I never realised any advantage of having that feature turned on, nor turned off.
How can educate myself about what it does so that I can choose whether to turn it on or off either for the entire system or for specific applications?
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Some apps like Facebook keep getting new feed posts in the background when you are not using the app. This gives the impression when you launch the app that it is really fast and everything is already there and your main UI isn't filled with blank spots for image placeholders and things of that sort.
The biggest impact I've seen on it is that is uses a TON of cellular data when my wife checks her Facebook on lunch break, then it keeps refreshing for the next 4 hours until she gets home to wifi.
I try to turn off background app refresh for most apps. A good hypothetical use for it would be some app that tracks tour mileage and plots it on a map. You may be on a long trip and you don't need to be looking at a phone while driving, so this would be a good use for background app refresh so the app can continue to measure your distance even when you have your phone locked or are on the phone itself.
Background refresh and location services are two different things. Most navigation apps like Waze do not use background refresh to provide routing or directions. They use Core Location, which uses a combination of GPS and Wi-Fi to get your exact location, even in the background.
Waze does use Background Refresh, but who knows exactly what for, or how much this would hinder its functionality. Background Refresh will launch your app in the background, and give it a bit of time to perform some action. How often this occurs is totally opaque to the user or developer. It's up to the operating system.
Background Refresh is a feature whose name describes exactly what it does. It allows apps to automatically refresh their content in the background. This means that whenever you open the app you'll always have new content.
For example: Waze is a navigating app that needs Background Refresh to constantly get your location and give you directions even if the app isn't open and is running in the background. Turning it off would hinder apps from doing things like this. I recommend you to go through the list and turn off ones that you don't think will need to refresh/get new content when the app is closed. If you do this you might see an increase in battery life.