Smartphone battery-life hacks have become their own technology reporting beat, the inevitable result of a never-ending flood of Google searches like “iPhone battery life” and “iPhone battery dies too soon” and “god dam crap ass iPhone battery.” The latest craze in battery-life-saving is uninstalling your Facebook app — which The Guardian claims can increase the life of your battery by 15 percent on iOS, and others say can boost Android battery life by 20 percent.
This isn’t hugely surprising to hear: Facebook admitted last fall that its app could be a drain on phone battery life when describing some lingering bugs, including processes that would continually run in the background when the app was closed, even though they didn’t need to. (Facebook claimed that, contrary to popular belief, the poor battery performance had nothing to do with the app using a device’s GPS functionality.)
But while it’s possible that uninstalling Facebook completely can save battery, but there’s little definitive evidence. The methodology of the tests that led to The Guardian’s 15 percent is dicey: Keeping the phone off the charger for the exact same amount of time each day, Samuel Gibbs “used [Facebook] normally. I accessed Facebook for the same amount of time, and for the same purposes, using the social network’s excellent mobile site within Safari, as I had done using the app.” (Other testers used the same methodology and found the same battery-life savings.) But smartphone operating systems are increasingly complex beasts; depending on a million different factors — mainly usage of other software besides Facebook — the results could turn out differently. The overall idea of “normal usage,” identical from day to day, is a figment.
Which isn’t to say that Gibbs’s suppositions are wrong, merely to point out that they are suppositions. Facebook, more than most apps, is a many-tentacled platform with a zillion different technical processes to run continuously. It’s almost certainly the case that keeping software that taxes hardware off of your phone is better for battery life; the results of multiple tests hint as much. But many apps do this, and it can be hard to tell which of them is, in particular, draining your battery life — or what things it’s doing that are causing that kind of drain. Facebook might be terrible for battery life, but it’s not uniquely so. Should you delete it off your phone? Sure. You’ll probably see some improvement in your battery performance. But you’ll get that from deleting most apps off of your phone.