The third major edition of Facebook for iPhone has just crept into the iTunes App Store. It's a huge update, with numerous advanced features that make Facebook more interactive than before and which bring the app as close to the desktop experience as it's ever been.
Facebook for iPhone opens on your news feed as usual, but the upper left corner now sports a tiny grid icon that serves as the main organizing feature for this new build. Click it to see a screen equipped with a search bar on top, a notification alert area on the bottom, and a grid of nine activities you can perform in the middle. These include the news feed, your profile details, your message in-box, Facebook chat, friend requests, events, photo albums, and notes.
Those who use Facebook on the iPhone frequently will notice that quite a few of these actions are brand new, like viewing events and submitting an RSVP from your phone. You'll also be able to view friends' birthdays and upload photos to any album. Anyone sporting an iPhone 3GS gets the added bonus of uploading video.
Photos received a lot of attention in this update. You'll now be able to zoom into photos, create albums and delete them, as well as upload and delete photos and photo tags, all from the Facebook interface. In addition, you can upload a new profile picture.
Facebook has also poured energy into how it deals with friends. You're now able to call or text friends from the interface, which brings Facebook's social connectivity into the real world. You can see friends of friends and mutual friends from the app, too, as well as the Pages you subscribe to. If you're trying to locate a friend from within a page, Facebook has thought of that too, by equipping the page with search. To top it off, you can subscribe to Pages from the phone, not merely view them passively.
The new built-in Web browser is one feature addition that some may miss at first, but which is ultimately one of the most practical and useful for keeping the Facebook experience on iPhone firmly within the Facebook app. Before this integration, clicking a link would kick you out of the app and open a Safari browser. You would have to restart Facebook to resume your place.
There are more additions besides, but we thought we would start you off with a little taste and some first impressions. To see the full list, visit the Facebook page on iTunes.
So far, this app impresses, but we'll keep you up to date on any quibbles we develop as we spend more time with this it and really get to know both its strong points and its flaws. iPhone and iPod Touch users, what do you think?
Tip: If iTunes is still showing version 2.5 on your desktop, click the "Facebook" breadcrumb on the page's top navigation. Refreshing the Web page won't necessarily do the trick. On the iPhone, delete the Facebook application and download it anew from the App Store on your phone. Even if the app page does not say it's version 3.0, the new version should install.