Android robot figure.
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Since its birth, Android has had to deal with one big misconception. Some phone makers have even helped perpetuate this myth. The truth is you do not need to kill Android apps. In fact, closing apps can make things worse.

It’s unclear where this idea came from, but it’s been present on Android since the very beginning. “Task Killer” apps were very popular in the early days. Even as a techy person, I was guilty of using them at one time. It’s understandable to think closing background apps would be a good thing, but we’ll explain why it’s not.

The Temptation

Task Killers

Where does this compulsory need to close background apps comes from? I think there are a few things at play. First of all, it seems to just be common sense. An app is running in the background, I am not using it, therefore the app does not need to be open. Pretty straightforward logic.

We can also look at the way we use computers, which predates smartphones. Generally, people keep apps open while they’re using them, opening and minimizing as needed. But when you’re done with an app, you click the “X” button to close it. That action has a very clear intent and result.

Conversely, when you’re done with an Android app, you typically go back to the home screen or lock the device. Are you actually closing it? People have looked for ways to close apps, and app developers and phone makers have been more than happy to provide methods to do it.

How to Close Android Apps

Close apps from Recent Menu.

It’s probably a good time to talk about what we actually mean when we say “kill” or “close” an Android app. It’s the action of manually dismissing an app from the Recent Apps screen.

On most Android devices, you can open the Recent Apps by swiping up from the bottom of the screen and holding it for a second halfway up. The other method is to simply tap the square icon on the navigation bar.

You’ll now see the apps that have been recently opened. Swipe up on any of the apps to close or kill them. Sometimes there’s a trash icon underneath that you can also use. There’s usually an option to “Close All” too, but that is never necessary.

Android Has It Covered

The common thought is closing background apps will improve battery life, speed up your phone, and reduce data usage. However, you can actually do more harm than good. It all comes down to how Android was designed to run apps.

Android was specifically made to have a bunch of apps in the background. When the system requires more resources, it will automatically close apps for you. It’s simply not something you need to do yourself.

Plus, it’s a good thing to have apps running in the background. They will launch very quickly when you open them, making your phone feel faster. That doesn’t mean every app you’ve ever opened is sitting there eating up resources. Android will close unused apps as needed. Again, it’s not something you have to manage yourself.

In fact, all of that closing and opening can have a negative effect on performance. It takes more power to open an app from a cold state compared to one that is already sitting in the memory. You’re taxing the CPU and the battery, which will have the exact opposite effect that you were intending.

If you’re worried about background data usage, that’s something you can disable on an app-by-app basis. It’s rare for a background app to use a lot of data, but if there’s a culprit on your phone, you can fix that without constantly closing it.

RELATED: How to Stop Android Apps from Using Background Mobile Data

When Is It Necessary?

We’ve outlined why you shouldn’t kill Android apps, but the functionality is there for a reason. There are situations in which it’s necessary to take control and manually close an app.

If you ever notice an app misbehaving, a simple restart will usually solve the problem. The app may be displaying things incorrectly, having trouble loading something, or just plain frozen. Closing the app—or restarting your phone, in extreme cases—is a good place to start the troubleshooting.

In addition to the Recent Apps method explained above, you can also close apps from the Android Settings menu. Open the Settings and find the “Apps” section. From the app’s information page, select “Force Stop” or “Force Close.”

Close apps from Settings.

The moral of the story here is these things are already being handled. You don’t have to worry about managing background apps. A capable operating system is on the job. You can rest easy knowing Android has it under control.

There certainly are occasions where Android doesn’t handle it well, but that’s not often the case. Usually, it’s apps that misbehave more than Android itself. In those situations, you know what to do, but in general, just let Android be Android.

RELATED: How to Stop Android From Killing Background Apps

Profile Photo for Joe Fedewa Joe Fedewa
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as a News Editor at XDA Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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