iPhone users of Facebook could find that the battery life of their devices improves after downloading the latest update to its iOS app from the Apple App Store. After ongoing complaints about iPhone battery drain, Facebook said yesterday that it has released a new version of its app that resolves two key issues leading to the problem.
Apparently, iPhones with the app were prone to experiencing CPU spin, according to Facebook engineering manager Ari Grant. "A CPU spin is like a child in a 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," he explained in an update on his Facebook page.
The other culprit behind fast-draining iPhone batteries was Facebook's approach to managing audio sessions, Grant said. Even when users left the Facebook app after watching a video, the audio session sometimes stayed 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," Grant noted. "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."
'Sorry for Inconvenience'
While others have complained about the app's iPhone battery problem, a prominent post on Medium earlier this month by product designer and serial entrepreneur Matt Galligan appears to have helped bring the issue to the front burner for Facebook.
"We recently heard reports of some people experiencing battery issues with the Facebook iOS app and have been looking into the causes of these problems," Grant said in blog post yesterday. "We found a few key issues and have identified additional improvements, some of which are in the version of the app that was released today."
He added, "We are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused. We are committed to continuing to improve the battery usage of our app and you should see improvements in the version released today."
While a number of commenters on Grant's page and elsewhere welcomed the fix, several questioned why Facebook didn't mention the battery issue in its release notes.
The description of the updated app on the Apple App Store mentioned that "continued use of GPS running in the background can dramatically decrease battery life," but Grant noted in his post that the location history feature didn't have anything to do with the battery draining issue many iPhone users have been experiencing.
Make Battery Drain 'A Priority, Not an Afterthought'
In his October 11 post on Medium, Galligan was highly critical of the Facebook app, noting that it accounted for 15 percent of all the battery drain on his iPhone 6s Plus over a period of seven days.
"The above problem may not be an 'easy' fix for Facebook and the way their app is built," Galligan said, adding that failure to address the problem was letting customers down. "Battery drain should be a priority, not an afterthought."
Following Grant's post explaining the cause of the problem and announcing the fix, the issue briefly rose to the top of discussions on Hacker News. Many users on the site faulted Facebook for not doing more to test for -- and resolve -- battery drain issues before releasing mobile apps.
"To be fair, it's hard to imagine that a company as massive as Facebook, with an application that's got probably the highest install rate on iPhone of any app not shipped on the device, would be so mind-numbingly stupid as to overlook such a prevalent battery-draining issue as this for so long," noted one commenter on Hacker News.