Facebook Updates iOS App to Fix Battery Drain Issue

The company adjusts code in the Facebook app after some customers complained of excessive battery drainage.

iOS, Facebook, Facebook apps, mobile apps, mobile phones, social media, battery drain

Facebook has updated its app for Apple's iOS mobile device operating system to fix a problem that caused premature battery drainage for some users.

The app update was announced by Ari Grant, Facebook's engineering manager, in an Oct. 22 post on Facebook, in response to what he said had been "reports of some people experiencing battery issues with the Facebook iOS app." Company engineers dove into the complaints and sought a resolution, he added.

"We found a few key issues and have identified additional improvements, some of which are in the version of the app that was released today," Grant wrote in his post.

The main problem was something called a "CPU spin" in the company's network code, he wrote. "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. This repeated processing causes our app to use more battery than intended. The version released today has some improvements that should start making this better."

A second issue was also discovered, involving how the Facebook app manages audio sessions, he wrote. "If you leave the Facebook app after watching a video, the audio session sometimes stays open as if the app was playing audio silently. This is similar to when you close a music app and want to keep listening to the music while you do other things, except in this case it was unintentional and nothing kept playing."

The errant app "isn't actually doing anything while awake in the background, but it does use more battery simply by being awake," Grant wrote. "Our fixes will solve this audio issue and remove background audio completely."

Grant apologized for the errant code and for any inconvenience it might have caused its users. "We are committed to continuing to improve the battery usage of our app and you should see improvements in the version released today," he wrote.

Earlier in October, Facebook announced that users of the social network can now upload a looping video clip in place of a profile photo on its mobile app, according to an earlier eWEEK report. Members can only upload new profile movies in video format, not in GIF or Vine format. The new feature is being made available first to iPhone users in California and the U.K., but the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company said it plans to release it widely soon.

Video format is similar to GIFs and Vines. GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format) are among the most enduring digital image formats, introduced by CompuServe in 1987. They have come into widespread usage on the Web—generally as videos a few seconds long—due to their wide support and portability. GIFs also can be static images. Vines are 6-second-long videos first released by the company of the same name, which Twitter acquired in October 2012.

Facebook also enables users to set a temporary profile video that will expire at a selected date and revert to their previous one. Once recorded and uploaded, the new profile videos will move only if someone visits a specific profile. They won't move in newsfeeds—at least for now.

The social network isn't the first to use short videos or GIFs for users' profile images. These were prevalent in MySpace in the early 2000s. In July, Snapchat introduced GIF videos for its Snapcodes, which are QR block codes that can be scanned to add someone as a friend on the app and also to serve as a profile image.