Why GroupMe kills the battery on your iPhone

I was really excited after I read about Path sending address book data to their servers. Not because of anything with privacy, but because the post showed me how to snoop traffic on the iPhone. I could finally figure out what GroupMe was doing to absolutely destroy my battery when I left it running.

GroupMe is an excellent service. It makes it very easy to create groups and communicate with them. My team at work actually ditched Campfire to use it because of how much we were talking on our phones outside of work. There’s one big problem though, it absolutely destroys your iPhone battery.

The Internet tells you to turn off location services for the app to solve the problem. That might have helped if I was using location in the app, but I wasn’t. My battery still would drain like crazy, even when my phone was asleep. It feels like my phone is going to overheat and explode.

So what the heck is GroupMe doing? I hooked up mitmproxy and opened up GroupMe. I saw all the expected traffic when I was loading messages and sending them.  When I closed the app though, the requests didn’t stop. I noticed lots of requests that look like this http://chat.groupme.com/event?token=33367a776311af00asdfas6869d43b9e&flush=true happening over and over again. GroupMe is polling for new messages, constantly, in the background.

Luckily, the iPhone kills the app after about 10 minutes, but 10 minutes of constant network activity is still going to do plenty to drain the battery. What I don’t understand is why they’re doing this. All it gains them is not sending a push notification to that phone for the next 10 minutes.

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8 Responses to Why GroupMe kills the battery on your iPhone

  1. Greg Raiz says:

    Great find! I’ve seen this in GroupMe myself and have found my phone dead because of this app. The 10 min window is interesting as it’s likely using a loophole for background task completion. What’s particularly strange is that GroupMe uses push notification, so they do get real-time notifications without polling.

    Obviously they need to fix this. I hope your snooping spurs them to action.

  2. Try HipChat. It has Android and iOS apps that don’t have this issue. Plus slick Web and AIR apps for your computers. (No affiliation–just a really happy customer of theirs.)

  3. Kaziz says:

    Does disabling notifications or turning off your data for a little bit successfully close the 10 min window? Sorry if this is dumb, but what does GroupMe polling mean?

  4. Ryan says:

    Bizarre! I guess I have to force close it from now on until they read this and update? :)

    Shameless plug: We offer group texting for free and other tools for groups and events. http://tryCapsule.com

  5. Randall says:

    Kaziz, what I mean by polling is that the app is constantly asking “Are there any more messages?” instead of having data pushed to it. If you turn off notifications this still happens.

  6. Ryan says:

    If you force close, you can stop this process but that’s not ideal. Hopefully Groupme will fix this soon.

  7. aa224 says:

    I noticed the same problem on my 4s running ios 5.1. Killing groupme manually has a definitive affect on saving the battery.

  8. BV202BV says:

    I agree with Erica, HipChat is well worth checking out. The support that I have had with them is absolutely great.

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