Facebook admits its app drains iPhone battery

Social network says it is updating its app to fix problems that saw it take up a disproportionate amount of battery life

Facebook has promised to fix its iPhone app after it was found to drain a disproportionate amount of users’ battery life.

The social network’s app was consistently found to be the most demanding, even when rarely used, when Apple’s latest version of iOS allowed users to check which apps drain the most battery.

Ari Grant, an engineer at Facebook, said the company had “found a few key issues” that meant its app was using up battery life, even when its ability to refresh in the background was disabled.

He said an update to the app released on Friday would help to fix the issues.

Facebook came under fire from Matt Galligan, the co-founder of now-defunct mobile news app Circa, when he discovered that the app had been running for 3.4 hours in the background in the course of a week – or 15pc of total battery drain – despite its background app refresh function being disabled.

Grant posted on Facebook to say engineers had found two major flaws with the app that meant it was sucking battery.

The first, which he termed “CPU spin”, is a mechanism that continually checks to see whether a process has been completed, even when that process is idle, which takes up power. “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,” Grant said.

Secondly, a Facebook audio session remains active even after someone has stopped listening to a video and the app is put in the background. In the same way that pausing a song in Spotify or Apple’s Music app keeps the audio session alive in case a user wants to restart it, audio sessions from Facebook are kept alive when a video has stopped playing, but with less obvious reasons.

Grant said that a fix issued on Friday would “remove background audio completely”, as well as limiting the CPU Spin function.

He said the battery drain problems were not caused by an option to give Facebook access to users’ location details.

“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,” Grant said.

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