Many of us use Facebook for talking to friends, reconnecting with family, and doing our best to avoid stalking our ex’s profile. Since the day the iPad was launched, Facebook users had three options: use the iPhone app in a horribly pixelated 2x view, visit the site with Safari, or download a third-party application. All were less than ideal, and many users have been clamoring for a native iPad app for some time.
It’s here, and we’ve got the full review below.
First off, the app requires a Facebook account to get started. Getting logged in is as easy as entering your email address and password, with no extra steps required for further access (like, say, trying to activate a new Twitter client). I found that when I entered my info the app would take a while to launch; I imagine that this has to do with the sheer amount of information that the app is pulling from Facebook’s servers.
This splash screen is what greets you on first launch.
Facebook users should feel right at home with the iPad app. Friend Requests, Messages, and Notifications are all in the top-right corner, as they are on the website. Each item is presented as an overlay upon pressing on its icon, and can be dismissed by tapping anywhere else on the screen. This is an improvement over Facebook for iPhone or Facebook in Safari; the old version of Facebook for iPhone required you to jump through a lot of hoops to get to notifications, read them, mark them as read, etc. With the iPad version (and the updated iPhone version) notifications are as easy to handle as they are on a desktop computer.
Notifications are presented in a clean overlay.
In landscape mode, your online friends (assuming that you’re marked as online as well) show up in a bar on the right-hand side. Chatting is as easy as tapping someone’s name and typing your message, and your chats fill up that dedicated bar instead of assuming all of the screen real estate.
Facebook’s iPad app borrows a few ideas from Twitter, chief among them being the gesture-based horizontal navigation. Dismissing the sidebar on the right is as easy as sliding your finger that way, making it easy to get back from viewing a notification or a chat session. I found this to be a natural move, and one that Twitter for iPad users will be familiar with. In my tests the Facebook app actually handled these gestures quickly, and I didn’t cause the app to crash once while I was dismissing something, which can’t be said for Twitter.
It's possible to filter your news feed for any type of post.
For those of you that are seeking deeper control of what appears in the main section, there are two options. First is a (comparatively small) button on the right side of the screen that gives you the familiar iOS-rotating-wheel method of choosing what you’d like to see in your feed.
I often change this to just Status Updates, but you can narrow your view down to just about any type of post.
What I found to be most useful is a left-hand sidebar brought up with the same gesture as dismissing other apps; sliding your finger from left to right, assuming there aren’t any other ‘cards’, pops this sidebar into view. From there you can look at your messages, check on events, read and post notes, and access any apps that you have tied to your account.
The sidebar is clean, functional, responsive, and a good home for everything Facebook.
In my experience this sidebar reacted quickly, changing views as soon as I tapped on any element. It’s a welcome change from the Android-like top screen from the old iPhone version, presenting you with many options in a clean, understandable way. Dismissing the sidebar is as easy as sliding your finger in the opposite direction. I found myself doing this a few times, just watching how smooth the animation was.
What’s Your Status?
For weeks now Facebook has been making it easier to share with your friends, incorporating features such as Smart Lists and a better tagging interface for mobile devices. All sharing options are present with Facebook for iPad, making sure that something meant for your College Friends list doesn’t suddenly appear on your Work-Only list. You can also say that posts are Public, for Friends only, or another custom setting that you define.
Updating your status is easy, and there's a lot more control than there used to be.
It’s safe to say that that’s an important addition for the entire platform, not just this iPad app. Deciding who you want to share something with is easier than ever before, removing that ‘I just threw everyone I know into one room’ feeling from before. It’s a welcome change, and has made sharing some personal information even easier.
Just as important is the ability to tag friends in status updates. It used to be that on mobile devices tagging was next to impossible, but now there’s a dedicated icon where you can scroll (and search) through your friends list to tag someone. It isn’t as intuitive as it is on your desktop browser, but it’s a major step forward that should continue to improve.
Photos, Front and Center
A lot of time was spent on getting the photos ready for the iPad. There’s this ‘magical’ quality about the iPad that makes it the perfect picture frame, with its connectivity, beautiful display, and the ability to scroll through photos with a slide of your finger. It’s clear that Facebook knew photos would be a big deal on the iPad, and they don’t disappoint.
First, photos can take up the full screen. This might seem like a no-brainer, but what’s important here is the speed. While photos take forever to load on my iPhone (mitigated somewhat with 4.0, but that’s besides the point) they seem to load much faster on my iPad. Scrolling is smooth, and pictures look as good as when they were taken.
Browsing through an album.
Part of that has to do with the hi-res photos that are presented to the iPad. If you’re on a mobile device you’ll often get a low-res version of a photo, but with the iPad you’re getting a better picture. This makes sense, given the size of the display. Looking at photos side by side, it seems to me that the iPad app gets the best display.
Looking through albums on an iPad.
One nitpicky gripe that I have here is that albums are displayed in a way that’s similar to the Photos app on the iPad, but you can’t use the same pinch-to-view gesture as you can in the Photos app. This doesn’t seem to be limited to just Facebook (Evernote has done this for the longest time) but it was definitely jarring the first time that you go to open an album with a natural gesture and you find that it isn’t working. Since every other bit that has to do with photos on the iPad is top-notch, I’d love to see a simple fix for this.
Was it Worth the Wait?
I would say yes, absolutely. This iPad app is now my favorite way to browse Facebook, period. Beyond the presentation of the app, which is responsive, fast, and all around phenomenal, this has to do with some problems that other methods have.
Every other mobile device that I check Facebook with is slow. Checking it with mobile Safari is slow on the iPad and iPhone, checking it with the iPhone app is slower than with the iPad app, and Android apps stutter along at a snail’s pace. Often when I go into Facebook I’ll want to get in and get out, and any delay in that is time that I don’t need to be spending (yes, I know that I could, technically, just not check Facebook).
Besides that, the iPad app is just better. It’s got easier navigation. The display is used to its fullest potential, and the touch input is great. Notifications are quick and easy to get to, and there’s finally a decent way to Facebook Chat on the iPad.
Is everything perfect? No. I don’t see the point of including a Check-In button front and center on the newsfeed, as the iPad is, typically, a stay-at-home device. I’d like for the pinch-to-view gesture to work with the photos view, and I would still like to see the app load a bit faster on first launch.
So, no. It’s not perfect. It is far better than expected, though, and well worth the wait.