About a month ago I uninstalled the Facebook app on my phone, and my experience is so great I’m not going back.
I’d had my Nexus 6P for a couple of months and just a few apps installed, with fewer that saw constant use. So I had a new phone that should’ve rocked, no bloatware (yay, stock Android!), and little reason for it to stutter.
Despite this, every now and then I’d see poor performance every now and then, even for the most basic tasks. Battery performance was also poor, I’d get home in the evening with less than 40% of the charge, after little to no use all day long.
Facebook apps are one reason for laggy phones
After digging around, I narrowed down the culprits to two apps: Facebook and Facebook Messenger. They weren’t showing up in my battery stats (sneaky!), but both of them had issues with lagging and the occasional freeze.
I had a hunch about these apps I started to dig around and found a number of users that had the same experience as I did, with numbers backing up the claim that Facebook is sketchy on Android:
This thread on reddit did an awesome job comparing phone use with and without Facebook and Facebook Messenger installed, and found that uninstalling the apps makes the phone 15% faster. I fully expected the phone to be slower when you actually use the Facebook or Messenger, but what’s surprising is that you get the lag even when you’re using another app, as long as the Facebook app is open in the background.
Another aspect to point out is that there are sources claiming that Facebook intentionally crashes on Android phones. This is just one of the shady things Facebook has been accused of intentionally doing, and one where they’re purposefully ruining the experience on Android phones just to conduct their own research.
So I made up my mind: I was going to ditch Facebook on my phone. The problem was that most of my friends use Facebook to chat, and without access to it I’d be cut off from getting in touch with them.
3 alternatives to Facebook on Android
So I started to look for alternatives. I found tons of them,, tried three and settled for the third, which I’m quite happy about.
#1: Fast for Facebook
Fast for Facebook is a well known Facebook alternative for Android and it was the first recommendation I got. With close to 75.000 5 star reviews, I expected the app to instantly replace Facebook on my phone, and after using it for a couple of days I found it was okay.
Don’t get me wrong, the app is awesome if you are willing to commit to it, but it just wasn’t for me. There are too many apps to install - you have Fast Notifications, Fast, the Facebook browser, Fast Photos, Fast Pro if you want to get rid of ads. An entire lineup of apps that successfully replace every feature in Facebook.
I just wanted a simple alternative that would give me the basics: access to my timeline, messenger, notifications. I didn’t want to build my own wall and found the interface too complicated for my taste - and oh God, the ads! They pop up when you switch tabs from time to time, and some of them blast sound through the phone’s speakers when you least expect it.
So I moved on to the next possible solution.
#2: Tinfoil for Facebook
Tinfoil for Facebook is not as popular, but it comes highly recommended among those who ditch the official Facebook app.
I found this more to my liking, the interface is simple and the app is very lightweight. It’s no surprise, since visually Tinfoil is nothing more than a wrapper for the browser version of the site.
After using this app for a full day I got home and checked my battery use - Tinfoil was at the very top, with almost 10% of battery gone its way. It’s great that the stats show up and the dev hasn’t hidden them in other services (like the official apps do), but I decided 10% for moderate use was too much. Plus, since the app was just a browser wrapper I decided to give the real thing a go.
#3: Facebook in a browser
In my case, Chrome. I ended up creating a bookmark for Facebook on my home screen and logging in through it. This is what I recommended when I first began my experiment and it's been working out great for me.
Basically, using Facebook in a browser is a lightweight experience without all the bells and whistles, and it's all you need on the go: you can check your timeline and see what your friends have been up to, keep up with notifications, use the messenger, and that's pretty much it. At least for my use, it's perfect. And not once has the browser crashed while I was browsing Facebook, not once has it slowed my phone down. The dreaded battery drain is also gone, which couldn't make me happier.
The one issue I had was I wasn't getting notifications to go through at first - even though I had given the site access to notifications (like in the photo above). If you're in the same boat, here's a quick tip that solved the issue for me: tap the menu icon on the top right, then tap "Request desktop site". If you want to be sure this'll work, get rid of the "m." and just leave in "facebook.com" in the URL bar. This will take you to the desktop view, and you'll be prompted to give the site access to notifications again. Then go back and untick "Request desktop site".
This worked for me, and I've been getting notifications for everything, including messages, ever since.
Life on Facebook without Facebook
I wasn't a huge fan of the Facebook app, even though it was among the first I installed after a factory reset, so I knew I could live without it. I was a fan of the Messenger app, the chat bubbles are a nice touch that make it easy to carry a conversation and do something else on your phone at the same time, but it's one drawback among tons of advantages.
So I'll carry on using Facebook on Chrome. It's a lightweight solution that offers all the essentials with awesome stability and battery efficiency. If you're not a fan, you can try to see if the other options suit you better - or try any of the dozens of other apps that do a great job at replacing the resource-consuming battery hog that is the official app.
For those of you that went down the same road I have, how do you find using Facebook on a mobile browser? Have you tried any other alternatives that are better?
Image source: Androidpit.com, reddit.com, awdnews.com