked with independent developers and the answer is the same: force quitting apps will not save battery life or improve performance of the device.

In an attempt to combat the misinformation I've added that as one of my iOS Tips and Tricks in the Guide to iOS 7 that I have written in collaboration with Touch Press. It's the first Touch Press iBook and it's free so if you're an iOS 7 user then I recommend downloading your copy now.

The iTunes curse strikes again

A little over a week ago I was pleased to notice that I'd posted to this blog eleven times in March. Anticipating a record-breaking month of activity I promptly sat back and did nothing. Curses. It's been seven months since iTunes destroyed my music library and since then I've been slowly working to restore all my track ratings so that my precious playlists will work again. Everything was going well until this afternoon when iTunes lost my library again.

This time, instead of losing about half of my tracks, it lost pretty much all of them. All but a handful of tracks had that evil little exclamation mark next to them, which is iTunes way of saying "I'm sorry, I've completely forgotten where I put this..."

Faced with two choice - relocate 14,000 songs one-by-one or re-import the library and lose my track data - I decided to find a third option. How about a new player?

Foobar 2000 looks amazing when you spend some time customising it but as I discovered when I downloaded it, it looks awful until you put the time in. It's a great idea: you start with no features and install only the ones you want. The possibilities are amazing. I might explore it later but right now I'm not sure whether I'll make the commitment.

The search for a media player that required less work brought me to Jajuk. It's a little scruffy looking but there are lots of nice features. The stats page and the album cover view are both very good. Still, it doesn't feel the same.

Like a man unexpectedly dumped by a girlfriend, I just wanted things back the way they were. I know I can do better. I know iTunes is no good for me. And yes, I know iTunes will probably betray me again. But you can't help your feelings can you?

So I bought CopyPod for $20. It turns out that this is what I should have done before. CopyPod can take the music and track data from my iPod and put it back into iTunes. Or at least it claims it can. The whole thing will take two hours and it hasn't finished yet. If it works my problem is solved.

Of course, if Apple weren't so obsessed with their bloody copy protection systems, they could have put this feature in iTunes themselves and saved me some money.

iTunes update

Apple has released an update to iTunes 7 - iTunes 7.0.1. As the name suggests, it's a relatively minor update but it seems to have fixed the problems I was having with distorted playback. On the first day of using the new version I was having a new problem: iTunes would stop at the end of a track and not move on to the next song. I assume this is a bug in the 'gapless playback' feature but whatever it is, it hasn't happened for a few days.

One other note for iTunes 7 users - my version didn't automatically detect the update. Even when I clicked the 'Update iTunes' link in the help menu it still didn't detect an update. I had to download it manually.

That smell? Oh, that's iTunes 7

Obviously, the first thing I did on returning from a few days in Spain was turn on my computer and download the new version of iTunes from Apple. It has lots of exciting new features and my colleague at the Telegraph, David Derbyshire, is very impressed. Sadly for me and many others, iTunes 7 doesn't work. For a start, it mislaid around 6,000 of my songs - half my library. They were still on my harddrive but iTunes couldn't find them anymore.

Getting them back is relatively simple if you don't mind losing all your ratings and playcounts but the only way to fix the problem without losing the information is to point iTunes to each track one at a time. That's not a very practical solution when you have 6,000 tracks to find.

I use playcounts and ratings to generate smart playlists so this is a major irritation for me.

Second iTunes distorts some tracks during playback. Some people have found that changing the Quicktime audio settings fixes the problem but that doesn't work for me. Still, I should think myself lucky that the problem only affects me intermittently - some users can't get rid of it at all.

Does Apple actually test their software anymore? Have they turned into Microsoft? My advice is not to bother upgrading iTunes until Apple fixes these problems.