Guess Which App Is Killing Your Phone's Battery Life

Photo: Courtesy Apple.
Update: Facebook found the cause of its app's battery drain, and it's been addressed in the latest update. In a blog post, engineering manager Ari Grant explained that two issues caused the excessive battery usage: The first was something called "CPU spin," which basically meant the app was repeatedly polling your phone in the background ("Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"), and the second was how audio sessions are managed, for instance when you watch a video. Updating the app now will fix these problems.

Your Facebook addiction could be costing you more than just anxiety over how many likes you're getting. Turns out, the app doesn't play nicely with your phone — at all.

As first pointed out by Matt Galligan on Twitter, the Facebook app uses way more battery life than just about anything else on your phone. Normally, if an app does this, you can combat the drainage by turning off the app's ability to refresh in the background. Unfortunately, this isn't working for the Facebook app. It's still sucking away at your battery, whether Background Refresh is switched on or not.

By going to Settings, then Battery, Galligan found that Facebook accounted for 15% of the battery use on his phone over the last week. For me, it was even worse: a whopping 28%. I definitely don't spend a quarter of my time on my phone on Facebook. In fact, by tapping the clock icon in the above screenshot, it broke down thusly: I'd spent 49 minutes on Facebook, 48 minutes on Instagram, 36 minutes on the Home & Lock Screen, 42 minutes in Messages, and 1.1 hours in the Phone app for my top five apps. Facebook spent 2.8 hours updating in the background, compared with a max of three minutes for any other app.

The issue isn't just on iOS. Facebook is one of the worst-performing Android apps as well. In its defense, Facebook is likely one of the most complicated apps on your phone, and for your user experience to be good, it does need to refresh often so that the posts and comments you see are up to date. But other social networks and messaging apps manage to do their thing with far less of an impact on your battery.

It's unclear why and how Facebook uses so much battery life, especially with Background Refresh switched off. There's speculation that the app may either be in violation of some of Apple's rules for apps, or it's abusing an exception reserved for Voice-over-IP apps like Skype. Facebook is currently working on a fix to the issue.

In the meantime, if Facebook is the culprit for your phone's bad battery life, the only solution seems to be to delete the app entirely, unless you want to use Airplane Mode all the time.

This article was originally published on October 15, 2015.