Most of those who updated their iPhone Facebook app on Sunday were blissfully unaware of the iPad secrets embedded inside. Little did they know a bit of clever tweaking could lead to the application transforming itself into a brand new Facebook app for iPad.
Things weren't exactly straightforward, requiring a jailbroken iPad and some other UIDevice naughtiness, but the Pocket-lint brains have managed to get the app up and running. So what social networking treats does the new application have in store?
First up is a UI that is much slicker and feels totally tablet-centric, adopting a side swiping and tap approach that is perfectly suited to the iPad.
After playing with the application for a while it starts to feel a bit like browsing in the OS X version of Safari. Essentially, you build up layers the more you click on elements in different pages and profiles, swiping right will take you back through these until you hit the news feed. From here you can tap on the three bars in the top left, this will then bring out a pop-out navigation menu where you can negotiate directly to things like your profile, news feed and photos, as well as groups you are involved in.
Tap on your profile and things look more like the desktop version of Facebook bar the photos tab, which is similar to the iPad's own photo app. Albums appear to load very quickly and single shots support finger zooming in and out.
The news feed is a drastic improvement over the iPhone app. To the right is a list of contacts available for Facebook chat with individual buttons for status, photo uploads and check-ins situated at the top of the list.
If you click on a friends' status update, their profile will immediately zoom across and fill the iPad screen, you can then write on their wall or share photos with them. To go back you simply swipe to the right.
The Messages function also draws on the native iPad app for design. Contacts are listed to the left, with messages reading much like mail conversations. It is a nice and neat way to manage any private conversations you have been having with friends.
Facebook places has also been thoroughly integrated into the iPad. Friends are listed on the left and a big map with all their locations kept on the right. It is a very slick experience and ran fine on our first generation iPad. For those still yet to properly take advantage of Facebook places, this sort of application design is definitely enough to persuade.
Pop-overs play a central part in the Facebook iPad app, allowing you to do things like switch the news feed to most recent only or photo updates.
Events also take advantage of pop-overs in a big way, with attendance requiring a simple tap of the your RSVP section. Activity, wall and info are now tabs that sit at the bottom of each event page. Hitting guests will slide over a page not unlike the friends tab, showing those who are attending, have declined, are maybe or awaiting confirmation. From here you can then view each individuals' page.
Given that the hidden Facebook iPad app may be a long way off being the final version, we have high hopes for what the world's favourite social network can achieve on the tablet device. Many have been left wanting more from the social network on their iPads, only to have to deal with the upscaled iPhone app or a browser-based version of the site.
What Facebook has done with its iPad app is rethink its approach to the site from a totally tablet-centric point of view. This means a slick tap interface, smooth and responsive UI and easy access to all the core functions of the site as soon as the app loads. We likey.
Facebook for iPad? Or Google+? Let us know your preferences in the comments below...