Many people think (and even some websites report) that the app switcher shows "apps running", e.g. in the background but this is not so. It just shows a recently used list of apps. Apps shown in app switcher can be in different states, including "not running" which means "The app has not been launched or was running but was terminated by the system."

My question is, is there any way on iOS (i.e. by a user, not programmatically) to tell whether an app on iOS is actually running or not, and by running I mean in any state other than "not running" as defined in the following link (scroll almost to the bottom).

The App Life Cycle

  • I believe your whole first paragraph is incorrect but I don't have any evidence to support that claim. My understanding is if an app is open then you will see it's window in the app switcher if you swipe up on it that will close the app. That has nothing to do with background app refresh or what the apps do when they are not open.
    – Alaska Man
    Feb 23, 2017 at 19:43
  • @Alaskaman You are mostly wrong. I suggest you research it with official apple docs instead of mainstream consumer media reports. What you are correct about is that swiping up will terminate an already running app. However app switcher does not show a list of running apps. All the apps that are running will be there, but it can also show others that are not running. To test this, simply reboot your device. All the apps are still listed in app switcher, yet none are running. Feb 23, 2017 at 19:54

1 Answer 1


No, there's no way a regular user can tell the current state of an app.

Apple can change the state of an app at any time depending on a number of circumstances. None of those circumstances should be of any concern to a user.

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