The study comes after similar discoveries were published in a Reddit thread in late January which quickly became white hot. Meanwhile I have been conducting my own tests on both platforms and again can verify the massive impact uninstalling both Facebook and Messenger have had.
On Android in particular the performance gains in day-to-day use have been dramatic and this was on a Nexus 6P. Older phones should benefit even more.
Facebook apps consume an incredible amount of memory – more than any other app and, on Android, more than core parts of the operating system.
The Trouble Behind The Apps
So what exactly is Facebook doing to cause such a mess? In short it comes down to two factors: memory consumption and wake/lock commands.
The former sees Facebook, Messenger and its Pages Manager apps consume large amounts of both RAM and storage. In fact my findings saw the trio consume the second, third and fifth most memory on my Nexus 6P. Only the Android OS consumed more than Pages Manager and Facebook, while Messenger consumed more than the Android System!
All three Facebook apps also consumed multiple times more memory than any other native or third party Android app. The ‘Google App’ (which runs through the core of Android) has roughly half the memory consumption, while most others use 5-10x less memory. Consequently removing them frees up RAM which speeds up performance across the rest of the phone, including the speed apps start and operate. Meanwhile Facebook alone can swallow up to 500MB of storage space every day meaning those low on storage are hit hard as well.
So yes, Facebook apps should be far more efficient but the real killer is battery life because Facebook and its collection of apps are continually waking up phones – even when idle or without phone signal – to check for updates. iOS and Android (notably Android Marshmallow) have made strenuous attempts to limit this background behaviour, but Facebook appears to be labelling all its checks as ‘critical’ to bypass shutdown attempts.
Facebook on mobile combines the functionality of all its mobile apps into one site with dramatically better performance.
It would seem the obvious solution to all these antics is simply to uninstall all these apps and that’s true. But the good news is you can also do so without losing barely any Facebook functionality.
The reason for this is the Facebook mobile site is incredibly good. It performs almost every function of all three core apps from the one site and iOS and Android enable it to send you the same notifications for new messages, alerts, etc. What’s more you don’t even need to lose the Facebook icon as both iOS and Android offer the ability to place a shortcut to the mobile site on your homescreen which looks identical.
In fact all you do lose are Instant Articles (they load in the browser instead) and the ability to post updates or photos to Facebook from other apps (you need to do it instead from the site). And the upside? Facebook Mobile consumes no battery life when not in use and about 8MB of memory.
Of course the ideal solution long term would be for Facebook to get its act together. This isn’t the first, second or even third time the company’s apps have been found to exploit mobile operating systems but – despite repeated apologies and supposed fixes – the problem is ongoing. Perhaps a mass exit of users to the mobile site is just what Facebook needs to finally start listening…