Facebook is, by far, the world’s most popular social network and a client of some sort is a staple part of any user’s application library. With increasingly public lives and an obligation to keep up one’s online presence, having the best social networking clients available is a vital aspect of any mobile activity.
Your options for a stellar Facebook client are not few, but official and third-party apps differ in a number of key areas, such as design and interface, functionality, user reception, etc. Today, we’re going to round up some of our favourite Facebook clients, Facebook, FriendCaster and Fast, by pitting them against each other on a number of these key aspects.
The official Facebook client sticks very close to the established design principles of the Facebook website and all official releases that share its name: blue bar at the top, with access to friend requests, messages and notifications. Posts are displayed underneath, separated into individual white containers. A slide-in menu to the left offers quick access to other sections like your apps — including Photos and Notes — and features like Events, while a slide-in list from the right shows all your friends, whom you can begin instantly chatting with. User profiles in the official Facebook app retain the social giant’s Timeline style, rather than some specific mobile design.
FriendCaster uses a very similar layout but with different styling of posts in your feed. From an experience perspective, FriendCaster seems far less intuitive than Facebook’s own. The primary UI difference I observed was in profiles, which opts for a layout more reminiscent of the traditional Facebook layout than the new Timeline view. FriendCaster also offers a nice tablet-optimized layout with dual panes in landscape.
On the left is the official Facebook app while contending on the right is FriendCaster, a third-party client.
Fast, by comparison, is aimed at reducing data consumption and speeding up the Facebook experience on mobile devices. Therefore, it comes with a much more reduced, minimalist interface that, while effective — aside from actually adding in ads which will obviously consume their own data — doesn’t look nearly as good.
It’s very clear that the official Facebook app leads the way here and, if you’re awfully bothered about design, it’s the one to choose.
It’s not an easy task to differentiate these apps based on functionality as they are, in the end, all clients for the same social network that, in turn, has the same set of features. The basic Facebook functionality is there, regardless of which option you choose. You’ll be able to update your status and view updates from your friends in any app.
The little touches are more subtle. For example, FriendCaster will show a relative time (such as “13 minutes ago”) when scrolling through the News Feed which Facebook doesn’t offer. However, Facebook’s official app offers better support for more “off-topic”, for lack of a better term, features like its app platform and is better futureproofed for any new features added to the social network at a later date.
Facebook, on the left, next to Fast, on the right.
While open to debate over whether this is a feature, per se, Fast offers the aforementioned reduced view that is better for heavy Facebook power users on a limited data allowance. However, that reduced interface comes with an overall reduced experience that is far limited than any other app. There’s pros and cons for its usability and usefulness.
This is a much easier metric to compare. All these apps are very popular, with Facebook’s official app being the most so, garnering over 100,000,000 installations in the last thirty days alone, and all having around a consistent 4-star rating average.
Recent reviews do point out performance issues with Facebook and bugs in Friendcaster. Fast, on the other hand, has far fewer issues even though it still remains in beta.
These apps might be the most popular options, but that doesn’t mean they are perfect.
The above screenshot shows reviews of Facebook’s official app, where a significant number of one-star reviews are present.
Finally, let’s compare these apps through another simpler metric, price. Facebook and Fast are both free apps. Friendcaster is free, but a Pro version with some additional features is available for around $4.99.
All of these three apps have their own attractive features, specifically with Fast and FriendCaster. However, I can only conclude with agreeing that Facebook’s official app is the best all-rounder here. Available for free, with an attractive enough interface that remains united with Facebook itself, the official client tops the rest.
Of course, if you’re looking for something more specific, like Fast’s more mobile-optimised view, or FriendCaster’s tablet interface, the Google Play store offers these. But general users shouldn’t have too much issue with Facebook’s official property.
Have you got a favourite Facebook app that wasn’t discussed in this article? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!