After getting called out for excess battery use in its iOS app, Facebook is releasing some updates to fix the problem.
The first update, available today, solves a “CPU spin” issue that Facebook found in its 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,” Facebook engineering manager Ari Grant wrote. “The version released today has some improvements that should start making this better.”
Facebook also identified an issue related to video playback. In some cases, leaving the Facebook app after watching a video causes a silent audio track to keep playing in the background, similar to how music apps are supposed to function. In effect, the app is using up resources without actually doing anything useful. Grant said Facebook will be solving this problem by removing background audio completely. (It’s unclear if this fix is available in today’s update.)
Facebook’s battery woes became a hot topic last week, when Circa co-founder Matt Gilligan documented the issues in a post on Medium. PixelEnvy blogger Nick Heer responded by calling Facebook’s actions “user-hostile,” while Federico Viticci of MacStories said the company was being “shady” and showing “a deep lack of respect for iOS users.”
Facebook’s response suggests that the battery problems were a mere oversight. “We are committed to continuing to improve the battery usage of our app and you should see improvements in the version released today,” Grant wrote.
Why this matters: Facebook is the most popular mobile app in America, and the current 2nd-ranked free app in the App Store (behind only Facebook Messenger), so any battery drain issues could be affecting tens of millions of users. While it’s hard to understand how Facebook let these issues slip by, at least the company is listening to the tech community and making fixes now.
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