Sometimes, if my iOS device (ipad or ipod touch) is acting sketchy or slow, I will bring up the multitasking bar (double-press the home button) and then remove items from that multitasking bar (do a long touch on one until they jiggle, then press the red delete spot on them.) I imagine that this is somehow saving memory or freeing up the device somehow.

But is that true? or are all those multitasking icons simple shortcuts, and deleting them has no real effect?

(bonus side question -- if it does really have no effect, what is a way to free up memory or complexity on the device other than shutting down and restarting?)

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    The delete spot completely quits the application. I'm unsure how much resources are freed, but it is useful if an app has entered a weird stage (hang, lockup, GUI issues), and re-opening it only brings you back to that weird stage. Completely quitting it from the multitasking bar then usually fixes the problem. – Lizzan Dec 9 '11 at 8:45
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    They say it is a "recently used" bar and not a "multitasking" bar at all... – GEdgar Dec 13 '11 at 20:33
  • We featured this question on Episode 19 of the Ask Different Podcast. – Jason Salaz Dec 13 '11 at 22:14

In a word, No.

Apple didn't want to hand over the responsibility of application and memory management to the user, and personally I'm glad that they made that decision.

The purpose of the multitasking bar is to allow users to switch between apps and to quit apps in order to open them afresh (in case of crashes or weird behaviour).

iOS doesn't actually allow 3rd party apps to continually run in the background. There are several methods that Apple have provided to developers which allow a sort of pseudo background tasking functionality.

Long and short is, iOS is pretty damn good at managing memory usage and will kill applications in situations where RAM is running extremely low to prevent a total OS crash.

My advice is, let the OS handle it.

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    Indeed. Excellent answer and spot on. Additionaly, iOS will jettison any app in the background that happens to still be loaded in memory if it needs to. – user10355 Dec 10 '11 at 20:23
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    Additional information here: iOS App Programming Guide: App States and Multitasking – Suboptimus Dec 13 '11 at 21:11
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    I found this very nice article: Misconceptions About iOS Multitasking – gentmatt Jan 4 '12 at 12:39
  • In a word, YES. There are too many exceptions from the ideal case; especially with iOS 5.0.1 and an iPad 1 or iPhone 3GS – bobndrew Jan 5 '12 at 11:17
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    I found this video very informative. It shows Apple's Instruments app monitoring an iPad's memory as apps are launched, backgrounded, suspended, and quit. – Nathan Greenstein Jan 16 '12 at 17:16

Sometimes, I find that an application behaves poorly when going through suspend/resume, and I need to quit the application. For example, sometimes the NPR app for iPad stops being able to play playlist items. So I return to the home screen, bring up the recent apps list, and remove the NPR app from there. Next time I launch it, the problem is gone. (I am about to report this to the developer via the App Store.)

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I agree that it is useless to stop applications in order to recover memory; however, I have found one case where it was useful : sometimes, iOS Mail is stuck and can't retrieve new messages from the IMAP server; in such cases, restarting Mail solves the issue.

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I too have found it's a useful trouble shooting technique and have read more than 1 (credible) blog post suggesting quitting all listed apps improves battery life.

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