There was a time when Facebook was at the forefront of mobile app development. Before there was even an App Store, the web app Facebook put out that was optimized for the iPhone was brilliant. Then the App Store came and with it was a great Facebook native app. Then came version 3 of the app, which was even better. Those days, sadly, are long over.
Everyone already knows that the Facebook Android app sucks. The iPhone app, though, thanks largely to version 3, has remained a bright spot. But while some people are gushing today over the latest iPhone update (3.1.3, the first update in a while), I’m not one of those people.
First of all, Facebook still has yet to release a native iPad app. This is pretty ridiculous considering that undoubtedly a high percentage of the millions of iPad owners have searched the App Store for a Facebook app, and come away with only imitations (which Facebook has demanded be taken down). As I noted above, the original Facebook app for iPhone launched alongside the App Store itself. We’re now almost 3 months post-iPad launch, and there is absolutely no word about when we can expect an iPad app.
Second, while many of the best iPhone app developers have been hustling to get their apps iOS 4-ready (the new iPhone OS launching on Monday), and plenty already have iOS 4 apps in the App Store, this update brings nothing in that department from Facebook. They couldn’t even bother to turn on fast app switching (the most basic iOS 4 multitasking feature) if they were going to update their app anyway?
Third, this update has at least one glaring UI bug. Sure, bugs are a part of the game, but how Facebook overlooked this one is dumbfounding. If you have new messages or friend requests on Facebook, load up the main screen in the app. There you’ll find certain areas badged to let you know there are updates for you to see — but these badges have a dark upper area that clashes badly with the light background of the main screen. I mean, it just looks awful. How did that get through quality control?
Meanwhile, as I said, plenty of folks are gushing over the things Facebook did add with this update. The ability (finally) to be able to see and write on event walls is definitely nice. But the big addition is the ability to view videos in the app. The only problem? It’s really hard to actually find any videos to view. While Facebook has an area on everyone’s profile for pictures, videos are nowhere to be found. You’d think if they were going to do a video-centric update to the app, they’d make a new area for these videos to highlight the feature they added — but no.
So you’ll forgive me if I let out a big sigh upon seeing this Facebook update. Ever since developer Joe Hewitt walked away from the project (over his disgust for some App Store policies) last November, things have gone downhill. And that trend, sadly, continues — even though Facebook promised it wouldn’t. Small updates may be fine or even welcomed by other companies — but Facebook used to lead the way in iPhone development. Now they’re second-rate.
There are some 55 million monthly active users of Facebook for iPhone, according to Inside Facebook. They deserve more commitment to this platform (as do the Facebook Android users).
Find the updated iPhone app here.