Saturday, 10 November 2012

Official Facebook app sucks your battery dry when it sleeps, use Friendcaster instead

Task killers are not always useless

Task killers are useless on Android phones and tablets, right? Because Android is so good at managing memory that you should just leave inactive apps sit quietly in the background. You're battery doesn't care about what's cached in RAM.

Except that not all apps keep quiet in the background. Apps like Shazam and Google Maps keep going online when you're not using them, even though you thought that they were doing nothing except being cached for future use.

And then there's Facebook. That's the most famous misbehaving battery killing app out there.

Facebook, the app that never sleeps

Want to see what Facebook does behind your back? Use Facebook for a while, then leave the app. Now do something else, go to work, fall asleep, whatever, but don't touch the Facebook icon on your homescreen. Of course you don't have any Facebook widgets running, you switched off Facebook notifications, you don't let anything sync by itself, etc. It doesn't matter. Even if you switch all its background activity off, Facebook stays awake and goes online to phone home for no good reason at all. Facebook empties your wallet if you're travelling abroad and pay a fortune for data roaming.

And there's more bad news. When Facebook sits in the background "doing nothing" it prevents your phone from entering deep sleep. And by not letting your phone sleep, your battery burns more fuel than a space shuttle.

Kill Facebook before it kills your battery

Check out the screenshots. When my phone is in deep sleep it eats about 0.5% of battery juice per hour. This is with WiFi on so WhatsApp and Viber can listen to incoming C2DMs (cloud to device messages). But to keep the burn rate down to half of a percent I have to make absolutely sure that Facebook is gone out of memory and stays out of memory.

Because when Facebook is "cached in the background doing nothing" the battery consumption goes up four times (!) to 2% per hour. That's the difference between over a week of standby time (no Facebook) or just a day or two.

If you really must use the Facebook app but you don't want your battery to burn electrons like an SUV going uphill on a gravel path, make sure that Facebook stops after you're done with it.

You can kill it with the stock Android app manager, but this is a tedious job. Killing Facebook requires automation. Facebook is the living evidence that sometimes task killers make sense.

Of course there's no point killing Facebook if it keeps relaunching itself. Plug the charger into your phone and Facebook will start up by itself. It stays launched when you unplug the power cable. Connect your phone to a computer by USB cable? Same thing. Any connectivity change (WiFi on, WiFi off, WiFi-to-data or vice versa) makes Facebook autorun. Use an app like Gemini App Manager to switch all Facebooks autostart triggers off.

But there's a better way. Just remove the official Facebook app from your phone. It doesn't just eat data and drink battery juice in its sleep, it's a terrible app for many other reasons too.

Facebook alternatives (no, not Google+)

You can Facebook in your web browser. Or you can use Friendcaster, an alternative Facebook client that's way better than Facebooks own poor excuse for an app. It's a lot faster than Facebooks own app. And there's more: Friendcaster can handle multiple Facebook accounts. That's really useful on a shared Android tablet, or if you have a personal Facebook account and another one for your business, or if you have multiple personalities.

Friendcaster has a truckload of autostart triggers of its own (switch 'em off if you like), but if you uncheck "alert for Facebook notifications" in its settings menu then Friendcaster won't go online behind your back. Better yet, Friendcaster won't keep your phone awake all the time like the official Facebook app does. Look at your battery stats to see the difference.


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  1. I tried friendcaster. Aside from the ads that come in the free version, it seems to crash frequently and has been causing a message bubble to pop up saying "Unfortunately it seems your Facebook session is invalid. Log in again via the Application". This bubble stays open and obscuring the screen in whatever application I have open. I've tried rebooting and once I start Friendster again it does the same thing.

    Uninstalling and going back to the battery draining Facebook app.

    P.S. Your capatcha test is incredibly difficult.

  2. AdAway takes care of the ads in Friendcaster and all other apps and websites. It probably increases the stability of the app too.

    Without the captcha the comments would be flooded with viagra and Nigerian businessman trying to send their millions through your bank account and cheap canadian meds, so the captcha will stay until the spammers find another hobby.

  3. Thanks for the reply. I have AdFree on my phone--perhaps I should switch it up.

    I understand the need to limit the spammers. I usually am able to get a capatcha within the first try or two..but yours took 4-6 and seemed more difficult than I've noticed before. Might be good to screen out casual commenters as well :)