The big F and battery life… data usage too

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Okay, we need to have this conversation again because even this far into 2017 Facebook still has not managed to fix the battery drain issues that plague its official app, the android one at least. You would think with the resources at their disposal they would have figured it out by now but no, it is still as juice-hungry as ever. When you read up on Facebook, the company, and realise just how many talented programmers they have scooped in the last few years you can only conclude one thing – it simply is not a priority and Zuckerberg hates full batteries. Which is a shame, not least because those are two things you conclude, not one like I had said earlier.

If it was only your phone’s battery life that suffered you could live with it but you know the old saying (which I have just made up) that goes, ‘all bad things come in twos.’ Well, it applies here too because just by being installed on your phone the app actually affects the performance of it. You would be hard pressed to find another non-game app so resource hungry.

The app stays in the background just using up RAM and processor power, which we here in the developing world with our aging and already not powerful phones cannot afford. This leaves the other apps with a little of the little resources available and you will experience jerkiness and longer app load times which nobody wants. The app is also unnecessarily large and once you start to use it, it gobbles up even more of your phone’s meager storage. Bad Facebook, bad.

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Remember when I said all bad things come in twos, well, Zuckerberg being the philanthropist that he is could not pass up the opportunity to throw an extra freebie in the mix. Data. The Facebook app loves it. Loves it a lot. Like love love. You know what I mean here as you know first hand that those Facebook bundles just cannot last the week despite your best efforts or in spite of them. Even if you turn off auto video play and utilise the built in data saver you will find that you hardly notice any difference. Why Facebook, why? And how Facebook, how? Now, before this turns into a rant, though admittedly it kind of is, let us get into what you can do about it.

The first thing you are going to want to do is uninstall the Facebook app, yes, I said uninstall. UNinstall. After this you have two choices: the first being to live a Facebook-free life, which to be honest you kind of cannot, and the second being to install a lighter app and start Facebook-ing like the pro you are. If you choose to go this route, which you should, here are the contenders:

  1. Facebook Lite

Another Facebook app by Facebook Inc. You might not be thrilled about this and noone can blame you. It is lighter though and if you can get over the ugly interface and the somewhat bugginess you will save on data and battery usage, which you want, but the app can be slow and is missing some important features. It is better though, you cannot take that away from it. Battery usage, performance and data usage – I believe we can tick all three.

Here are some screenshots of Facebook Lite in all its aesthetically challenged glory:

Download it here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.facebook.lite

 

  1. Phoenix – Facebook & Messenger

Now this here is the good stuff. What a gorgeous interface, yes – gorgeous is the appropriate word, and to top it off you can customise the look. You can change the colours and also there is a night mode which looks so good you will not turn it off. This app here is not all beauty though as it beats the official Facebook app in the three categories we talked about: battery usage, resource frugality (read performance) and data usage. There are also many options in the settings to really maximise data savings even further. Oh, and you can lock the app by passcode or fingerprint. You cannot go wrong with this one. The main draws are: video download, chat heads just like messenger, mobile data efficient and a custom photo viewer.

Feast your eyes on these screenshots:

Download it here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jesture.phoenix

 

  1. Friendly for Facebook

Most of what rings true for Phoenix above rings true here. In my subjective opinion the interface here falls just a little short of the heights set by Phoenix but it is a close call. Feature-wise there is not a lot between the two apps, customisation, app locking and almost all the bells and whistles are the same. The lack of a data saver setting though is a huge miss although it is quite frugal with data. The main draws of this app are: ability to download videos, keyword filters to control news feed and support for multiple FB accounts.

Take a look at the screenshots below:

Download it here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=io.friendly

I know there is a multitude of alternatives out there but there is not much of a difference between the good ones and the three mentioned here. You could also just use your mobile browser and put a shortcut on your homescreen for quicker access.  I deliberately left out some apps which have been there for a long time and have become a bit stale. But stale does not mean bad because they still are capable. It is just that the new guys in town stole the show. Honourable mentions include: Simple for Facebook, Swift for Facebook and Fast.

What are you using yourself? Are you using the official app or one of the hip alternatives? Do you know of a better one we missed? Let us know in the comments below.

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5 Comments

  1. Raphael says:

    Kinda liked the way you put it,facts aside you have your way with words,i like your style, i really do.i could read this kinda stuff all day

  2. Aby says:

    Promotional packages such as Net Ones OneFusion do not work well with alternate apps. If using such packages and data is the concern then the primary Facebook app is recommended.

  3. Van Lee Chigwada says:

    Excuse me, Android Developer here.
    By that I don’t mean Android App Developer, I mean Core OS dev.

    You’ve got a few facts off about Android, Facebook, and other.

    1. Background applications don’t consume the CPU or RAM in Android. Once an App is in the background, it is paused. See, Android doesn’t work like Windows. Once an app is minimized, it’s paused.

    2. The battery consumption is not Facebook’s fault, it is Google’s. Facebook, Google Chrome, Quora, Youtube and some are actualy web browsers. They package a web browser as an app. The actual thing is called a WebView and it is a component of Android.
    Compare the battery usage of Chrome, and that of the Facebook App. Same rates.
    Zucks ain’t at fault.

    3. Facebook doesn’t make your phone slow. Android is very good at what it does – resource management. If facebook is in the background, and another app needs more RAM than is available, Android steps in and caches Facebook to storage. The slugishness you feel is just Java doing what Java does.
    Compare with iOS or WinMobile.

    4. If you want to save data, battery, and RAM (dont bother on RAM, you don’t need to), use Opera Mini. It is still the best of all worlds.
    It’s gotten buggy nowadays but it’s usable.

    Comment posted on Opera Mini native.

    1. Leonard Sengere says:

      Hi Van Lee

      The Facebook app does drain the battery and this is because of two reasons. Facebook Inc has actually acknowledged the problem and has partially fixed it.

      1. CPU Spin – You know how the CPU services threads or tasks to be executed by running programs right? The CPU has to service several threads from different apps one at a time for a small period of time but interchanges so quickly that to users it seems like true multitasking. It then happens that a thread sometimes waits for something like user input to be entitled to be serviced by the CPU. The Facebook app’s thread waits in this state for a long time and also keeps querying and polling for this event constantly. This means it is active without doing anything useful which in turn consumes battery and other resources which then affects performance and battery life.

      2. Poor management of audio sessions – Here the Facebook app causes wastage by keeping the audio mechanism open after you interact with multimedia or engaging in communication involving audio. After you close the video or call the audio mechanism remains open causing the app to use the same resources, which include CPU time and battery, in the background.

      These are the main reasons the app is so inefficient with resources. You can look up Ari Grant of Facebook Inc who shed light on these issues which they are trying to work on: https://www.facebook.com/arig/posts/10105815276466163

      Using a browser like Opera Mini and forgoing the official app will thereby help. It may not be as elegant as alternative apps but it is better than the official app.

      Cheers
      Leonard Sengere, Original poster

  4. Tkayz says:

    I use UC mini browser and its fast when loading Facebook pages it also preloads next webpages try it guys you will see the difference

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