How Facebook and Messenger Apps Drain Phone's Battery

Why it happens and what you can do about it

Facebook and Facebook Messenger apps for iOS and Android devices consume a lot of battery life. Besides complaints from people worldwide, authorities and analysts conducted tests. They affirmed that both are battery hogs even when the apps aren't in use.

If you are thinking about using a battery saver and performance booster app to solve this problem, it may not work. So what can you do?

Two iPhone 5's plugged into chargers

Muriel De Seze / DigitalVision / Getty Images

How Facebook Uses Your CPU and Battery

The battery drain and performance penalty occur while using the apps and when the apps are idle and supposed to be dormant.

Facebook acknowledged this problem and partly fixed it. However, the solution doesn't seem to be satisfactory. Ari Grant of Facebook offered two reasons for the problem: a CPU spin and poor audio sessions management.

A CPU spin is a complex mechanism. The CPU is the microprocessor of your smartphone. It services (runs) threads, which are tasks to be executed by running programs or apps. The CPU services several apps or threads in a way that appears to be simultaneous to the user (which is the underlying principle behind multitasking devices—those that run multiple programs at the same time) but involves servicing one app or thread at a time for a short period of time, taking turns with the threads.

A thread often waits for something to occur before being serviced by the CPU, like a user input (such as a letter typed on the keyboard) or data entering the system. The Facebook app thread remains in this busy waiting state for a long time (such as when waiting for an event related to a push notification), as do many other apps. Also, it keeps querying and polling for this event constantly, making it somewhat active without doing anything useful. This is a CPU spin, which consumes battery power and other resources affecting performance and battery life.

Multimedia Is a Battery Bruiser

The second problem occurs after playing multimedia on Facebook or engaging in communication involving audio, where poor management of the audio causes wastage. After closing the video or call, the audio mechanism remains open, causing the app to use the same amount of resources, including CPU time and battery power, in the background. However, it doesn't emit any audio output, and you hear nothing, which is why you don't notice anything.

Following this, Facebook announced updates to its apps with partial fixes to these problems. So, the first thing to do is to update your Facebook and Messenger apps. But to this date, performances and metrics, along with shared user experiences, indicate the problem is still present.

It is suspected that there are other problems related to the app running in the background. Like the audio, several other parameters might have been poorly managed. The operating system of your phone has services (background system software) running that act as facilitators to the apps you use. It could be that inefficient management of the Facebook app causes inefficiencies with those other apps. This way, performance and battery metrics don't show the abnormal consumption for only Facebook but share it with those other apps. The Facebook app, as the source of the problem, could propagate the inefficiency to other auxiliary system apps causing overall inefficiency and abnormal battery consumption.

What You Can Do

Keep your Facebook and Messenger apps updated, hoping for the partial solution proposed by Facebook to work for you.

A better option, performance-wise, is to uninstall the Facebook and Messenger apps and use a browser to access your Facebook account. It will work just like on your computer. It won't have the finesse that the app provides, which it was made for, but you can save at least a fifth of the battery life. Furthermore, consider using a leaner browser, one that uses the least resources, and remain signed in to it. One example is Opera Mini.

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