Setting up Reeder's iOS background app refresh

After months of hard work in silence my preferred feed reading app Reeder just got some great updates. What didn't take long was for developer Silvio Rizzi to receive some amazing feedback for the brand new Mac app on the App Store — reading the user reviews you can feel how much this meant for some people. The development cycle for the Reeder suite is not the fastest, but its comeback is huge for the reading app ecosystem. If you sync your RSS feeds using Feedbin, Feedly, Feed Wrangler, Fever or Readability, you will agree it's a great time to be a Reeder customer.

Today, however, I will be focusing on the latest update for the iOS app released two weeks ago. It's something big — it has taken the developer almost a year to implement an iOS 7 feature called background app refresh. This means that any app can fetch information from the web intelligently without having to be launched by the user, refreshing automatically in the background. For an app like Reeder, which lives from downloading text articles from the feeds on your RSS client, this is a game changer. The idea is that the next time you launch the app your content will be there waiting without having to wait for it to download.

Give it time to learn

Before I begin, let me get this out of the way: you need to enable the backgrounding option on the app settings and allow some time to understand your usage. Now, the reason for writing this article two weeks after everyone else is that the background app refresh in iOS needs time to learn your habits. Apple explains it on a support page:

iOS learns patterns based on your use of the device and tries to predict when an app should be updated in the background. It also learns when the device is typically inactive, such as during the night, to reduce update frequency when the device is not in use

With an app like Reeder, the system will realise you are launching the app in the mornings to read along with your breakfast and in the evening after dinner. This is highly efficient as iOS also attempts to fit the refreshes when your device is charging or connected to a Wi-Fi network — preventing battery drain and cellular data charges respectively. Since the rest of the process is too obscure for the end user, I decided to wait and see how long it would take Reeder to learn my reading habits.

How to enable background refresh

If you are sold on the idea, let's make sure background app refresh is activated on your account (it comes disabled by default). We will need to check this option both in the app and in the iPhone's own settings.

Inside the Reeder app, swipe to the right to close any open page until you get to one that says Accounts. Now tap on the cog icon to access the settings. You only need to follow the route Settings → Accounts (select the service) → Syncing → Sync Background refresh. Remember this is enabled by account, so if you have a Feed Wrangler and a Feedbin on the same device, you will have to enabled both using the same method.

At this stage we should also check the app is allowed to use the feature on the iPhone's general settings. Tap on the Settings icon and select General → Background App Refresh → Scroll down to enable Reeder. Since you are at it, check other apps that might be using this feature. Allyson Kazmucha of iMore recommends checking all of them to preserve battery life.

That's all you need to do to enjoy the latest addition to Reeder for iOS. If the automatic background app refresh didn't work for you, ensure both options are enabled and you give it some time to learn.