RIM announced the forthcoming availability of a native Facebook application for its PlayBook tablet computer. Since no specific launch date was given at the time, it was expected the app would roll out at a later date, perhaps later in the week. Instead, we were pleasantly surprised when Facebook app appeared in the BlackBerry App World marketplace later this afternoon.This morning, at the BlackBerry World conference in Orlando, Florida,
Like the PlayBook itself, this tablet-optimized version of the social networking site has room to improve, as there are still a few bugs and kinks to work out. But at least RIM can finally claim a high-profile app for its woefully app-lacking tablet - and this time, it's an app the iPad doesn't have.
Facebook on the PlayBook
When you first launch the Facebook for PlayBook application, it defaults to a view of your News Feed. From here, you can "like" and comment on your friends' posts, click on shared links and videos to view those items in the PlayBook's Web browser and, through the box at the top right of the screen, you can update your own status.
The status update box also provides a button that lets you share a photo from your camera or photo library. There is a little confusion when posting from the library, however, because it takes you to an interface that shows you tabs for "Pictures," "Video," "Music" and "Documents," which makes you assume that other, non-photo content can be posted, too. That is not the case.
The app also provides access to other standard Facebook features, available at any time by tapping the button at the top left of the screen. Here, in an interface greatly resembling what you see on the iPhone, there are options for viewing your Profile, your Friends lists, Photos, Messages and Chat.
When viewing your own profile, there is a button at the bottom which lets you switch between your Wall, your Info section and your Photos. You can't edit your Facebook profile info from the app, though.
Clicking on the Photos option from your Profile takes you to the same page you would see if you tapped on Photos from the main navigation. Here, you can see all your albums and there's a button to toggle between photos and videos, to better filter through your content. While viewing photos, you can tap on the photo itself to display a bar at the top that lets you like, comment or tag the photo you're viewing.
Your Friends list lets you view your friends in both a list view and a grid layout. Plus, you can search for friends and Pages, add new friends and respond to friend requests.
Facebook Chat is a two-paned interface, with contacts on the left and conversations on the right. New chat messages appear as notifications in the Nav Bar as pop-overs. However, if you're one of those folks who hates the distraction of Facebook Chat, you'll be happy to know that you can switch it off in the app's Settings.
Also available in the Settings are links to your Account Settings, Privacy Settings, the Help Center and Terms. All of these items open in a Web browser window.
In the Messages section, you can switch between your Inbox, Outbox and Updates using a button at the bottom of the screen.
There was a little bugginess here, as the Facebook for PlayBook app was showing I have four unread messages, although in reality, all my messages on Facebook.com have been read. The supposedly unread messages are so far back in my messages list, I can't even locate them to "read" them again so the message count will be appear accurately. (The app does not count unread updates from your Pages in its message count, however.)
Besides the small complaints mentioned above, the only other major issue - and this one is irksome - is that the application won't work in portrait mode. It's an odd oversight, to say the least, and hopefully not a design choice on either RIM or Facebook's part.
So that's one app down. Unfortunately, RIM has much further to go if it ever wants to compete with the likes of the iPad. The PlayBook's worst feature for now is the lack of apps - not just the missing email, calendaring and contacts applications, either - but all the "standard" big-name apps you expect to see on mobile platforms. They simply haven't arrived yet. Will they? Will Twitter for PlayBook come next? Fingers crossed, BlackBerry fans.