Facebook Posts Explanation And App Update To Address Battery Drain On iOS

Apple / iOS / Mobile / Tech

A few days ago a good number of iOS users began complaining that the Facebook app on their phones and tablets was seemingly draining a large portion of their battery.

Courtesy of 9to5Mac

Courtesy of 9to5Mac

As you would expect, the internet immediately responded with well thought out, eloquent and well-researched hypotheses.  Just writing that with a straight face almost gave me convulsions. No; of course screams of conspiracies and betrayal filled the clouds. Users tripped over each-other trying to see which indiscretion they could prove the least: Was Facebook using some kind of always-on-listening process to spy on our conversations or was it using location services to continually track us without us knowing? Who cares. As long as you’re the loudest, it’s all of the above and worse. Twitter filled with angry posts denouncing Facebook and spying, #Snowdenwasright; while 9 out of 10 Google+ users expectedly brandished their “I-told-you-so’s” (that’s not a statistic; not a lot of us left).

Internet Logic

Internet Logic


Facebook responded pretty quickly, acknowledging the issue and promising a fix. That fix has arrived in the form of an app update. Along with the patch, Facebook admitted that the issue was indeed their fault via a post by top engineer: Cap N. Obvious.

Apparently, the culprit was two-fold. The first issue was spying on our conversations “CPU spin,” which made the app keep trying to unsuccessfully complete background processes over and over. The second issue was indeed audio related, but not the way some suspected. When users watched a video on Facebook and then exited the app, the audio process would keep running the way some apps allow you to keep listening to content even once you leave the app (Music, GPS), even though no actual sound was being played. Basically you were listening to the sounds of silence.

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. This repeated processing causes our app to use more battery than intended. The version released today has some improvements that should start making this better.

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.

The issues we have found are not caused by the optional Location History feature in the Facebook app or anything related to location. If you haven’t opted into this feature by setting Location Access to Always and enabling Location History inside the app, then we aren’t accessing your device’s location in the background. The issues described above don’t change this at all. – Ari Grant

So we can all relax. Facebook was not listening to our intimate boring conversations nor was it doing any more location tracking than usual. And the update available yesterday for iOS should fix or at least improve the two issues restoring your battery life back to: only slightly terrible.

Was Facebook draining your battery the last few days? Did the update fix it? Let us know in the comments or on social media… just not Facebook… they’re watching me…

  Via: Unmarked NSA Van Facebook
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