Facebook has not yet seen fit to introduce a version of its official iPhone app optimised for the iPad, even though we are all waiting to hit the Install button and download. Mark Zuckerberg now famously said that the iPad isn’t mobile, suggesting that we may never get a native Facebook app.
Unless you want to use the pixel-doubled iPhone app, or browse in the somewhat-incompatible website in Safari, your only other option is one of the third-party applications available, such as Friendly.
Friendly looks and feels like it was designed by Mark Zuckerberg himself, being ripe with the blue colour we recognise Facebook for today. Friendly for iPad offers personalisation options too, however, allowing you to change the UI colour and font size to make it that much more personal. Facebook is all about being personal, so this limited customisability is very good to have.
In a way, the layout of the app is the same way as the website, with navigation menu items at the top and a news/recent switch underneath.
At the top are the links to swap your view between your main stream, your profile, a list of your friends, your photos, and your places. The links make perusing through your stream super easy. Plus, a small dropdown menu can be summoned to bring a plethora of different options to view, including events and notes, which is very helpful. If you’re used to the web interface, the quick buttons to access notifications, messages, and birthdays will help you feel right at home.
Underneath the tab-based news/stream switcher resides a familiar input box, allowing you to instantly share whatever is on your mind. Naturally, you can share your location by tagging it on the post, or add a photo captured on your iPad. In terms of interface, the soft keyboard slides up half way, while the input box stretches down to meet it offering you a fairly minimalist canvas on which to compose your status.
Surfing Your Stream
Friendly’s attempts to get cosy with Facebook are evident, with icons and overall aesthetics evidently showing similarities. From a design perspective, however, I feel that there are some issues here – some of the elements contribute towards a feeling of mediocrity.
Nonetheless, the functionality is as you’d expect and shares many ties with the official iPhone application, such as the speech bubble icons to the right of status messages. Tapping on this introduces a contextual menu, allowing you to like and/or comment on that particular status.
Media intergration is okay, but not brilliant when that media is hosted away from Facebook. Videos such as those from YouTube will redirect you to the mobile website – where a large majority may face you with a “not available on mobile” message - through the built-in browser, which is less appreciated than the photo integration.
If you’re familiar with the lightbox photo viewer on the Facebook website, you’ll love the photo browser in Friendly which puts them at the front on a dark background. As you’d expect from other Facebook clients, these are simply a swipe away from each other with fast access to information, comments, and even a convenient download button to save images to your photo library.
Profile pages are surprisingly nice to interact with. Each features a profile image positioned in the top-left, alongside key information about yourself such as relationship status, birthday, and hometown. Friendly then resorts to the same style of presenting status updates as commented on before.
I will admit something here; I don’t like Facebook that much. The main thing that attracts me and causes me to return is the chat feature, so its integration into Friendly is critical to my personal use. Although the chat interface is fairly different to other parts of the app, and lacks the consistent top navigation banner, it still performs well and turns out to be a more-than-acceptable chat client, if just that.
It’s always hard to describe an application which has the same functionality as another. Friendly is designed to mimic Facebook, and is clearly aimed at being that interim app until an official one hits. There’s little education required before you start using Friendly regularly, thanks to its layout ties with both Facebook’s official mobile apps, and the website.
However, I still feel the design lets the app’s overall experience down. Things just don’t seem to sit well in the majority of the app. It’s clearly designed for portrait use, so any text will only fill about 60% of the screen when viewing in landscape.
We’re all waiting for the moment Facebook releases an official iPad app, but until then, Friendly is a solid option. Friendly does an admirable and enthusiastic job at becoming the app for browsing Facebook on your iPad, but it has its flaws. While functionality can be flawless at times, the design lets it down after extended usage.
It does many things right, but small problems only make waiting for the inevitable official iPad app that much more frustrating. Mind you, at only $0.99 or free – the latter contains ads – it’s a worthwhile interim app if you don’t want to simply enlarge the iPhone app, or browse the website.