Facebook this week rolled out an update to its Android app that adds some new options for liking and tagging posts but the social network also provided a sneak peek into how a team trip to Africa helped boost apps speeds for users around the globe. A recent visit to Africa by some Facebook engineers prompted them to tweak their Android app.
They experienced what it’s like to use Facebook on low end phones with slow internet connection. They saw how low end devices crashed trying to load the app and how they managed to consume a month’s worth of data with 40 minutes of trying to use Facebook. Within Thursday’s update, Facebook added the ability to ‘Like’ posts, photos, and Pages when you’re offline, remove tags you’ve created, remove tags of yourself that your friends have created and turn post notifications on and off in addition to improvements for speed and reliability.
On that front, Facebook engineer Alex Sourov wrote in a blog post this week that “our mission extends far beyond building and delivering the best experience on high end smartphones and LTE networks. We want Facebook to work for everyone, no matter the region, network condition, or mobile device”.
“We purchased several different Android handsets to test the latest version of the Facebook app and the testing process proved to be difficult. The combination of an intermittent, low-bandwidth network connection and a lack of memory space on the devices resulted in slow load times and constant crashes. We even burned through our monthly data plans in 40 minutes,” Sourov wrote.
Facebook also tweaked image compression and the image loading process for low grade devices in an effort to reduce data consumption as much as possible. In total, the company was able to cut data use by 50 percent, a boon for those attempting to use the app in countries where data packages for mobile devices are exceedingly expensive. Additionally, tweaks to the app’s networking stack allowed Facebook to cut reports of slow or failed image loading by nearly 90 percent compared to one year prior.
Facebook’s Android app now consumes 50% less data and is 65% smaller to accommodate bandwidth and device limitations in emerging countries.
Sourov further added, “We will continue to innovate to make the Facebook experience better in emerging markets and share tools and information that can help developers build apps that work well on different handsets, network environments, and operating systems.” The updated app is available in Google Play.