Facebook Engineering on Excessive Background Activity in Their iOS App

Ari Grant, iOS engineering manager for Facebook:

The second issue is with how we manage audio sessions. 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 app isn’t actually doing anything while awake in the background, but it does use more battery simply by being awake. Our fixes will solve this audio issue and remove background audio completely.

The issues we have found are not caused by the optional Location History feature in the Facebook app or anything related to location. If you haven’t opted into this feature by setting Location Access to Always and enabling Location History inside the app, then we aren’t accessing your device’s location in the background. The issues described above don’t change this at all.

This is in response to widespread complaints that Facebook’s iPhone app was consuming inordinate battery life in the background — even when background updates were turned off. The suspicion was that Facebook was doing this deliberately, to work around iOS’s background processing restrictions. I’m curious to see how these bug fixes change things for Facebook users.

Update: Via Twitter, a few DF readers claim that the new version of the Facebook app still consumes a lot of energy in the background, even with background refresh disabled in Settings: General: Background App Refresh. Anyone else?

Monday, 26 October 2015

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