Battery life, load times, and actually giving a shit about your customers

Update: according to TechCrunch it looks like Facebook may be working on a fix for this!

We have heard reports of some people experiencing battery issues with our iOS app. We’re looking into this and hope to have a fix in place soon.
— Facebook Spokesman

These screenshots should speak for themselves, but just to be painfully clear, I’ll set it up:

  • Over the last 7 days, Facebook is the greatest offender of battery drain on my iPhone 6s Plus
  • It accounted for 15% of all battery drain
  • Despite having background app refresh disabled, because the app isn’t “sleeping” properly when I hit the home button, it continues to drain
  • That extraneous background usage, despite not providing any value to me at all, is keeping the app alive 2x longer than my actual usage
  • Even the resource hog Safari drained 3% less over the last week despite being on the screen for half an hour more

The above problem may not be an “easy” fix for Facebook and the way their app is built. Furthermore, I doubt that the majority of their customers would actually dive into Settings to discover such an offensive amount of drain — they’ll just keep using it with reckless abandon, wondering why they have to plug their phone in multiple times a day.

However, it should become a priority of Facebook’s to address this. They’re letting down each and every one of their customers by letting such an issue remain in their app. Battery drain should be a priority, not an afterthought.

Building great products requires accounting for the whole of an entire experience—not just its features, but its flaws, and what it asks of its customer.

Other offenders

Thinking about Facebook’s ridiculous battery drain made connections to other, similar issues that have been brought up lately — data usage and load times. After iOS 9 introduced content blocking (read: ad blocking) there was a lot of controversy on both sides, but for now I’ll focus on the issues uncovered with websites.

The New York Times did a great study called The Cost of Mobile Ads on 50 News Websites that outlined both load times and data usage when accessing popular sites. They found some egregious issues with certain sites that make it very clear that they just don’t give a crap about their customers.

Boston.com (and don’t worry, I won’t link to their site because apparently it’ll take forever to load and cost you precious megabytes) took about 8 seconds to load its content and a whopping 30+ seconds to load just the advertising. It also took nearly 4x more data usage to load the ad than the content only.

19.4Mb to load just one page of content is positively insane especially considering that 80% of that is just to load ads. Boston.com doesn’t give a shit about its customers. That’s because despite prices on mobile data coming down, it’s still not free, nor unlimited*. God forbid you actually tap on a link unsuspectingly in Facebook and it sucks 20Mb to load some crappy website.

Boston.com could do better, a lot better. In the same study, NYT found that even the Daily Mail still clocked in at under 5mb of usage and USA Today took 2 seconds to load.

Reasonable usage of resources matters

Whether we’re talking about battery life, data usage, or load times, they’re all valuable resources to mobile customers. Just because our faster mobile networks can deliver more megs per second than before doesn’t mean apps and websites should exploit that.

When devising new features and prioritizing old ones to fix, companies should think deeply about the cost to not only their bottom line, but to their customers’ as well.

Ok I know that there are a few grandfathered unlimited plans out there, but they’re a dying breed, increasing in rarity and price.

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