Facebook’s Android App now Consumes 50% Less Data, Crucial for Emerging Markets

In developed countries, having a decent data plan and using Facebook’s ubiquitous application on your Android smartphone or tablet seems like common sense, but for a few billions, it’s still a dream to be able to connect with their family and friends. And Facebook is well aware of that, as the giant social network is now looking to connect through mobile devices billions of users mostly from emerging markets.

Recently, a team of Facebook engineers have made a trip to Africa to see how exactly is their Android application is performing with basic mobile devices and not so powerful wireless networks, with weak signal reception. Facebook engineering manager Alex Sourov shared his impression on the Facebook Code blog post:

“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.”

During its stay, the Facebook team of engineers improved the Android app’s performance, data efficiency, networking, and application size, being able to reduce start times by more than 50%, data usage by 50% and reports of slow or failed image loads by 90%, Also, the overall size of its Android app has been reduced by 65%, as well.

Facebook is looking to make its Android app as lightweight as possible, despite the fact that it has to load a lot of images and dynamic content. Mobile users from emerging countries don’t have as much data as we do and it’s also costlier, so this is another challenge for Facebook. Sourov added:

“Interacting with photos is an important part of the Facebook experience, but it takes a sizable amount of data to download them. If we could optimize the download size, we could improve data savings and perceived app performance.”

Facebook is quickly approaching the saturation point in developed countries and that’s why Zuckerberg and his team are looking for ways to make their mobile apps much more efficient even for those using basic mobile devices.

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