As one of the world's largest advocates for web access in emerging markets, Facebook obviously cares very much just how well its own platform works on mobile devices in those markets. As such, Facebook sent a team of product managers and engineers to various regions in Africa to learn more about just how people were using the service, on which devices, and what the major pain points for the app were.

Their findings will in no way whatsoever shock you: it wasn't fast enough, it used too much mobile data, it failed to load images pretty often, and the app was substantially overweight in terms of storage footprint. Wow!

After realizing that its app was a bloated, unreliable pig (let's not pull any punches here), the mobile team set to work on improving the experience. The results are admirable: 50% reduced startup times, 50% reduction in data use compared to last year's app, 90% fewer image load failures / slowdowns, and a 65% drop in the size of the app. The changes to the app resulting in these improvements are all currently live, having been implemented throughout the year.

Some of the changes are pretty interesting. For example, Facebook has started using the Google-built WebP format for images on mobile, reducing image sizes by 25-35% over JPG, and 80% compared to PNG. Images also no longer load at full-size by default, and only request a full-resolution picture if you use the zoom feature. Optimizations to startup routines for single-core devices have helped speed up the app on older phones, and enhanced caching for the news feed to keep the perceived "loading" times down.

You can read a lot more about Facebook's findings on the official post here.


David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Daniel Smith

    I remember when Facebook boasted about how they had to hack Android to run their app because it was so awful.

    • DJ SPY

      What was awful? Android or the Facebook app?

      • Daniel Smith

        The App.

    • Thomas’

      There's still code *inside* Android just for the Facebook app because of their terrible use of Java reflection. (that is, too keep it alive over different Android versions)

      • Jeanne William


        ✒✒✒ �✒✒✒ ✒✒✒ ✒✒✒ ✒�✒✒

  • Johnnie ‘Walker’ Katsoukis

    Wakelocks are still 80% more than any other app on android!!!

    • Henrique Persechini

      checkout greenify, it keeps facebook in check. or any other misbehaved app, but facebook is by far the most wakylocky

      • simp1istic

        Or just use tinfoil or the web page and don't deal with this awful app.

        • Henrique Persechini

          I didn't know this app, cool, will check it out

        • Will Dutton

          Couldn't agree me, or can't stand how the facebook app runs 100% of the time even when i have everything set to do not updaye, no messages etc. it just seems rude

    • joser116

      What are wakelocks, I've never heard that term before.

      • stupid mofo
        • joser116

          I knew some stupid mofo was gonna reply with that.

      • hocestquisumus

        They wake up the phone for a very short period of time to check out if there are any news. Pretty much all apps with notifications do it - like GMail and so on. They have to. It's necessary for basic smartphone functions but drains the battery whenever it happens.

        Facebook does it constantly. I think in the twelve hours I had that unwieldly beast active it accounted for 90 per cent of all wakelocks. You know, it's not just to let you know if there are news. It has to send home to Uncle Mark whatever it finds that you are doing, seeing, hearing, whatever. That thing has almost as many permissions as Play Services and that's the core system app (meaning it needs them).

  • redsmith

    sorry for Off-topic, but Android 4.4.4?????!!?!?!?


  • BatJake

    The app on my phone still says 90MB.

  • Jay T

    Facebook is way faster these days! I'm finally loving using it.

    • TheFirstUniverseKing

      For me, it actually refreshes new posts faster than the latest Google+ update. I don't know what Google did with their new redesign, but it seems incredibly slow now.

    • Dario · 753 a.C. .

      i won't use that app until it will use so much ram in backgroudn

  • yihtang

    Hmm.. just got an app update earlier today and it got stuck at the blue Facebook splash screen, refusing to load...

    • mantra2

      Hey, good to know it's not only me. "Just a moment...".

  • http://www.bystander.info/ Željko Trogrlić

    It is still awful. It takes forever to start it for the first time, it unnecessarily starts couple of services (while it probably does not need any), and it occupies a ton of memory. I uninstalled it immediately. I don't need Facebook that much.

  • jbworldwide1

    I get on Facebook maybe once a week it. I can't remember the last time I lambasted them for having a terrible app, so it has to be better.

  • lucke1310

    So while they're doing all this improvement, they're ignoring their largest user base requesting they add back useful features that they chose to remove willfully. Great!!!

