Facebook for iPhone 3.0: Who needs a browser?

Ronny Kerr · August 28, 2009 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/a48

Users finally get (almost) full Facebook functionality, all in the palm of their hands

Let it be written that, yesterday at around 2pm PST, lead Facebook app developer Joe Hewitt announced that Apple had finally approved its Facebook for iPhone 3.0 upgrade.

Of course, it took 11 days for the approval to come in and even when it was made available, some App Store caching issues failed to alert users that an update was indeed available. Nevertheless, it’s here.

And it’s good—nearly as good as the regular Facebook Web site.

When you first open up the app, you are taken to the news feed, just as when you go to the site through your computer’s browser. If you close the app while chatting or looking at somebody’s profile, however, that’s the first page that will display when you relaunch the app.

Clicking the small grid-like icon in the upper-left hand corner takes you to the main home screen, where you can navigate to the news feed, your profile, chat, and more. Sliding to the right of that page, you find a screen where you can add your favorite friends, or the Facebook fan pages you check the most often. Both pages sport a ‘Notifications’ bar at the bottom of the screen, which shows a list of your latest interactions, just as these notifications would show up on the actual site.

FB app grid 1FB app grid 2

Above: Home pages, with 'Notifications' bar at bottom
Bottom: Notifications page showing choice of link to follow; Status update page

FB app notify 1 FB app notify 2

Finally, clicking on the notification you've received takes you to the actual update, phote, etc., instead of your friend's profile (as Facebook 2.5 did, quite counter-intuitively). Of course, just like on the Facebook Web page, you can choose to just go to your friend's profile from here, as well.

Alongside these core updates, Facebook has included a slew of new features to make just about every user happy. Taking a look at your friends list, for example, you'll find small phone icons next to the names of friends who have phone numbers listed in their profiles. Tapping the icon gives you the option to call or text the person.

FB app call 1 FB app call 2

Another new addition to the app that struck me, in particular, was the ‘Birthdays’ tab under the ‘Events’ menu. At first, it only shows you this week's birthdays, but you can scroll down to select a different month, as the two following images show. For those who are terrible at remembering this kind of thing, like me, this should prove a fairly useful tool on the go.

FB app birthday 1FB app birthday 2
Adding photos to your profile was an easy task in Facebook 2.5, but now users can zoom into photos, create and delete photos and albums, tag people, ‘Like’ photos, and just about anything else you’d like to do that you used to only be able to do from Facebook’s actual site.

In addition to all the new features we were already expecting, the Facebook team managed to put in a couple of cool extra perks in its app. The coolest, which I noticed originally by intuition, is the ability to organize the home screen in exactly the same way that one organizes the iPhone home screen. The apps even wiggle in the exact same way.

FB app grid wiggle FB app landscape

The other change is landscape mode has been enabled. (I’ve actually come to hate this feature for all apps that use it because it makes them unusable when lying in bed. Here’s to hoping that Facebook quickly updates the app to have a setting to turn landscape ‘off.’)

Frankly, this new upgrade is heartily welcomed, as the app now nearly emulates Facebook’s Web site entirely. Don’t think this is the end, though.

Even after Facebook combs over the bugs that will invariably pop up over the next few days (they’re actually already working on some privacy issues), there’s still one key feature many people seem to be waiting for: push notification. Besides that, there are some minor things that users will want to be able to do. Hewitt says the ability to hide people and apps from the news feed will come in version 3.1. Also, though videos aren't nearly as popular on Facebook as photos are, users may be more likely to upload videos if they can do it straight from their iPhone 3G S devices, which can shoot video. Hewitt says they're working on it.

Until then, you’ll find me here staring at my iPhone bragging about the new app to all my friends.

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