In many ways, Facebook for iPad looks the same as it does on any other device (download it here!). But it feels different. It's immersive, visual, intuitive and takes advantage of the unique capabilities tablets provide.
I've been wanting a Facebook iPad app from the moment I bought my iPad. The standard web version felt microscopic. The "touch" web version felt neutered. And running iPhone version on my iPad, was... do I really need to explain that? Basically, Facebook now feels wonderfully functional, not to mention friendly on the eyeballs.
That's not to say that Facebook's iPad app is perfect or doesn't have room to improve. It does. But it's a pretty good start that's better than any other iPad alternative and like Twitter, provides an efficiently-designed portal to the internet at large.
The primary goal with this new Facebook app is making it easy to consume media and information. It's the type of app you could get lost in for an extended period of time when you're planted on the couch during the weekend. Nothing you do inside the app takes out outside of the app. You can browse profiles, chat with friends, look at photo albums, upload pics, and check out videos and internet links all from within Facebook. Other features, such as games and Facebook music, are conspicuously absent, if not surprising (by all accounts, the iPad app was a project of secondary concern.
The app is smooth, fast and touch friendly. The iPad version makes the most of the added screen space with properly proportioned design elements and fonts and images which display at a proper resolution. Split panes that navigate independently of one another are the norm. The left hand bar you'd find on the standard website still lives here, except it now resides on a secondary layer that slides in and out of view. This not only provides more room to pack features in, but like Twitter, the use of layers leaves everything feeling clean and uncluttered. Plus, many of the redundant links found on the standard website have been consolidated in the iPad app, creating less noise.
Other nice flourishes include the use of giant profile pic thumbnails in friend lists and the inclusion of a map in the Nearby/Places feature, the latter of which really makes sense on the iPad's large, multitouch screen. You can pan and zoom around and get a visual idea of where your friends really are.
And there are some things that could be better. When you click a link, it absorbs your entire screen and cuts you off from the app while reading whatever it is you're reading. If you navigate back to look at something else briefly, you have to then find the original spot in the news feed where you first clicked the link. The actual conversation UI element of Facebook Chat could also use some attention: it needs more room to breathe on the screen as it's confined to a narrow column atop your friend list. What displays in your message inbox and what displays in your conversation window isn't always consistent (and brings up the larger question of why Facebook merged the two features to begin with) And it's a bit strange that hitting enter on the keyboard doesn't send the message, but instead inserts a linebreak. That's minor, however.
Above all else, Facebook for iPad is an app meant for reading and viewing and listening and liking. You can certainly chat, and snap photos, but you still can't beat the respective combination of computer and phone for those tasks. And it's definitely worth the download if you're a Facebook-using iPad owner. What I'd like to see going forward is more nuanced control over what comes in through the news feed. Maybe I only want to check out links to websites and blogs, or only want to watch videos. And I'd also like to see more of the visual flair that the Timeline redesign has given to profiles. But for the most part, this is a nice evolution for Facebook, and a much-needed acknowledgement of the strange niche which tablets occupy. [Facebook]