Insane iPhone battery drain? Disable Facebook app's location services

Facebook's iOS app is "abusing" the extra privileges given to VoIP apps have on Apple's platform allowing them to run unnoticed in the background, according to an ex-Genius Bar employee.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

If your new iPhone's battery always seems to be running low on power, one way to fix it may be to turn off some of the privileges for the Facebook app.

That's the advice given by Scotty Loveless, who claims one of the most vexing issues he faced as an Apple Genius Bar employee for two years was fixing battery issues.

Loveless has published a myth-busting guide for people who are obsessed with checking the battery percentage on their beloved iOS devices in which he cites Facebook as a prime suspect for excessive power drainage problems.

Loveless explained that he used Apple's Xcode, a desktop developer tool, to reveal what's happening inside an iOS device, much in the same way as Android devices display how much memory and processing power each app is using.

"During this testing, Facebook kept jumping up on the process list even though I wasn't using it. So I tried disabling Location Services and Background App Refresh for Facebook, and you'll never guess what happened: my battery percentage increased. It jumped from 12% to 17%. Crazy. I've never seen that happen before on an iPhone," Loveless wrote.

For the record, disabling Location Services is one of Apple's own top recommendations for saving power on iPhone batteries; however, Background App Refresh didn't make its list. 

As Loveless noted, the whole concept of multitasking in iOS 7 and the feature that enables Background App Refresh can be tricky for consumers to understand. Although apps appear to be running in the background (which is suggested by the thumbnail images of apps that appear upon double tapping the home button), they're actually in a suspended state wherever the user left the app. They will however run in the background if the user enables Background App Refresh.

There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as playing music, using location services, and recording audio. But, as Loveless noted, "the sneakiest of them all" are messaging apps like Skype that check for incoming VoIP calls and do so without displaying an icon to show that they're still running in the background.

But what many people don't know is that Facebook, along with a host of other messaging apps including Facebook's recent acquisition WhatsApp, also have the ability to check for VoIP messages. 

"Apps that can make or receive calls, like Skype, Viber, Tango, Whatsapp, and Facebook are able to check for incoming calls without notifying you. I believe these types of apps sometimes abuse this exception and could have possibly influenced Apple to add Background App Refresh as the sanctioned method for this type of behaviour," Loveless noted.

"I think this is why disabling Facebook's background services is so influential on battery life: I speculate they are abusing the fact that they have VoIP call features to run in the background more than they should. It would provide a better experience for people using Facebook, sure, but people would never know Facebook was the cause of their battery life issues, and would definitely blame the device or iOS itself."

ZDNet has asked Facebook for comment and we'll update the story if we receive any.

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