CNET Editors' Rating: 4.0 / 5
The good: Facebook is an excellent way to browse the social network while on the go. New messaging tools give you easy access to conversations while you browse, and the Wi-Fi calling features work beautifully.
The bad: Those who enjoyed using the photo navigation strip across the bottom of photos when viewing on the iPad are out of luck.
The bottom line: The latest version of the app is the best yet, making it a must-download for Facebook users. The new communication tools will make it easier to connect with friends and get the latest status updates.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
Editors' note: This review has been updated to reflect changes in version 6.0.
The Facebook app for iOS that lets you browse the popular social-networking site on your phone or tablet just got updated with some new features to enhance chatting with your friends. Recent updates made it run much faster than earlier versions, offering quicker ways to browse through friends' pages, statuses, photos, and other communications. But the new update to the app adds Chat Heads and Stickers to add a little fun to your Facebook communications.
Across the top of the interface, you still have a button to open the navigation sidebar, one to look at friend requests, a chat bubble for messages, and a globe for notifications. To get to the navigation sidebar, you can either hit the button or simply swipe your finger to the right. In the sidebar you have all the same functions that you would on the Web site, so you can touch to browse the News Feed, Messages, nearby check-ins, events, groups, and any Facebook apps you might use. With the update, Facebook now has buttons at the top of your feed that you can tap to switch among the News Feed, All Friends, and the pages you're following.
One of the best things about Facebook is the interface for browsing photos. Just tap on a friend's Photos link and you quickly get all of his photo folders. From there you can just tap on a folder to browse. When you view a photo from a folder full-screen, you can swipe sideways to move on to the next picture and swipe up or down to return to the folder. You also can quickly upload a photo from your library or snap a new picture to upload with your iPhone or iPad. All of these elements are laid out to make your most-used actions on Facebook both easy to carry out and much faster than in older versions of the app.
Recent updates added the Share button, more tagging features, emoji icons to enhance chat, and a button for sorting your News Feed to get the stories you want. Tagging features let you tag friends in any post, comment, or photo. Other minor tweaks brought bigger Like, Comment, and Share buttons below each post in your News Feed.
You also have the option to make free Wi-Fi calls to anyone on your friends list, provided that person has a working Wi-Fi connection. You can access it by pressing the Send Message button, and if your friend has a newer iOS version of the app along with Wi-Fi, a "Free call" button will light up, letting you call your friend directly. In my testing there was almost no delay in the audio and the sound was crystal-clear. While you won't be using minutes from your carrier, you will be using data. Either way, it's a useful feature, letting you call friends from your contact list without using minutes.
In version 6.0 of the app, Facebook has enhanced messaging with a couple of new interface additions. First, a feature called Chat Heads makes it so you can continue chatting with friends even while checking out other pages on Facebook. Now, when you message someone, a little round icon of your friend's profile picture floats onscreen while you browse Facebook, making it easy to see when that person has responded to your message, and letting you tap to quickly reply. You can have up to four Chat Heads floating simultaneously. It's pretty useful when you're inside the Facebook app and looking at pages or browsing the News Feed, but it also adds clutter where there was none before. It's important to note here that in iOS, Chat Heads only show up while you are in the Facebook app, whereas with Facebook Home or Facebook Messenger on Android, you can have Chat Heads on your phone's home screen that follow you everywhere. If you use Facebook chat a lot, the Android experience is superior, giving you easy access wherever you are. But if you're like me and mostly rely on SMS for text communication, the Chat Heads will add convenience in the Facebook app only, but are not very useful beyond that.
Secondly, a new Stickers feature will let you add larger, more-artistic icons (sort of like emoji) to your chat messages. There are certainly people who will like being able to add large artistic icons to chat sessions, but the part that bothers me is that Facebook says there will also be Sticker packs available for purchase. I would not personally buy Sticker packs because I don't use Facebook chat very often, but I recognize that some people probably will and we'll have to wait and see if the Stickers that the company offers are worth your hard-earned cash. The Stickers feature is not yet available as of this writing, but Facebook says it will be coming in the next few weeks.
Version 6.0 also gives some love to the iPad app. What was mostly an enlarged version of the iPhone app in earlier versions has now been redesigned with more thought toward how iPad users consume content. The main News Feed has more white space, less dividers, and standardized fonts that are more easily readable on the larger screen. The company takes into account the larger viewing area on the iPad, displaying stories in your News Feed with larger images and more text than you'll find in the iPhone version. What results is not a sea-change for iPad users, but simply a cleaner, more efficient use of space to take advantage of the larger iPad screen.
Overall, the Facebook app offers a smooth experience for browsing the social-networking site on the go. With an intuitive interface; a sleeker, more efficient design that takes advantage of the larger screen on the iPad; the power to make free calls over Wi-Fi; and new chat tools to keep you connected while browsing, this is the best version of the app yet. If you have an iOS device and use Facebook, this update is a must-download.
Average User Rating: 4.0 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 1
4 Star: 0
3 Star: 0
2 Star: 0
1 Star: 0
Finally, it's a delightful update!!
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on August 23, 2012
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: Faster Browse, Faster Search, Neater Interface
Cons: There's a lot of "out of the box" picture on the feed... i found some bugs in horizontal display though...