Are third party alternatives to Facebook apps on Android worth considering?

As someone who uses Facebook a lot, both for social reasons but also as an administrator of 5 Facebook pages and 2 Facebook groups (and counting !), having access to Facebook on my smartphone is essential. When Facebook decided to make it necessary to install the Messenger app separately, I started looking at the considerable memory real estate these apps occupy.

I currently have a Sony Xperia Z3, which has 16 Gb memory in the device, and which I have expanded with a 32 Gb SD card. However, as Android users will be aware, not all apps will run on the card, meaning that the 16 Gb can potentially get filled quickly.

The first thing I tried was to replace the Messenger app (109 Mb) by a less memory intensive third party app. After some research, I installed Trillian which occupies considerably less memory, and initially seemed to be fine. It can be configured for other messenging services, like Google Hangouts, but since Hangouts is a permanent fixture on my phone, I didn’t configure Trillian to replace it. The only minor irritation with Trillian is that it is advertisement supported, (the pro version is subscription based rather than a one-off payment). I also found that sometimes one can’t send a message to an offline user, which I do need to do quite often.

I then took the bold step of uninstalling the Facebook app (256 Mb) and replacing it by the third party app Fast for Android. It certainly takes up less memory, and can do most of the things the native app can do. But there are things it struggles with, like adding a comment to a photo being uploaded to Facebook. Also, it’s really a front end to the mobile Facebook web site, and I often found myself having to go there to complete some tasks.

Trillian and Fast certainly saved memory, and both resided on the SD card without complaint. But after a while (a month or so), I began to get irritated by the things they couldn’t do! I went back to the native Facebook app first, and about a week ago, relented and reinstalled Messenger. I have found that the Facebook app will go on the SD card, but (annoyingly) Messenger doesn’t work well unless it is installed in the main phone memory.

My conclusion is, if you are a heavy mobile user of Facebook, and need to use the messenging service, there is no substitute for the native apps. Let’s hope that future smartphones are built with more memory on the device, as this was one of the reasons I tried the alternatives!

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