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Fiddling with Four Free Facebook apps on my iPad

For whatever reason, Facebook has yet to release an official app for the iPad, so users like myself have been forced to look to third-party apps for “The Social Network”ing needs. Fortunately, there seem to be quite a number of eager participants, and this post reviews four free Facebook app offerings from the App Store. However, before I get into the thick of things, I’ll try and outline what I actually enjoy doing on Facebook, as well as what I couldn’t care less about (just so my leanings are made clear).

How I like my Facebook

Facebook is a personal experience to me, so I keep my account pretty private and tend to keep it to just friends, family, and a few personal acquaintances. I don’t join groups or play games or buy gifts, and I don’t use it for planning events (that’s what Google Calendar is for). I use Facebook now in much the same manner as I did when I joined up in first-year university: for pictures, status updates, stupid wall jokes, and the occasional birthday reminder. I won’t call all the other things that Facebook now does gravy because I think that would be an insult to gravy — but it should now be clear that features such as Marketplace, Places, and all the rest are just overkill to me.

Onto the apps then.

Friendly

This is the first Facebook app I downloaded, and although I was quite pleased with it at first (“look at how much stuff I can see!”), it’s probably one of the apps I’ll end up deleting.

First of all, Friendly isn’t really a native app; it’s a custom browser that changes certain elements of the Facebook mobile website (which could be why the app went down a few weeks ago). But it’s not a very accurate version of Facebook. All of the standard views, updates, and notifications are present, but I’ve consistently found that the Live Feed is hours off and can simply miss recent status updates (even after a refresh). In addition, the Live Feed tab is highlighted in red and shows a toggle that also shows up red. This led me to believe that Live Feed was somehow off, but tapping on the toggle actually turned it into a News Feed with even older, less relevant news and drained all the colour from the tab. I’m really not sure what guidebook Friendly is going off of, but in my mind, red means “inactive” or “off”, and not the other way around.

There are a few plusses to Friendly — dedicated buttons for birthdays and an in-app browser with built-in Share on Facebook options — but having seen a few other third-party offerings, I intend on leaving Friendly behind.

Relationship status: Single (and deleted)

Facely HD

I don’t tend to care that much about matching icons, but Facely HD’s app icon is a special case of Hide Me In A Folder Now. It’s almost as if the regular Facebook icon was hit head-on with a flare gun — the whole thing is just far too white and bright for my tastes.

The app itself doesn’t feel much better. It’s essentially a blown-up version of the Facebook mobile site with larger fonts, larger tabs. There isn’t any interesting use of screen space or pop-out menus — tapping on a bottom brings you to a new page, plain and simple. It feels like Facebook Mobile as seen through digital zoom. The in-app ads are also big, obtrusive, and largely uninteresting.

There’s nothing that really separates this app from the Facebook website apart from the pull-to-refresh mechanic, and that’s already a standard feature as far as iOS apps go.

Relationship status: Single (and deleted)

MyPad

I had quite a time trying to get MyPad to work initially and I believe it suffered from the same problem that Friendly did (a change in the Facebook website or API), except that MyPad took a week or two more than Friendly to actually get it fixed. Now that it is working, though, it reminds me a lot of a Twitter for Facebook for iPad. In other words, it was clearly “inspired” by the Twitter apps for iPad and Mac, and ends up working in a very similar fashion.

MyPad isn’t a perfect clone (it’s missing a few of the cool pinch gestures of the Twitter app), but it is a very interesting and genuinely fun way to browse Facebook streams of status updates, events, and messages. Different sections load with snappy slide-in animations, and the photo browser is gorgeous and makes it very easy to comment on and even download pictures.

I’ll definitely have to think about this one, and I may well end up purchasing it for $0.99.

Relationship status: It’s complicated (see Friended)

Friended

A commenter on one of my previous posts stated that Friended was far too busy for his tastes, but I rather like how this native app uses the extra screen real estate the iPad provides. The Live Feed is always a focus on-screen, but there are sections for Recent Pictures, Recent Friends, and Facebook Chat available in both portrait and landscape (and they appear in different areas on each — giving you reasons to rotate). I’d prefer to be able to tweak the layout a little and move Recent Friends and Chat into the abyss (leaving more room for pictures!), but that’s more of a wish list item than a gripe.

The final note I’d like to make is how well Friended integrates its ads. The ad space at the bottom isn’t exactly small, but I appreciate how it was designed to match the rest of the application as a sort of bottom-bar, making the AdMob ads feel far more integrated.

Truth be told, it’s a pretty close race between MyPad and Friended, but I believe I’ll stick with the latter for now simply because it displays more relevant information with less effort. I go to Facebook to mindlessly “like” and comment on status updates and pictures, and Friended allows me to do most of that without ever leaving the main screen.

Relationship status: In a digital partnership with Thomas Wong

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