APP OF THE DAY: Facebook for iPad review (iPad)

Ever since the iPad launched, Facebook has always said that you don’t need a dedicated iPad app and that the Safari web browser is the best way to experience Facebook.

On Monday all that changed. After months of waiting, we now have a dedicated Facebook for iPad app. But should you download it, should you be excited, and will it make it into your daily used apps? We’ve been playing with the new app to find out.

Facebook for iPad

Platform
iPad

Price
Free

Where
App Store

 

Fire up the app and you are presented with a full screen experience. The app works in both landscape and portrait, although we’ve found that the landscape option is more enjoyable to use.

Clicking a button in the top left hand corner reveals a menu and here you get options to quickly access your favourite pages like News Feed, Messages, Nearby, Events, and Friends.

You’ll also find your pages listed, groups you are signed up to and apps you’ve added to your account. Clicking the button on the top left hand corner a second time makes it disappear.

Along that top menu bar are other notification shortcuts that are always present: friend requests, messages, and notifications.

Jumping between all the relevant panes and panels is quick, slick and easy.

The main event of course is the news feed, and here it looks like it does on the web.

New status updates dominate the screen space. Click on an image and it is automatically zoomed up to full screen so you can enjoy it. Videos, likewise, can be played instantly from the news feed and can be shared via AirPlay to your TV if you want to share with the room. Sadly you can’t seem to do that with photos, which is a real shame.

Chatting is a very side-line affair unless you head into the messaging pane, at which point you get full screen action. Having it residing in a side panel in the News Feed is handy if you are short of time and are multitasking.

That list is constantly updating with new faces as people sign into Facebook, and all are just a click away ready for you to chat with. An A to Z index runs from the top to the bottom of the screen, letting you jump to your mate called Zeus with little effort.

The Friends pane is where you get to collect your mates as if they were stickers in a album and scrolling through will quickly show you whether your mates are beautiful or not. Tap on one of the faces and you are whisked off to their status page so you can see what’s happening. The page shows you their wall while giving you links to their photos and friends.

The photos are displayed like the Photo app for the iPad and if you’ve got a good connection it works very fast to bring you all that imagery quickly. Like the News stream you can’t AirPlay photos here either. A real trick missed.

There are some new features that we haven’t seen before. Click on the Nearby option, for example, and you get a large Google maps page with your mates dotted around the world. Seeing the data like this shows you how powerful Facebook is - and will become.

As I write I know that three of my friends are having dinner in the Aladin Restaurant in Shoreditch. Damn them for not inviting me.

Overall the app is impressive and far better than the website ever can be without adopting some serious amounts of HTML5, but there is a catch. The Facebook for iPad app is great for consuming your Facebook feeds, but not great if you want to interact with all the Facebook apps and features to the full.

There is no Skype calling, no Spotify integration, and no games, although apps are listed in the navigation panel. Strangely only the games that have iPad apps are shown and even then clicking on them sends you off to the app rather than loading the app in screen. No Farmville for you then.

If you want to waste another 30 minutes on the sofa looking at your mates' Status updates in the same way that you do with Twitter; the Facebook for iPad app will be up your street. It is by no means perfect, but it is certainly enjoyable enough to use and enjoyable enough to recommend.

As for all those bugs you’ve no doubt been reading about. We only experienced one issue on first install. Updating from the iPhone app to the iPad app caused the app to completely fail and refuse to open. Deleting the iPhone app and installing the iPad app afresh fixed that problem, and since then we’ve had no issues with the app.