Facebook for iPhone 2.2
Publisher: iTunes App Store
Requirements: iPhone, iPhone 3G, or iPod Touch
Maybe I’m way off base, but I’d just about make a wager that there are few iPhone owners who don’t maintain a Facebook profile. Somehow, to me, it feels logical to assume that one begets the other. Well, fine, maybe more so in only one direction, but my point is made.
When Apple opened up the ability to create custom applications for the iPhone, no one doubted that Facebook developers would be at the head of the line with their own submission, and the version 1.0 release was one of the first apps made available for the iPhone. Several months later, a variety of shortcomings were addressed in the second major version of the iPhone application. Some say the application still feels incomplete, but do those people consider that may be by design?
Let me get something cleared up: the Facebook application for iPhone is not a substitute for the full-blown Web site, and I would argue that it should stay that way. The mentality to have is that many iPhone apps—Facebook included—are extensions of a service and not a replacement interface. It came as a small surprise to me to hear someone say they don’t use the Facebook application on their iPhone because they can’t access any of the groups to which they’re connected or manage event invitations or use friend lists they’ve defined. Actually, the latter of those caveats isn’t entirely true, but the person was correct that it’s not possible to add or remove people to friend lists from within the iPhone application.
Tell me I’m crazy, but this sounds no different from choosing to never go on lengthy trips. Staying in a hotel or camping out is only a subset of your home. Sure, you may not have access to your brand new 52″ plasma television or your closet full of your entire wardrobe, but you have, presumably, taken what you need for the trip.
I choose to think of the Facebook application in the same manner. When I’m out and about, the Facebook application provides me with the core features that are most frequently updated—be it status updates, private messages, and even making or accepting friend requests.
Sure, there are some areas that would benefit from a bit of additional polish. I already know the News Feed lists a sampling of events that are supposedly a calculation of what I probably want to see most and does not display every single item. But, if the News Feed is already a subset of notifications, why bother indicating on the iPhone application that so-and-so has created a new group when I can’t access the group via the iPhone app? In fact, for a moment, I was confused when I tapped a News Feed listing indicating a new group. The listing highlighted, but nothing happened afterward. I thought the application had frozen until I tapped a different item.
The News Feed indicated that someone had created a new group. I tapped and it highlighted, but nothing happened after that. (Also notice that YouTube video links don’t always pull the thumbnail preview over, and I’m only left with a big white area with a play button in the middle.)
Probably the most troublesome behavior of the iPhone application is a frequent tendency to not display a properly refreshed page. Normally, one would expect that when details for a particular update are accessed, the page would refresh to show those details—such as comments to a status update. Unfortunately, far too often, accessing such information only results in a blank page.
Pages will often fail to refresh properly. In the left screen capture, a friend’s witty status update intrigued me, and I wanted to see the three comments other friends had made. When I tapped the entry, the blank page on the right is what appeared. Once this behavior began, all other updates behaved this same way.
The workaround I finally discovered is to use what I consider a hidden feature of the Facebook application—Shake to Refresh. I consider it hidden because the developers followed Apple’s suggestion for application settings to be located within the Settings application. I’m certain I am not alone in disliking this. I seem to always forget that application settings might be located there. As such, I didn’t realize the Facebook application had the Shake to Refresh feature. For the benefit of anyone, like myself, who didn’t know about shaking the phone to refresh a page, and for those who don’t care to enable the feature, Facebook application pages need to have a refresh button or icon.
I have ideas, too. Presently, there’s no interaction with Facebook Events in the iPhone application. Suppose a new Event was received and it could be copied to the iPhone’s regular calendar in addition to being added to your Facebook profile?
But I digress. Facebook developers have done a pretty remarkable job with creating a subset of the Web page and packing the most popular tools into the iPhone application. I’m looking forward to the upcoming iPhone OS 3.0 Push Notification service finally being available, but I hope that the Facebook iPhone application can be customized to only push certain desired notifications. My phone would be beeping at me nonstop if every friend’s status update caused a Push Notification event!
Kudos to Facebook for a splendid iPhone application and for understanding what the term “subset” means.