Facebook for Android review: The best way to use Facebook on the go

Nearby Friends is a brand-new feature in the newest version of Facebook's Android app. Using GPS, it shows the approximate location of your friends, grouped by city. It's similar to Apple's Find My Friends feature, which uses your phone's contacts and GPS to plot your friends and family's location on a map.

In order to use it, you need to enable the feature in the More tab, under Nearby Friends -- Facebook will not automatically turn on this feature for you. You can also turn it on by touching the icon at the top-right of the app, which looks like a person with three lines behind it. That'll open your chat list, and at the top, there's a section for Nearby Friends.

After you've gone through the short setup process, you'll see a list of other friends using Nearby Friends, and their approximate locations. It'll say what city they're in and a general location, such as a neighborhood, if available. You'll see how far away, in miles, they are from you, and how long ago, in minutes, they were in that area.

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Facebook's Nearby Friends feature helps you see your friends' locations. Screenshots by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

In order to give your friends a more precise location, you need to manually share your location. To do that, find the friend you want to share with on your Nearby Friends list and tap the tiny navigation icon next to their name. You can choose how long you want to share your location (the default is 2 hours), and an optional message. Then, your friend will see your profile photo on a map, marking your exact location. If friends tap on your photo, it goes straight to your profile, where they can message you to get together.

Facebook says the point of all of this is to be able to see which of your friends are nearby so you can have more face-to-face encounters. If that's the case, I wish Facebook launched a new chat when someone touched on a profile picture from the map, or selected a friend from the Nearby Friends list. Going to their profile is an unnecessary step.

This feature is slowing rolling out to each Facebook account, so sit tight if you don't see it yet. Nearby Friends can be useful for finding friends nearby, but it's hard to say how much value it brings. At the very least, you might be able to avoid encounters with people you don't want to see because you'll know roughly where they are.

Instant messaging

In April, Facebook announced that it would soon remove your message inbox from its main app, forcing you to use its separate Messenger app to chat with your friends. It hasn't done away with in-app messaging quite yet, as you can still head to the Messages tab to chat.

You can also start a new chat by tapping the chat button at the top right to open a list of friends who are online right now.

Personalize your profile

If you want to change your account settings, the Facebook app offers some options. There is a full Settings menu available, so you can tweak notifications, security, and so on. And if you want to change your Cover Photo or profile photo, you can do so right from your Timeline. You can do all of this from the More tab.

Final thoughts

Facebook for Android makes it easy to quickly skim through your News Feed and fire off updates at will, thanks to its helpful sharing features and security tools. In the latest version, you can now share your location with your friends, which can prove helpful for impromptu get-togethers. However, the sheer number of steps needed to use that feature makes it feel secure, but still clunky.

Facebook also gets a modern new design that makes it a bit more complicated to use but easier on the eyes. It may still not be the most attractive app on the market, but Facebook for Android certainly works well at helping you stay connected.

Jaymar Cabebe contributed to this review.

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    Where to Buy

    Facebook (Android)

    Part Number: com.facebook.katana

    Free

    Quick Specifications See All

    • Category Social networking
    • Compatibility Android