    • Arthur Jolivet

      Yes, they can do these improvement if they want but while "messages" is gone I have deactivated facebook and i use the mobile site

      • lucke1310

        same here.

  • Simon Belmont

    How about concentrate on dropping the memory footprint? I see it using using tons of RAM even when its idle.

    Folks with lower spec phones in Africa would probably enjoy having their apps kicked out of RAM less often because of Facebook. Just guessing.

  • http://rayshq.com/ Ray

    "Facebook Went To Africa To Make Its Android App Faster, Slimmer, And More Reliable"

    What a waste of a fucking trip that was!!!

    • zst123

      They could have just used a dial up connection :P

    • Qwertee

      Africa isn't known to be particularly reliable afterall.

  • mgamerz

    I wish they would go to ANYWHERE and learn that people want recent and not top news. But who am I kidding right?

    • Morten Ulveseth

      Isn't it possible to change the view? Can't seem to find it anymore on my phone...
      though I generally find top news more interesting when I pop in. If I'm bored and want to read everything, I can jump over to "recent".

      • exadeci

        Personally I switched to https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.abewy.klyph_beta
        when facebook app bugged and drained my battery in an hour.
        It's not perfect but it work well and you can choose how your feed works.

        • Dario · 753 a.C. .

          i use the browser and that's more fast than official fb app

      • Daniel Smith

        Go to the end tab on the Facebook app, scroll down and click Most Recent.

        • Morten Ulveseth

          My oh my thats well hidden. What are they thinking?

  • DanDC

    lol at that title.

  • Luciano


    • Ricardo Ferreira

      You don't count data.. You have around 100MB of data. The app is about 32MB.

      • Tornado15550

        That's the amount of RAM being used up, not storage space.

      • Segroukin

        Huh? It's RAM not Storage

    • joser116

      What phone do you have?

  • dontsh00tmesanta

    Have they been implemented yet

  • andrew__des_moines

    I don't understand how Zuckerberg went to such extreme lengths to get his company on board with the need to develop a quality Android app and still be stuck with the POS they have. Maybe he should announce a suit and tie dress standard for work until the job is done.

  • samoanbiscuit

    I wish Google and a whole lot of other app makers would do the same. But especially Google. If you don't have fast, reliable internet, Google apps basically just shit all over you. It's like the app makers cannot conceive of someone using their apps without an internet connection.

  • Lawrence Lim


  • abobobilly

    Having used their "Alpha" app for quite some time now, i think its safe to say that Facebook developers are lazy, and probably incompetent too. The efforts for continuous improvements are of NO USE if they continue to shove an iOS Replica down our throats.

    • Dario · 753 a.C. .

      yes. the last point depends on how much ram you've got. more ram you've got then more ram apps will use.

  • mikeymushi

    What do you mean Facebook went to Africa? Africa is a continent with over 54 countries. Did facebook go to every country to do this African experiment. What are you implying about Africa? The whole of Africa has bad internet? (My mains service provider Safaricom from Kenya gives me 5MBS monthly unlimited which is better than what AT&T offers to some Americans). I am a fan of android police but stupid, racist and uneducated statement like that really piss me off. So STOP be educated we have the internet now and there is no excuse for ignorance.

    • Africa Bambata

      Mike. Shut up. Stop being such a cry baby. Africa is pretty f*cked compared to the rest if the world in many, many aspects.

      Let me know when people stop chopping limbs off albino people because the local witch-doctor said they were evil.

      • mikeymushi

        You are the smartest person I have ever meet on the internet, clear genius and I am in awe of the complexity of your brains. Hawkings is in awe of just how smart you are.You my friend should be president of Africa...No the world ..what the hell the multiverse.Yer Multiverse

  • sgtguthrie

    I hate the new UI! I prefer "most recent" rather than "most popular" for my news feed. This app makes that difficult to use... There needs to be a setting to choose the default!

  • Aaron Davis

    When I read the headline, I pictured the slow, overweight, android app being chased around by a lion until it got into shape.

  • Pierre Gardin

    "The results are admirable: 50% reduced startup times, 50% reduction in data use compared to last year's app, 90% fewer image load failures / slowdowns, and a 65% drop in the size of the app"

    And 80% more system permissions.