Stop your Huawei smartphone from killing background apps

Huawei smartphones are used by millions of people all over the world. Unfortunately, all of them have one annoying feature: they close apps that run in the background when you lock the screen, to save battery power. This includes apps that you want running in the background, like the antivirus you installed for protection, the parental controls for your child, your fitness tracker, or your GPS navigation. Here is how to stop your Huawei smartphone from closing apps that you want to run in the background, even when you close the screen:

"Protected apps" or why Huawei force closes apps running in the background

In short, to save battery power. Huawei's EMUI Android operating system has always had aggressive battery saving algorithms. The thinking is that, when you close the screen, you do not need most apps to run in the background, and Huawei kills them so that they do not consume energy. This means that Huawei smartphones tend to have excellent battery life, but this comes at the cost of annoyances for users. To help users, on their Android 7-based smartphones (Android Nougat), Huawei had a feature called "Protected Apps." It allowed users and app developers to set certain apps as "protected" to keep them running in the background even when the screen is turned off. Unfortunately, starting with Android 8 Oreo and EMUI 8, this feature was renamed to "App launch," and people who knew about "Protected Apps" can no longer find it.

What kinds of apps are negatively affected by Huawei algorithms?

Not all apps are affected by this problem. Huawei maintains a list of popular apps that are not stopped from doing their thing in the background. Also, some app developers have integrated their Android apps well with Huawei smartphones and do not have problems.

However, there is also a long list of apps that are negatively affected. These are, first of all, antivirus apps like AVG Antivirus, Avast antivirus, Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus, ESET Mobile Security & Antivirus, Bitdefender Mobile Security, and more. Another category of affected apps is parental control tools like ESET Parental Control, Kaspersky Parental Control, Kids Place, and others. The big issue with this category of apps is that Huawei completely disables them, rendering them useless. Therefore, goodbye parental controls and your child remains unprotected.

Other apps that have issues are fitness trackers of all kinds: Fitbit, Garmin, Endomondo, Runkeeper, Strava, Under Armour Record, and more. Let's say that you go out running, or you train for a sport. After you close the screen, it is likely that your Huawei smartphone force closes your tracking app and your connected GPS, so nothing gets tracked because the app was blocked.

Fitibit's connected GPS is closed by Huawei when in the background

Transport and navigation apps are also negatively impacted by Huawei's approach. Let's assume that you need to travel and use Uber, Bolt, or Yango to get someplace. You set the destination, and then order a ride. You close the screen on your Huawei smartphone, place it in your pocket, and expect the app to find you a driver, waiting to get notifications on when he or she arrives at your place. Huawei's algorithms might close the app to save battery because you closed the screen.

Other types of apps that are negatively impacted are VPN apps, voice recorders, chat apps, news apps, location-based apps, and all kinds of tracking apps. To solve this problem for all types of apps, follow the next steps in this tutorial:

Step 1. Set your Huawei smartphone to allow specific apps to run in the background

Unlock your Huawei smartphone and go to its Settings app. Then, tap the Battery category of settings.

Accessing battery settings on Huawei smartphones

You see many battery-related settings and switches. Tap on App launch.

App launch settings on Huawei smartphones

You see a list of all the apps that are installed on your Huawei smartphone. With a few exceptions controlled by Huawei, all of them should be set to "Manage automatically," as seen in the screenshot below.

Managing how apps launch on your Huawei device

This means that your Huawei smartphone is free to force-close any of your apps, as it sees fit according to its algorithms, each time you lock the screen. Find the app that you want to configure and turn off its switch to "Manage manually." A prompt is shown where you are asked what kind of activities you want to allow the app to perform:

  • "Auto-launch" - allow the app to start itself automatically when you turn on the smartphone or when it needs to run in the background.
  • "Secondary launch" - allows the app to be launched by other apps that need it.
  • "Run in background" - allow the app to keep running in the background for as long as it needs, whenever it needs to do that.

To eliminate all issues, it is a good idea to allow the app to perform all three types of activities, so enable all three switches, and tap OK.

Manually manage the auto-launch

Find all the apps which you want to run in the background and repeat the same settings. As you do this, notice that they have their switches turned off, and, beneath their name, you see the text "Manage manually." This is good, as it means that Huawei stops killing them.

Apps that can auto-launch in the background

If you are frustrated by how Huawei closes background apps when you lock the screen, you can disable this "feature" for ALL your apps. To do that, in the "App launch" screen, tap the switch "Manage all automatically" and set it to disabled. This disables the automatic handling of background apps, and allows all apps do what they want when they want. This might seem like a great idea, but do keep in mind that this setting is going to reduce your smartphone's battery life. It might be best to set up apps individually.

Disable the automatic management of apps

After you disable this feature for one app or more, a new option becomes available. On both EMUI 9 (Android 9) and EMUI 10 (Android 10), tap the three dots on the top-right corner, and then on Manage manually.

Manage all your apps manually, in a batch

You see all the apps for which the forced closure was disabled. You can set individually what kind of permissions you want to give, for all three types of tasks: "Auto-launch," "Secondary launch," and "Run in background."

Configure permissions for the apps that are set for manual management

Unfortunately, your work doesn't stop here. To be sure that your Huawei smartphone never kills the apps that you want to run in the background, you should disable the Battery optimization feature for the same apps you configured during this step.

Step 2. Disable the Battery optimization for the same apps

Open the Settings one more time. Then, tap the Apps category of settings that is above Battery.

In your Huawei's Settings, go to Apps

You see a screen with lots of categories and app settings. Tap on Apps one more time.

Tap on Apps again

You are shown a list of all the apps installed on your Huawei smartphone. Tap the three dots on the top-right corner, and then on Special access.

Tap the three dots and then Special access

You see several categories of advanced settings. Tap on Battery optimization.

Access the Battery optimization settings

You now see the apps set as "Not allowed." This means the apps that Huawei never kills, not even when your Battery optimization is turned on. This list is short, and it includes apps made by Huawei and a few others, like Facebook or your Camera. Tap on Not allowed and then choose All apps.

See All apps from your Huawei device

You see all the apps on your Huawei device. Tap on the app you don't want to be killed, choose "Don't allow," and press OK. It sounds counterintuitive to choose "Don't allow," but that setting means "Do not allow the battery optimization to kill the app." This is why you are informed the setting may drain your battery more quickly.

Choose Don't Allow to stop the Battery optimizer

Repeat this for all the apps that you do not want your Huawei device to kill, and you are finally done.

On which Huawei smartphones does this work?

This tutorial was created on a Huawei P30 smartphone with Android 10 (EMUI 10), and also confirmed on a Huawei P20 and a Huawei P30 lite. It should work on ALL Huawei smartphones that have EMUI version 9 with Android 9 Pie, or newer. This includes all the models in the Huawei P20, P30, and P40 lineups, as well as the Huawei Mate family of devices. Let us know if everything went well in the comments below.

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