Posted in: Android, Mobile software

Facebook goes to Africa, comes back with leaner Android app

Facebook’s put some work into its Android application, which should make the software run more efficiently. If you’ve noticed that the app’s performance has improved, then you can thank a recent company trip to Africa for that.

What inspired Zuckerberg’s squad to buckle down and streamline the company’s Facebook Android app? Lower-end phones.

When the team saw how slow its app was operating on the low-spec’d phones in Africa, they were inspired to put some extra work into improving the Android performance.

Alex Sourov, a social network engineer from Facebook, tested the app on several low-end phones while on the continent. The results of his tests were pretty grim: the Facebook application crashed multiple times, would fail to connect him to his account, and even depleted an entire month’s worth of data in only 40 minutes in his attempts to use the application. Definitely not an experience that users would tolerate or one that would encourage them to use the app.

So how did the team tweak the application? Well, they needed for it to run better on single-core handsets, so they designed the application to stagger-load its features. This way, when you first load up the app, all of its features won’t load immediately: there’s a load priority. For images, the team decided to forgo loading them in the JPEG and PNG format and elected to use Google’s WebP format instead, which is much less data-intensive. The Facebook application will only load the full resolution of the image when you click on it, which makes using the application a quicker, more streamlined affair. Finally, in the company’s last bit of housekeeping, the size of the Facebook app was reduced by 65 percent, so that users with lower-end phones and tablets that don’t boast the most storage space or RAM will be able to better use the application.

Have you tried the latest Facebook update? If so, what are your thoughts? In any event, it’s good to know that the team is finding inspiration in emerging markets.

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