I force-closed my apps for 3 days. It made me kinda hate my phone.

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 5 min read
I force-closed my apps for 3 days. It made me kinda hate my phone.

I'll say up front that I don’t judge anyone who force-closes their apps. This experiment was fulfilling a personal curiosity and I'm generally not in the business of telling people who are using their computers in ways that make them happy that they're wrong.


I've never, ever force closed my apps when I'm done using them. I've never seen the point, and the countless studies and technical explainers that showed why the myths about constantly closing your apps weren't true, reduced all interest I had in this behavior.

But I still see people doing this both online and in person, so I was curious if I would get anything out of doing it myself. Why the hell not, right?

The experiment

Very simply, for the past 3 days I have opened the app switcher and "closed" all the apps in there before putting my iPhone back into my pocket.

I didn't measure anything scientifically, so this is all feelings.

I hated it

Let's just rip the band-aid off: making myself swipe away all the apps in the switcher every time I used my phone was a completely baffling experience that made every interaction with my phone worse. Not only was I annoyed by the drudgery of performing this menial task every time I was done using my phone, it actually made other parts of my phone experience marginally worse.

There were zero upsides.

Menial work every time I used my phone

For my entire time using a smartphone, I use my phone to do whatever I want, and then lock it when I've done whatever I wanted to do. On an iPhone, that means:

  1. (sometimes) Swipe up to return to the home page
  2. Press the lock button

But now, the process is:

  1. Swipe up and hold to bring up the app switcher
  2. Swipe away all the apps I was just using*
  3. Lock my phone

Regardless of whether you like "closing" apps, I think it's pretty inarguable that this is more steps and more time, even if you've been doing it for years and it's muscle memory at this point. I'm sure this process gets more automatic in time, but it's simply more work and I don't love it.

You have to think about what apps to close

Let's say I unlock my phone, open Overcast to start a podcast, Ivory to check on my Mastodon feed quickly, and Knotwords to play a quick game. Then I'm done using the phone, but I want to keep listening to the podcast.

Again, I would typically just lock my phone and throw it in my pocket, but now I have to go to the app switcher and close Knotwords and Ivory, but I can't swipe Overcast away otherwise the audio will stop.

It was the same situation with navigation: make sure not to close Maps or you'll have to start over. And since you closed the app, you'll have to search for and restart the navigation…yay.

So not only do I have to add a bit of menial work whenever I put my phone down, I also need to think a bit about what apps actually need to stay open so that they can keep running.

I'm actually really curious about this use case for listening to audio or doing navigation (or both at the same time). This seemed so insane to me, but maybe people who close their apps just wait until their music/podcast is done to swipe everything away? I don't know, but this one made me throw my hands in the air a few times.

Addressing the myths

Historically, there are a few reasons that people have given for why they "close" all their apps all the time:

  1. Battery life
  2. RAM usage
  3. Performance

I'll reiterate that I didn't do any scientific testing here, but my results were pretty clear to me.

  1. Battery life seemed unchanged
  2. RAM usage wasn't something I ever thought about in these 3 days, but it's also something I've never thought about any other time, so no difference from the usual. All my apps worked just like they always do.
  3. The only performance change I noticed was that it took longer to get into apps when I wanted to use them. I simply wasn't used to seeing apps' splash screens so often and it really threw me. This also meant that apps lost my place more than ever before. YouTube kicked me back to the home page and not my watch later page, Messages booted me out of the chat I was having, Music went back to the Listen Now page…the list goes on.

Forgetting things

One final thing I didn't really consider was how often I do something on my iPhone, a bit of time passes, and then I want to get back to that thing I was doing. Let's say I was looking at a cool web page that I got from…shoot, where did I get it from again? Maybe Apollo? Or Ivory? Or did someone iMessage it to me? Gah!

Normally I would bring up the app switcher and scroll over a bit until I saw the web page I remembered in whatever app, but now we have 2 issues:

  1. There are no app previews to scroll through in the app switcher, so I can't find it. Now I need to tap into the app icons for each app it could have been.
  2. Even if I find the right app, I need to poke around to find where the link may have been since I've reset the app state and the site I was looking at won't be there anymore.

This sounds like a niche use case, but I was actually surprised how often I rely on this user flow.

Putting this another way, it felt a bit like using a web browser with no history. What was that site I was looking at yesterday that had some info I needed to see again? No idea, better start from scratch.

Final thoughts

I was genuinely expecting to come out of this experiment with something positive to say about force closing your apps when you're done with them. I wanted to have something to latch onto so that when I see someone doing this, I could think to myself, "well, I don't like it myself, but at least I can see why they prefer it."

Sadly, I found this to be a completely negative experience with absolutely zero upsides for me. My phone felt marginally slower, it felt less useful, and it required me to keep track of what things I wanted to have "open" and "closed" in a way that I simply didn't have to think about ever before.

To be very clear, I'm not going to be an asshole and tell you that you're living your life wrong and you need to stop closing your apps today. If you prefer it, then why should I care, you're not hurting anyone. This experiment was simply an attempt to try using a computer a new way so that I could understand it. A couple days in and I need to go back to my normal ways because I simply do not get it.