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If an iPhone app is in the middle of a network operation (e.g., downloading email in Mail, loading a web page in Safari, posting a photo in Path, upgrading apps via the App store) and I tap the lock button to blank the screen, will the network operation complete? Or will it suspend the operation and only resume it when I tap the lock button again?

More generally, what happens to a running app when I tap the lock button?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

The button on top is not a power button. It's a lock button which informs the OS to turn off the display to save power and to prevent accidental touch input, but the rest of the device keeps running. Apps continue to run for a short while after the display and touchscreen is powered off, from a few seconds for most apps, to several minutes, and even longer for a few specific types of apps, such as background music players and VOIP apps under iOS 4 and newer. Some GPS logging apps can also continue to run in the background as well.

Some newer networking apps request a few minute to complete operations in the background, but not all older apps could or did. So it depends on the iOS version, the particular app and version of that app.

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Fixed the question wording: power button -> lock button –  Lorin Hochstein Nov 6 '11 at 20:30
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Generally applications used to keep running normally even if you locked the screen. There were some exceptions, Safari I believe stopped its network operations, as did some others, but most apps would just ignore it.

Since iOS 5 however, applications get suspended (just as if you hit the home button) when the screen locks, which means outside of a 10 minutes grace period (if the apps actively supports it) applications can't do anything under the lock screen.

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Can you elaborate on or substantiate this? I can think of a couple of counterexamples under iOS 5: Downloading a podcast from iTunes, which, granted, is not a third-party app, and Skype calls maintain their connection indefinitely with the screen locked... –  Dan J Nov 6 '11 at 3:34
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iTunes is an exception, because it is, as you pointed out, not a third-party app. Skype supports running in background, even if you exit the app by hitting the home button. (This is only possible for apps that play music, offer voice over ip or use the GPS receiver) –  voidStern Nov 6 '11 at 7:27
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