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 numerous complaints from people worldwide, authorities and analysts have conducted tests and affirmed that both are battery hogs even when they are not in use.

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

Two iPhone 5's plugged into chargers
Muriel De Seze/DigitalVision/Getty

How Facebook Uses Your CPU and Battery

The abnormal battery drain and performance penalty do not occur particularly while using the apps, but when they are idle and supposed to be dormant. 

Facebook acknowledged this problem and has already partly fixed it, save that the solution does not seem to be satisfactory. In fact, Ari Grant of FB offered two reasons for the problem: a CPU spin and poor audio sessions management. 

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

A thread often has to wait for something to occur before being entitled to be serviced by the CPU, like a user input (such as a letter typed on the keyboard) or some data entering the system. The Facebook app's thread remains in this "busy waiting" state for a long time (most probably waiting for an event related to push notification), as do many other apps, but it also keeps querying and polling for this event constantly, making it somewhat active without actually 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 keep using the same amount of resources, including CPU time and battery juice, in the background. However, it does not emit any audio output, and you hear nothing, which is why no one notices anything.

Following this, Facebook announced updates to its apps with partial fixes to these problems. So, the first thing to try is to update your Facebook and Messengers 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 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 as well. This way, performance and battery metrics will not show all of the abnormal consumption for only Facebook but will share it with those other apps. Put simply, 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

As mentioned above, you can keep your Facebook and Messenger apps updated, hoping for the partial solution proposed by FB to work for you. 

A much better option, performance-wise, is to squarely uninstall both the Facebook and Messenger apps and use your browser to access your Facebook account. It will work just like on your computer. Sure it will not have the finesse that the app provided, which it was made for, but you are sure to save at least a fifth of your battery life. Furthermore, you can consider using a leaner browser for this, one that uses the least resources possible, and remain signed in to it. One example, among others, is Opera Mini.