This month at CMSWire we’re doing a special Facebook series on tools the social networks offers. With this in mind our first article looks at the functionality of the Facebook mobile app.

Facebook: An App Overview

The Facebook app is designed to let users use the social networking site, even if they are away from their computer. While all similar, each app is tailored for the different mobile device it is being used on. Each version of the app has many of the same features; users are able to access and update their profile, view and send messages and other invites, post content such as status updates, photos and videos and chat with contacts. Despite having the same functionality, not all versions of the app appear to work as well as others.


The Facebook App: iOs, Blackberry (top), Android (bottom) and Windows Phone

The Need for Speed with iOS

As a whole,  the iOS version of the app has gone through regular platform updates, such as walls being replaced with a timeline and more specific updates, such as the new calling function, where US and Canadian users can call friends right from the application. Overall, it appears the app, which is available for both iPhone and iPad devices, has had only minor problems.

Christina Warren of Mashable said that previous versions the app had a good functionality, but were a bit slower than she would have liked. With its timeline update in August, the company changed the code it used from an HTML5 mobile web review to Objective-c, which is the code used in iOS devices. In turn, this made the app faster, something that Warren found showed the company was dedicated to improving their mobile service.

This has a huge impact on the app's overall responsiveness,"she said. "The app loads faster, is easier to navigate and doesn't pause when trying to load more news items or go to a different user page,” 

As for the application’s new calling feature, critics have found it to be a good competitor in the long distance calling field.

The feature is especially critical for people with bad cell service at work or at home, and for those who want to conserve cell phone minutes," said Ellis Hamberger of The Verge.“…After a few tests, the call quality sounds very good, and is certainly on par with competitors Viber, Vonage, and Skype, which have had the feature for some time, but all have much smaller user bases.”

Android: The Fraternal iOS Twin

The Android Facebook app design is very similar to the iOS version, except it doesn't have the calling function. The only ongoing problem that has continually frustrated users is a slow response and loading time, but with launch of version 2.0 in December, it appears that this has changed.

Whereas previous updates to the Facebook for Android app may have resulted in marginal speed improvements, this update should be taken as something more noteworthy,” said Jaymar Cabebe of Cnet." Now that the preferred (fully native) infrastructure is in place, users can only expect the app to get significantly faster and to run more smoothly from here on out.

A Less than Stellar Choice for Windows Phone Users

The Windows Phone has a completely different design than the iPhone and Android because it's structured around the tile format the smartphone had adopted. While the other touch screen devices haven't had any trouble or customer complaints, the Windows Phone wasn't as lucky. Some of the problems that Windows 7 users faced was that the app was hard to use. Basic functions, such as trying to browse through photos required more swiping than was necessary, while, sometimes content was hard to see and the app was slow.

Although according to Robert Brand of Windows Phone Central, a sub-site of Mobile Nations, the Windows 8 version of the app works well and allows users to move seamlessly from one feature to another.

The developers have done a good job of fully utilizing the panoramic spread to allow you easy access to photos, newsfeed and your favorites. You have the ability to pin your message inbox, events and nearby places to your home screen as well as utilize photos from Facebook as a lock screen with tons of other stuff thrown in too,” he says.

Blackberry: The Worst of them All...for now.

Blackberry, which has been experiencing some problems lately with the popularity of the iPhone and Samsung devices also appears to have had a poor experience with Facebook.

In a  2011 review from Milo Yiannopoulos of the Telegraph, he found that the app wasn't even worth trying out, its design was that poor. For Yiannopoulos, it appeared that Facebook didn't bother to put effort into the app's development.

There's no easy way to say this the Facebook for BlackBerry app is an abomination,” he said. “…It's bad enough that the app hijacks your inbox, over-branding emails from Facebook and turning them into feeder links into the app, which then takes control of your entire phone, freezing it as it performs appallingly slow and completely unnecessary transition effects.”

Although, with a new touch screen format on the recently released Blackberry 10, the app’s design and functionality could improve, as the interface of BlackBerry has changed.

Therefore, depending on the type of device being used, the Facebook app can either be a good or bad choice and for some users it appears they are better off using the mobile version of the site instead of the app.