App of the Week: A Lot to Like in the Facebook App Update, But Still Missing Key Features
Facebook has never moved quickly -- or with great agility -- in the mobile domain. The Zuckerberg empire has made a number of mind-numbingly ridiculous maneuvers when it comes to providing a quality mobile experience for its wildly popular social network. From multiple apps to handle various features of the desktop experience to limited updates to its primary app, Facebook has routinely been behind the eight ball.
With its latest update, it has at least moved a bit closer to making a fully functional app that delivers faster performance and fewer bugs, but they are still missing some of the key functions of the Web site.
The Improvements First thing I immediately noticed was that pages both inside and outside of the Facebook network load more quickly. Any improvement here would be welcome, but this is definitely an increase in speed anyone who has used the app will notice.
There is also a generally cleaner interface that makes reading overall just easier. To make scrolling through your news feed faster, they opted for a scroll-up icon as well. Before, if you looked at the app and scrolled down through posts, when you reopened the app, it forced you back to the top. Now it just lets you know there are new posts and gives the user a simple button to scroll up to the top quickly.
Hey, user friendliness! What a concept!
Facebook has also cleaned up a bunch of the bugs that have been plaguing it for some time. Clicking on a friend's profile actually takes you there now instead of sending you to the events page, for example. Also, messages and "recent activity" load smoothly and don't require forced reloads to see new information.
Same goes for the photo viewer, which now has a popup window for likes and comments, which allows the user to see everything easily and quickly, including who liked it, something not supported in earlier versions.
Finally, they improved the calendar page, putting birthdays up top and organizing it more like the Web version is organized.
What Is Missing Unfortunately, there is still quite a bit of functionality missing. Most importantly, there is no way to edit or delete a post or a comment as there is on the Web version. With so many using the app, it would seem logical that a way to edit would be at the top of the feature list, but Facebook doesn't seem to think so. There is still no way to share a post or a photo, either -- including videos -- which is particularly annoying since the whole point of the Web site is to share things with other users. There is also no user control in that you can't hide a person in the same way it is done on the Web. So when a friend posts their third rant about Todd Akin, there is no easy way to hide his updates on the fly.
Pages and photos are still a mess, no doubt because they have apps dedicated specifically to those things. You still can't post as a Pages admin unless you use the Pages app, and photo tagging is basically nonexistent without the Facebook Photos app. Who knows why the people at FB decided to put all those features in separate applications, but they need to merge them quickly.
Finally, one minor annoyance. FB removed the really convenient list of recently used people when tagging someone in a post. Now you have to scroll through your whole friends list (or search it) to find the people you want to tag. If you are like me, that list is fairly short, so a list of recently used friends at the top came in very handy.
The Verdict The speed and performance improvements are great, but there are still some serious shortcomings in the app, most notably because Facebook doesn't integrate all its functionality into a single app, choosing instead to spread it out among a number of specialty apps, which is really inefficient and ridiculous.