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If I'm about to play a demanding 3D game, would closing this background apps be of any benefit to my battery or overall performance?

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No, iOS handles all the allocating and de-allocating of memory(RAM)on its own in the back round. Apps have three states, open, suspended and closed. If an app is suspended which is what usually happens when you close an app and it winds up in the tray (when you double tap home) and you need more RAM for you game lets say then ios will automatically make room on the stack for the game by closing the apps that are suspended(in the tray, in the order they were opened, first to last) which will open up more memory for your game. In short don't worry about it. You can close them yourself though if you wish by double tapping the home button then long pressing the app(s) you wish to close then pressing a red and white circle that will appear in the upper left hand corner of the app icon.

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I was strictly desktop before owning one of this wonderful things, and I was expecting this kind of answer. But I had to ask anyway. –  overmann Jan 29 '12 at 0:07
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I hear ya. I used to wonder the same then discovered the answer through an article. It can be explained much better I am sure but in essence that's the answer. Lots of people get a misconception, in contrast the way Android handles RAM is a little different but much the same in the way that like any system it will start force closing apps and such to re allocate memory. –  Gmenfan83 Jan 29 '12 at 0:11

Think of the apps that show on double-click as simply a list of most recently used apps, not a list of apps currently running in the memory (this list is separate from the previous and not visible to a user).

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I was curious because, you know how you can play music and close the music app. But if you open the background tray after this and close the music app there, your music stops playing, so there's some funny business happening there. –  overmann Jan 29 '12 at 0:10
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Thats because there are apps that have special permissions to run in "suspended" mode, such as the music app or an email app etc. –  Gmenfan83 Jan 29 '12 at 0:14

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