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How To Close an App in iOS 4 Via the New Multitasking Bar

Multitasking Bar in iOS 4

How do you close out an iPhone app that is running in the background in the new iOS 4?  We ‘ve had more than one reader ask this question since the launch of the new iPhone operating system, and the iPhone 4, last week.  Some have asked about this due to battery drain concerns, and others just because they want to be able to shut down a backgrounded app.

So this seems as good a time as any to share a quick tip on how you can force apps to close in the new iOS 4. 

There are two ways to fore an app to close down under iOS 4.  The first is by doing a ‘force quit ‘ on the app, just as we have done under the previous version of the iPhone OS.  To do this, you press and hold the power button while you are in the app you want to close down.  Wait for the ‘Slide to power off ‘ bar appears across the top of the iPhone “ then don ‘t hit Cancel, but instead just hold down the Home button continuously until the app closes and you drop back to the home screen.

The much easier method now available in iOS 4 is to use the Multitasking bar to close any app you want.  Here ‘s how:

— Double tap the Home button to bring up the Multitasking bar

— Press and hold anywhere on the multitasking bar until the icons on it start to wiggle.

— While they are wiggling, each icon has a Minus sign symbol above it. 

— Press the Minus symbol above any app to close it down.

That ‘s it.  This will work for any app you want to close, including the Apple built-in apps like Mail and Safari etc.

Hope this quick tip is helpful to some of you who are getting to know iOS 4.

Continue reading:


  • A great way to confirm that an app has in fact been closed is to use iStat. While in iStat, check out the running apps in the list below and then double click the home button to close the corresponding app. Right before your eyes the app should disappear from the list as you close out of it from the multitask menu.

  • job2

    What happens if I, e.g., close the Clock-app right after setting it on alarm? Won't the alarm go off?

    • No, more likely the alarm will fail to go off because the app would no longer be running.

    • Jens

      The clock app doesn't need to run in the background for the alarm to work.

  • Bryher Hill

    Very helpful thank you – I've def noticed battery drainage!

  • Jared Gibbs

    The problem I have with Apple's implementation of background apps is that apps go into the background whether you want them to or not. I would rather that the double-click command invokes the backgrounding of the app that you're in rather than every app you open go into backgrounding by default when you just want to go to the home screen. It creates extra clicks to do it Apple's way versus Backgrounder's way.

    • Jaspal Goshal

      I quite like the way apple implemented 'double tap' to open that underbar thing, but I agree with your concept. They should make is so when you're in an app and want to 'background' it, you hold the home key down and then a pop up comes on asking "do you want to minimise this app?". Job done… only draw back is the "voice command" option would have to be activated some other way.

  • Mat

    I've had serious memory issues since I've upgraded to iOS4 on my 3GS. On several occasions when I've run multiple apps in succession, the whole thing grinds to a halt until I start force-quitting things. On one occasion I couldn't even get the multitask bar to show and had to force-quit the whole iPhone. Having to manually shut down apps by the process you've described is so inelegant, it surprised me that Apple chose this route. My only guess is that in the future, apps programmed for iOS4 will auto-remove themselves from memory upon pressing the home key. It seems the default behavior for apps is to stay resident at the moment.

    Man, this is starting to remind me of the days of TSR (Terminate and Stay Resident) and Quarterdeck Memory Manager. 🙂

    • Wow, I haven't seen anything close to that – or any lag or speed issues at all – on my 3GS or the iPhone 4. Apple has not left it all to be done manually. The system will start shutting down least recently used apps when required if available memory gets too low and similar.

  • barry bullington

    IMO better question how do you kill all apps running in background in one click?

    • You can't do anything like this on a stock setup, but if you jailbreak you can free memory using SBSettings in just a couple of taps.

  • Ivan Williams

    Thanks for the info. But, the question I have is this, how to PREVENT an app from automatically going into the 'Multitasking' option? I might not want a particular app to 'run in the background'. Does that make sense?

    • Currently no way to do that. Apps are just built to do that, or they're not. No way for the user to ask them to kindly not multitask 😛

      • Ivan Williams

        …thanks for the info Thomas! What I don't understand at present though, is why Words With Friends (which just had an update, and I could have sworn multitasking was added to it), is not working, i.e. being multitasked?

        Maybe I'll uninstall it, and reinstall it…

        • jacob

          i use "backgrounder" it a better multitask er

  • Mat

    I bet that there is an option for developers to choose how to process the Home-button click. Either A) store the program as a multi-tasking app, or B) kill it and wipe from memory completely. It appears that the default behavior right now is (A), but I bet for non-multitasking apps, developers will be able to choose (B) when we don't need multitasking.

