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Editors' note: This review was updated on October 24, 2013 to cover features added in the latest version.
Facebook 5.0 for Windows Phone 8 is the best way to experience Facebook on the Windows Phone yet. It has better performance and more features than just checking Facebook on Internet Explorer on your Windows Phone.
The app was developed by Microsoft, not Facebook, during a beta program to build a native Facebook app for Windows Phone that Microsoft launched in April 2013.
Microsoft deserves credit for building a Facebook app that runs well and incorporates the core Facebook features, but since the app doesn't hail from Facebook, it's missing several advanced options found in the official apps. It doesn't have group messaging, the App Center, games, Offers, Gifts (which sends presents to friends), Chat Heads, stickers in chat, or even sponsored stories and promoted pages. There's also no third-party app integration, meaning the app can't sign you into other apps on your Windows Phone that have a Facebook log-in. But what the app lacks in official features, it makes up for in beautiful design and solid performance.
Facebook for Windows Phone looks a lot like its iOS and Android counterparts, with a nearly identical News Feed, chat menu, and left-side navigation bar. Earlier beta versions of Microsoft's Facebook app used the Metro design, which had slide-scrolling menus that switched from News Feed to your profile, and more. The first official release of the app incorporates Microsoft's blocky aesthetic, with sharp corners, vibrant colors, and flat icons. That's a significant difference from the Facebook apps on iOS and Android, both of which have a 3D look and muted colors.
News Feed and sharing
The default view on the app is your News Feed. If you've used Facebook on a mobile browser, iOS, or Android, the experience is nearly the same. You can filter posts from you friends, pages you like, and people you follow by most recent or top posts (those that are getting the most attention from others) by sliding to the right and tapping a button below your name. There are three small buttons just below the notification bar where you can post a new status update, add a photo, or check in to a location. You can like, comment on, and share posts, just as you would on other Facebook apps and the Web.
In the latest update, released in October 2013, Microsoft addressed a few missing features from previous version of the app. First, you can now upload more than one photo at a time. Second, you can tag someone in a comment or status. Lastly, you can control who can see your photos, status updates, and check-ins, be it your friends, a specific set of Facebook users, or anyone who follows your public posts. Unfortunately, the app still won't show a preview of an article or website when you share a link. The link will just post as a status update with a URL, which is disappointing. You also can't share links directly to the app from Internet Explorer on your phone, which you can do on Android.
Just like on Android and iOS, your News Feed on the Windows Phone app will automatically refresh when you or one of your friends posts something new. The newest version of the app adds a small arrow button on the right side which tells you how many new stories are at the top of your news feed. If you tap the arrow, the app will jump to the latest update. That feature is also available in the other apps.
Getting around the app
Sliding to the right anywhere in the app reveals a navigation bar with options for your profile, messages, events, settings, groups, friends lists, and apps. Your most recent status will show up under your name in the sidebar, a nice design feature you won't find in other Facebook apps.
If you slide to the left in the app, you'll find the chat menu. Chat works just the same as in the iOS and Android apps, but it's missing group chat and Chat Heads, those small circle icons that hang out in your News Feed and give you quick access to message threads. The Windows Phone version almost makes up for those missing features by letting you chat with your Facebook friends from the stock Windows Phone messaging app, which works well.