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Facebook Working On Fix For iOS App Battery Drain Issue

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Facebook has confirmed it is investigating reports of excessive battery drain caused by its iOS app apparently continuing to run processes in the background — even with background app refresh disabled.

In a statement provided to TechCrunch a spokesperson for the company confirmed it is investigating the issue, adding that it hopes to be able to put out a fix “soon”.

“We have heard reports of some people experiencing battery issues with our iOS app. We’re looking into this and hope to have a fix in place soon,” the spokesperson said.

Blogging about the issue earlier this week, Circa co-founder Matt Galligan couched the Facebook app’s use of battery as “ridiculous”, noting that the app had been responsible for 15 per cent of all battery drain over a seven-day period — despite having background app refreshed disabled.

“Because the app isn’t ‘sleeping’ properly when I hit the home button, it continues to drain,” he wrote. “That extraneous background usage, despite not providing any value to me at all, is keeping the app alive 2x longer than my actual usage.”

Another user, Nick Heer, also blogging about the issue, dubbed Facebook’s use of resources as “user hostile”, asserting that: “Facebook is actively creating channels to continue refreshing their app in the background when the user has explicitly stated that they do not want it to.”

Also chewing over the issue this week, MacStories’ Federico Viticci posited  that the “extraneous background usage” might be down to Facebook “hijacking audio sessions on iOS by keeping silent audio in the background whenever a video plays in the app”.

“Because, by default, videos on Facebook auto-play on both Wi-Fi and Cellular and few people ever bother to turn it off, that means there’s a high chance the Facebook app will always find a way to play a video, keep audio in the background, and consume energy to perform background tasks,” he suggested.

TC’s Romain Dillet, who also runs the Facebook app with background refresh switched off, kept tabs on the app’s battery usage to test a theory as to whether Facebook’s autoplay videos feature might be to blame.

With background app refresh and autoplay videos disabled the Facebook iOS app used 7 per cent of battery resource on his iPhone 6s over a 24 hour period. Having autoplay videos enabled appeared to make little difference — with the same 7 per cent drain over another 24 hour period. So not conclusive on whether autoplay videos is part of the problem. But, as regards background battery drain, still showing the Facebook app to be rather too thirsty vs how much it’s actually being used.

iOS battery usage

Facebook isn’t commenting on any of the various theories about what’s going on here — whether it’s audio hijacking and/or using VoIP to keep the app awake against users’ wishes. But it is apparently fixing something — bug or sly ‘feature’ — that’s responsible for the various reports of extraneous background app activity. So there’s that.

In the meanwhile, if you want to curtail Facebook’s annoying extraneous background app activity you can of course just ditch the app entirely and log into Facebook via the mobile web on your iPhone.