Date: November 6, 2010
App type: Social
Release date: October 19, 2010
Requirements: Access to your data connection, sensors, web browser, phone calls, and phone identity
While I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, I certainly understand the usefulness of the service and do in fact use it regularly to keep up with friends and family. But my most frequent Facebook use comes when I'm on the go, as I don't have much to say about my whereabouts and doings when I'm sitting at home. And in those situations, a Facebook mobile app is key. I've used Facebook apps on the iPhone and Android, and both are excellent. But with all due respect to those platforms, the Facebook app on Windows Phone is the best yet. And that's because it takes advantages of user experience conventions that are unique to Microsoft's smart phone platform.
In fact, the Facebook app, which was created by the UI experts at Clarity Consulting, whom I previously profiled on my Windows Phone Secrets blog, is a poster child for correct Windows Phone app design. It retains the Facebook identity, functionality, and look and feel, sure. But it does so while utilizing key Windows Phone user experience features, creating a truly unique and exceptional mobile experience.
The Windows Phone Facebook experience is first rate. In the first column, or section, of this panoramic hub, you see all the main Facebook capabilities for your account. At the top is your Facebook profile picture and latest update which, when tapped, leads to your Profile information, such as your Wall, Info, Photos ("Photos" on the web), Photos of Me, and Pages. Also available directly from that first column in a list are your news feed, photos, inbox, events, profile, requests, notes, and settings, the latter of which applies to the application and not Facebook globally.
Scrolling left to right across the main panorama, you'll discover other frequently-needed Facebook features. Next up is Top News, which is the mobile app's display of the Facebook news feed, or what you typically see on the web client first. Here, you can update your status and/or post a photo that is stored on the phone. You can also read and comment on all of your friends' latest activities. (What you can't do, and this is common to Facebook mobile clients, is hide posts or friends.)
The next section is a nice, Windows Phone-style photo gallery that extends right beyond the width of the screen and is very reminiscent of the "Recent" column in the Windows Phone Music + Video hub, where there are items of different sizes. You can dive into specific albums here, and view, comment on, or "like" individual photos.
Beyond that is an Events column, which lists new birthdays and other events, and then a separate Notifications column.
The Facebook app isn't perfect, of course. The app's live tile is a static logo with no dynamic data presentation, and I'd like to see some sort of notification there at least, such as when you have pending messages, notifications, or friend requests. The load time performance is a bit slow. And updates don't seem to happen immediately. But even with these shortcomings, Facebook for Windows Phone is a great mobile client, one that looks good and works well.
Note: Some readers might be confused by the various ways in which you can access Facebook information on Windows Phone. With the advent of this app, there are now three official channels through which you can access Facebook. The first is implicit Facebook access via the Windows Live "Messenger social" feed, which is configured at live.com; this lets you access your Facebook contacts, news feed and wall posts (via the People hub) and photos (via the Pictures hub). The second is the explicit Facebook account type in Windows Phone, through which you can do all of the above, plus share phone photos to Facebook manually or automatically. And the third, of course, is this new Facebook app, which is much closer to the "full" Facebook functionality you get on the PC's web browser.