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Well, it certainly took long enough. We've had the Facebook app on iPhone for ages, but Zuckerberg & Co. have had more than a year and a half to grace Apple's top-selling tablet with an app. So now that it's here: What did we get, and how is it better?
For starters, the new universal app brings a clean, unified look to each version of the social networking site, including the mobile website. But the differences go beyond cosmetic. Where previously you backed out of your feed to a home screen of buttons, the universal app tucks controls away in a sidebar accessed through the button in the upper left or by swiping across your feed. Notifications, messages, and friend requests are also no longer a screen away, but instead reside in drop downs, while comments load in a right-hand sidebar.
Even status updates open in a small overlay pane. From here, you can tag people or locations, add photos, and control the audience for your message. Keeping you on one screen -- instead of flipping through different menus -- vastly improves the overall Facebook app experience. New screens that got some serious love include the Nearby feature, where your friends are displayed on a map based on their check-ins. Tap their avatars and you can see where and who they checked in with, then opt to leave a comment. Photo galleries also earned a major makeover, and run smoothly and beautifully here, plus games are included so you can see when you need to step up in Words With Friends.
Landscape mode gains you access to the chat bar to the right, yet after all this time Facebook still can't make its chat very reliable -- which brings me to the not-so-great parts of the new app. All too frequently upon loading, my news feed would hang at the long-spinning wheel of loading doom. Tapping into the sidebar to prompt another view helped the feed, but even logging out and back in never fixed the chat issues. Occasionally too, the feed selection button at the top right of the screen failed to show the smart lists I had created. It certainly seems like some API issues need to be resolved to really make this an essential replacement for the Facebook website.
The bottom line. Despite light issues, the iPad-compatible universal version of Facebook is a more-than-welcome update with tons of great new features that operate beautifully. This update closes the gap between the app and web versions, and ushers in a post-PC age for Facebook as well.
iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 3.0 or later
Fastest, slickest way to access the popular social website. New features are pleasingly organized and less interruptive than previous versions. Finally iPad compatible, with greater functionality that brings it closer to web version.
Failure to load own content is inexcusable from a company with pockets this deep. Chat (as all users know) is an ongoing disaster.