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Background asset downloads reduce battery drain, user backlash

By Paul Williams / September 5, 2013

The capability to download assets in the background is one of the subtler features of iOS 7. It’s really an offshoot of the new operating system’s enhanced multitasking functionality.

Right now, an app will attempt to download updates when it’s first opened, which leads to a sluggish experience for the user. In iOS 7, however, these updates are automatically downloaded behind the scenes whenever a wi-fi connection is available, putting an end to lagging apps.

App responsiveness the key

Improving app responsiveness is the main reason behind Apple’s move to allow background asset updating for their apps. “Making apps as responsive as possible has always been a goal for Apple, and this is just another way of keeping content ready when users want it,” says iOS architect Conrad Stoll.

With the intelligent scheduling nature of the new iOS multitasking feature, downloads and updates happen based on usage activity and wi-fi access, giving users longer battery life and fewer interruptions. Brands with apps consistently depending on a steady supply of updated content, like those in the media space, should immediately look at updating their offerings to take advantage of this new feature.

The developer’s responsibility

iOS developers will need to ensure apps aren’t consuming unnecessary system resources while in the background. Also, those who use push notifications to inform users of new content will want to retool their experiences to kick off background downloads instead. Remember, a seamless user experience is worth the extra coding effort.

As with previous iOS updates, Apple likes to raise the bar when it comes to the overall user experience. Background asset downloading helps to achieve this in a new way — one that won’t interfere with a heated game of Candy Crush.