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How to stop Android apps running in the background

Got the case of a quickly dying phone? It might be your background apps!
By

Published onDecember 10, 2023

Having your battery drain faster than expected is one of the biggest headaches with any Android phone. Tracking down a charger and plugging in shortly after a full charge overnight is annoying. If you’re ready to thwart your battery woes, a simple culprit may be to blame. Here’s what you need to know to conquer background apps.

These apps can sap your battery and precious resources, but there may be a few different causes for your problems. Some apps might not be well optimized, some might be malware, and others might be buggy. It’s important to try fixing these first, and see if that improves your battery woes. Stopping apps from working in the background affects your experience, after all.

Ready for a little extra juice at no cost? Let’s get into the best battery improvements.

QUICK ANSWER

The simplest way to keep background apps in check is by using Android's Adaptive Battery feature. Turn it on by going to Settings > Battery > Battery Saver > Adaptive Battery and toggle Use Adaptive Battery on.


JUMP TO KEY SECTIONS

Editor’s note: Some of the steps in this article were put together using a Google Pixel 7 running Android 14. Keep in mind steps may differ depending on your hardware and software.

Update your device!

Google Pixel 6 update downloading

Android updates often include battery improvements, bug fixes, and performance upgrades. All these make for a more efficient device, which can improve how your handset handles background apps. This is why you should continually update your device to the latest Android version.

How to check for Android updates:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Go into System.
  3. Tap on System update.
  4. This page will let you know if there’s an update available. You can also Check for update.
  5. If there’s an update available, follow the on-screen instructions to install the update.

Similarly, app updates can also bring improvements, so always ensure you’re running the latest version of all your applications.

How to check for app updates:

  1. Open the Google Play Store.
  2. Tap on your profile icon in the top-right corner.
  3. Select Manage apps & device.
  4. Go into Updates available.
  5. Hit Update all (if available).

Take advantage of Adaptive Battery, if you can

Android 10 introduced excellent power management features that limit background apps and extend your phone’s battery life. One of them is called Adaptive Battery, which uses machine learning to figure out which apps you’ll use in the next few hours, and which ones you won’t use until later, if at all, that day. Based on your usage patterns, it places each app into one of the five App Standby Buckets: “Active,” “Working set,” “Frequent,” “Rare,” and “Never.” Each of these buckets has its limitations regarding how many resources the apps it contains can use.

Simply put, an app placed in the “Never” bucket is hardly ever used, which is why the system will limit its access to resources like the CPU. This means it will use less battery. On the other hand, apps in buckets like “Active” are the ones you use the most and will get full access to the system’s resources, so you can expect to get all your notifications on time.

The process is automatic and dynamic, which means the system learns your usage patterns over time and moves the apps from one bucket to the other accordingly.

How to turn on Adaptive Battery:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Select Battery.
  3. Tap on Battery Saver.
  4. Expand the Adaptive Battery section.
  5. Toggle Use Adaptive Battery on.

Check what’s draining your phone

Battery

Since battery life is so important, it’s well monitored by your Android OS. To look at the background apps guzzling power. Android can give you a list of what’s draining your battery, and by how much. Depending on your device and software, the apps will be split into either system or non-system apps, or by hardware and software to make things even more accessible.

The more you use certain apps, the higher on the list they’ll sit. Look out for any apps you don’t recognize, or ones you don’t use often but still use a significant amount of battery. Any app using over a few percent is worth looking into — saving 5% here or 4% there will add up. Anything that’s a Google app or service is probably not something to worry about and is just a natural part of Android and Google’s Services.

How to check which apps are using the most battery on Android:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Go into Battery.
  3. Select Battery usage.

RAM

Using Developer options, you can also check out which apps dominate your phone’s limited memory, also known as RAM. It may be that an app is not using a lot of battery, but when you’re only working with 2GB of RAM, and an app you’re not using is taking up a few hundred MB, it leaves you short on available memory.

How to check RAM usage:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap on About phone.
  3. Scroll down to the Build number and tap on it seven times to enable Developer options.
  4. You’ll be asked to enter your PIN. Go ahead.
  5. You’re now a “Developer.”
  6. Go back to the main Settings menu.
  7. Go into System.
  8. Select Developer options.
  9. Hit Running services.

Here you can view which processes are running, your used and available RAM, and which apps are using it. Again, some of these services are essential to keep your phone running. It would be best if you were primarily looking for demanding apps you’ve downloaded.

Stop the app, kill it, or uninstall your background apps

Once you’ve found your culprit, you have to know what to do next. Luckily, you have a few options to choose from if you don’t want to remove the app entirely.

Close a background app using Developer options:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Go into System.
  3. Tap on About phone.
  4. Scroll down to the Build number and tap on it seven times to enable Developer options.
  5. You’ll be asked to enter your PIN. Go ahead.
  6. You’re now a “Developer.”
  7. Go back to the main Settings menu.
  8. Go into System.
  9. Select Developer options.
  10. Hit Running services.
  11. Tap on the app you want to stop.
  12. Hit Stop.
  13. Select OK.

How to force stop or uninstall an app:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Select Apps.
  3. Go into See all apps.
  4. Find the app you want to force stop and tap on it.
  5. Select Force Stop.
  6. Tap on OK.
  7. Alternatively, you can hit Uninstall to get rid of it.

Limit problematic background apps

If you want to keep using an app that appears to have high demand, you might be able to limit what it can do.

Some Samsung and HUAWEI phones include OS options to manage background apps. If you don’t have access to a proprietary built-in option, there are good apps that help. The perennial favorite is Greenify, which offers fine controls over apps and places them in hibernation. If you have a rooted phone, you’ll have even more control, but it works well with standard devices, too.

One problem with apps like this is that you must introduce another app to monitor your device. In our popular post titled 13 tricks and hacks to speed up Android, our own Adam Sinicki noted that while background apps can kill the battery, background app killers can also slow you down.

FAQs

We can’t give you a definitive list of apps that drain your phone the most, but we can say that social media apps are common culprits. These might include Facebook, Messenger, Snapchat, and others. Of course, music and video streaming apps like Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify are other common culprits.

Apps running in the background is an essential feature in the Android ecosystem. This allows the phone to work backstage while you’re doing other things. You can keep a page loading while you check Facebook, for example. As such, this allows for better multitasking.

It all depends on which apps are important to you. If you rely on Facebook for work, for example, stopping it from running in the background isn’t a viable option. Additionally, stopping system apps from running in the background can affect performance and functionality.

We have a guide with various tips for extending your battery life. If that’s not enough, the next best viable option is to simply get one of the best phones with the best battery life.