Facebook for Android catching up to iPhone Facebook?

A significant update to Facebook for Android brings missing features and a revamped design that's similar to the iPhone's.

Facebook for Android 1.3.0
A prettier Facebook for Android. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Facebook for Android updated to version 1.3.0 on Tuesday, and while we wouldn't say that it's as elegant and accessible as Facebook for iPhone, the Android version is absolutely improving.

A done-up interface greets you on boot-up, with seven icons for your news feed, profile, friends, photos, message in-box, events (like birthdays), and pending friend requests. The latter two are new additions and welcome ways to easily manage your Facebook account.

Below the icon dashboard is a photo reel that lets you swipe through thumbnails of friends' recently uploaded photos, although there's no context surrounding the image until you click through to your buddy's profile page. Even then, you won't be able to enlarge the image until you click again.

The start screen is also home to a notifications bar that slides up to share the latest news. In addition, there are shortcut buttons for updating your status and searching your friend list or the global Facebook roster. We also hear tell of videos playing back through H.264 encoding, though we couldn't find any videos in our newsfeed to subject to testing.

While the update certainly makes Facebook for Android easier on the eyes and more socially appealing, it still pales to Facebook for iPhone 3.0, which we can't help but look to as the standard--not only for its visual sophistication but also for its workflow.

The Android and iPhone versions have essentially switched which screen stands in as the home screen--on Android it's the dashboard whereas on the iPhone, that honor belongs to the newsfeed. This organization on Android adds a step when posting a photo or status update because you'll need to switch over to the newsfeed first. The Android version also lacks Facebook chat and notes. There are a few other extra goodies in the iPhone app as well, including syncing Facebook photos with address book contacts from the app.

One user niggle, the fact that Facebook on Android loads an optimized version of Facebook.com to deliver content like photos, events, and your message in-box, is an identical operating procedure for iPhone as well. If your network speeds are slower, you're more likely to notice a delay.

Considering we called the predecessor, Facebook for Android 1.3, a "simple" and "limited" alternative to Facebook.com that wasn't saying much, this update's ability to get you in front of invites, events, and photos (two ways) is an indisputable march forward.

 

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