I haven’t had Facebook on my phone for a very long time. Anyone who’s ever used Facebook for Android knows how terrible it has been. Even Facebook knew it, and so several months ago, they announced that they had decided to re-write the application from scratch, using native code rather than HTML5.
Apparently when Facebook originally wrote its applications for iOS and Android, it decided to use a webview wrapper around its HTML5 mobile page rather than use native code because it was easier for developers if they could maintain both applications using the one code base. This seemed like a good idea at the time, but as Facebook grew, mobile became more popular, and more features were added to the platform, this was no longer an adequate solution. Facebook released a native-code update for iOS in August, and promised that they would do the same for Android.
This promised update has been released onto the Play Store today, and it’s such a remarkable improvement. For starters, notifications actually load, rather than a loading screen just sitting there until you give up and do something else. Along with speed improvements, the application brings a few neat new features:
- A cool notification bar that appears at the top of the news feed notifying you when your friends make new posts
- Lateral swipes between the notifications, friend requests and messages screens
- Re-designed notifications screen
- Speed! (I know that’s not really a new feature, but it’s just such an improvement that it needed mentioning again)
As improved as the application is, there are still some things that I wish Facebook would fix:
- Tablet mode
- Holo styling in the action bar and menus
- Use the proper Android contact sync API
Generally though, the update is a fantastic improvement. Previously, Facebook for Android was an unusably slow, pathetic excuse for a modern mobile application. Now, it’s actually quite good and might make me actually use Facebook again.