  • Thanks for the tip. Why is it that Apple dont make this sort of detail available to new users? Bizzarre.

  • Andrea

    When I "double tap" the home button it brings up my favorites contact list… Does this mean I don't ahve any apps running in the background?

    • are you running an iPhone 3G? the 3G can install iOS 4, but isn't multi-tasking enabled.

      • Andrea

        Yes, I do have the 3G. The link to this posting was sent to me by my sig. other (who doesn't even have an iPhone) because I was complaining about the new OS being "glitchy" and apps crashing. Guess the thought was that maybe there were too many apps running in the background… Apparently not though. Thanks!

  • Kris

    If i had safari running in the background (which I have now switched off) will that be eating away at my internet data allowance for the month and would it also be using battery?

  • Bird

    That’s just a list of RECENTLY OPENED APPLICATIONS. Those apps aren’t running or backgrounding, they’re just there to make it easier to switch between apps.

    • Chuck

      That’s not true. Radio station app continues running (I can still listen to it) until I close it through the multitask ribbon.

  • Mandalay

    Ah it's both, running and recently opened which is kinda ridiculous rly. Having said that I have seen a fring process being run and it not showing in that list, I think that may have been a one off tho.'

  • Marie

    Apple should make new users aware of this – my husband recently got an iphone 4, installed apps before going abroad, then had an sms a few hours after landing to say his internet usage bill was now £10 & growing, he called uk network to ask what was up and even though not actively using internet there were background apps using it. Not everyone who buys apple is an experienced techno-phile.

  • lhs

    uh, you need the phone as well. Please tell people that, hello….

  • KFW

    Phone does not need to be running in background. It will restart when call is received.

  • Brenda

    Was told by Verizon that Bluetooth is another battery drain and to turn it off when not needed.

  • laura

    If i close all running apps, will i still get notitifcations of new mail etc? sorry for the stupidness of the question, i got mugged last year and have been using a relic lg pink flip phone. Now im back to the real world think ive been left behind on modern technology.

    • Yes you will still see notifications, even if the apps are closed. Push notifications displaying is independent of application run time.

  • Lisa McClure Hodnett

    I do not like the new Facebook at all . Please change it back .
    Lisa McClure Hodnett

  • Mike

    Marie, Your husband either turned on Roaming or his cell plan has an international add-on. And I find it very hard to believe he had no idea that he would be charged extra if he had used his phone overseas. This is not Apple’s responsibility, but his own.

  • Mike

    What you are suggesting, is that everything that shows in the task bar at the bottom after double-clicking the home button is running and eating up memory. That is not correct.

    The feature you are referencing is actually the Recently Used Apps task bar. ONLY the developer can define if an app will use multi-tasking. From there, the OS determines WHICH apps get priority, based on the TYPE of multitasking it supports. The OS also manages the memory. When memory runs low, apps are forced to quit based on priority and type of multi-tasking.

    When you follow the steps you mention in the original article, it WILL quit an app, if it’s still running in the background, but that is not a list of all apps running in the background. Two different things.

    Oh, and “killing” apps like Phone and Clock will not disable your phone or alarms.

  • @Mike – That’s not really what I was suggesting. I used the term running in the background because it’s a simpler one to use.

    The bar is not called the Recently Used Apps Task Bar at all, certainly not by Apple. It is commonly referred to as the Multitasking Bar, even though that’s something of a misnomer.

    Not all the apps shown in the bar are running in the background because only a small, defined set of apps/ activities are allowed to; but the apps shown are ‘resident’ in the background, and they do appear to consume some level of resources – battery, RAM etc.

  • KristinS

    I just left the Apple store where they told me, and these were the exact words “You had over a hundred apps open.” My phone just started getting hot and losing battery power a few days ago. I had no idea that feature even existed. I have a 3Gs. It must do something bad, because they were pretty convinced that the problem was “open” apps.

  • Ashish

    – CAREFUL –
    This indeed was a good example on how to close apps which ‘might be consuming battery/memory’. But if you are on a $15 data plan (i.e. – 200 MB usage) be pretty careful while closing the Mail app (which might be configured to retrieve data from multiple accounts), as this deletes all the information (i.e. – emails) saved on the phone. So the next time you bring up your Mail app, it could easily consume a lot of data depending on what your email sizes are.
    I have already done this twice !!! Just a word of caution..

  • Greg

    You are a life saver!!!!!! Thanks

  • Reallblue

    Omg thank u so much I thought I was killIng my iPod. Thank you so much 🙂

  • FRDuran

    Thank you..that worked just fine. No apps required. Easy