Android Facebook app efficient for emerging African markets

June 23, 2014 • Online & Social, Top Stories


While mobile data is relatively cheaper in some countries, unfortunately it is extremely costly in others.

Facebook is looking to offer the best experience on mobile with the added benefit of less data usage with its Android app on the Google Play Store.

While mobile data is relatively cheaper in some countries, unfortunately it is extremely costly in others. Most consumers tend to remove data intensive applications in order to cut the cost of their monthly mobile phone bill. However, according to Facebook, this may no longer be the case when it comes to Facebook for Android, as engineers and product managers from the company visited Africa and found four key areas to work on so they can make Facebook more affordable on its mobile platform.

Facebook currently has around one billion users worldwide; however, by lowering the amount of data usage for the app, Facebook could connect 5 billion more users who are currently not connected to the social media platform. This will especially impact emerging markets where smartphone devices are not a popular choice and data plans are rather costly. By lowering the data usage of the app, Facebook is looking to reach a cost conscious market within these areas.

The modifications to the Facebook app follow a series of tests by the Facebook team in Africa, using different Android handsets – Facebook engineer Alex Sourov wrote in a blog post.

Sourov also added that, “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.”

After working on re-engineering the Android app, the new Facebook app now offers better performance, data efficiency, improved networking and reduced size of the app – four key areas discovered by the engineers during their trip to Africa.

To improve data efficiency, Facebook modified image compression and loading process for basic Android phones. This lead to the company using 50 percent less data using the app, which will ultimately help users in emerging markets. Facebook also lowered the size of its Android app by roughly arround 65 percent, which will ultimately help users save on storage space.

“The lessons learned have already impacted the development of new features. We test all major features and changes in poor networking scenarios,” Sourov added. “We have automated verification for various performance and efficiency characteristics, which allows the features team to receive immediate feedback on the impact of their code. We also expanded our playbook to other apps, such as Messenger and Instagram.”

The updated Facebook app for Android is available for download on Google Play Store.

Darryl Linington

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