iPhone users have been talking about it for years (YEARS!), but finally we have uncovered the truth. Yes, Facebook is ruining your iPhone experience. It’s running in the background when it shouldn’t be. It’s looking up your location way more often than necessary and, if you believe Federico Viticci, it’s even using totally shady practices (like playing silent audio in the background) to make sure the Facebook app is awake and is collecting all sorts of data.
All this brouhaha started with a Medium post (because of course it did). Matt Gilligan, Co-founder of Circa, first noticed that even though he had Background App Refresh disabled, Facebook was still using 15% of the battery life. And it was running for 4 hours in the background. And this only snowballed. And it turns out, even turning off Location Access doesn’t help much.
Because the media ran with the story, Facebook had to comment. Facebook developer Ari Grant took to Facebook. His explanation? It was the bugs, man!
Here’s what he said:
The first issue we found was a “CPU spin” in our network code. A CPU spin is like a child in a car asking, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” with the question not resulting in any progress to reaching the destination.
The second issue is with how we manage audio sessions. If you leave the Facebook app after watching a video, the audio session sometimes stays open as if the app was playing audio silently. This is similar to when you close a music app and want to keep listening to the music while you do other things, except in this case it was unintentional and nothing kept playing. The app isn’t actually doing anything while awake in the background, but it does use more battery simply by being awake. Our fixes will solve this audio issue and remove background audio completely.
La di da. Problem solved. Facebook makes it right.
Maybe not. The second bug doesn’t really sound like a bug and could have been Facebook just being sneaky and playing silent audio in the background like Viticci said.
It’s safe to say that you can’t always trust Facebook to think about your iPhone’s battery or performance. If things are really bad for you, take things in your own hands.
1. Update the Facebook App
Well, Facebook did issue a fix. So it can’t hurt to update the app and hope that the problem is solved. It’s only been a couple of days since the fix was released so we’re not sure how exactly it has improved the battery life. But we’ll report back with more details later.
2. Delete and Reinstall The App
If Facebook is slowing down your entire iPhone, that might be because Facebook is storing a butt ton of data inside the app. And the only way to get rid of all that stuff is to delete the app and install it.
To see just how much data Facebook is using, go to Settings -> General -> Usage -> Manage Storage and select Facebook.
You’ll now see how much storage space Facebook is using. If you think it’s an obscene amount. Say 1GB, or 6, delete the app using the Delete app button.
Then go to App Store and download the app again. Or you know, don’t. There are alternatives to the official Facebook app. We’ll talk about them in detail below.
3. Disable Background App Refresh
I know, I know. Why disable Background App Refresh for Facebook if it doesn’t make my difference at all? Because you’ve gotta try something and this is all the control you have.
So on your iPhone, open the Settings app, go to General -> Background App Refresh and besides Facebook, toggle the switch Off.
4. Disable Location Services
While you’re at it, you’ll also want to disable Location Services (so Facebook can’t look up your location at any given point it wants to do so).
Go to Settings -> Privacy -> Location Services, look for Facebook on the list and tap on Never.
Because this is Facebook we’re talking about, it might be that even after doing all the above, Facebook is still being Facebook. In that case, it’s time to say goodbye to the app and try some alternatives.
A) Facebook Website
If you’re looking for a similar Facebook experience without all the problems, just use the Facebook website. And you can use it as an app by bookmarking the website to the home screen.
To do that, go to Safari and visit www.facebook.com. Tap the Share button and select Add to Home Screen. On the next screen, tap Add.
You’ll now see the Facebook icon on your home screen. Tapping it will directly open Facebook’s website in Safari.
B) Facebook Paper
Facebook Paper is an alternative and experimental Facebook app from Facebook itself. It’s focused on presenting information like it’s a magazine. But all the important stuff like the timeline and notifications are in the app. What’s more, it even supports messaging (something the main Facebook app no longer does).
The catch is that the Paper app is only available in the US and it won’t be as feature rich as the official app. But the app is a joy to use and it’s not a resource hog. If you’re in the US, download the app. If not, you can change the country in the App Store to download the app.
C) Third Party Facebook Apps
I’ll be the first to admit that third party Facebook apps aren’t the best. They just take the Facebook’s mobile site and put an app wrapper around. But it’s better than using just the website. Plus no battery life and performance issues.
My favorite third party Facebook app currently is Friendly.
Share Your Story
How has your Facebook experience with your iPhone been? Share with us in the comments below.