Facebook Android App Update Offers New Toys, Fails At Basics
By Matt Algren. April 24, 2012, 9:00 AM CDT
Facebook updated their Android App to version 1.9 last Friday, offering two new icons, a slightly refreshed interface, and some performance improvements. As always, Facebook wants to make it easier to stay immersed in their social network, and the two new icons do just that.
With Facebook’s billion dollar purchase of Instagram less than two weeks old, it’s no surprise that the company wants users to focus on photo sharing. The new image shortcut opens Facebook’s interface with the Android device’s camera app, removing the barrier between taking a picture and sharing it with Facebook friends. Of course, you can do that with one tap from the open Facebook app, but this puts the prompt front and center without even opening the app.
A year after their purchase of messaging app Beluga and eight months since the release of the resulting stand-alone Facebook Messenger app, Facebook has finally begun integrating the Messenger app into the mother ship. The new Messenger shortcut leads users to some new features, which you can also access from the main app’s main menu, without the need for the stand-alone. Hopefully, this signals the complete integration of the two; with the main app installed on ten times more devices than Messenger, I can’t imagine Facebook will keep both running for long.
You’ll want to check out the app’s settings menu to make some adjustments on new Messenger features. I was disappointed (but not at all surprised) to see that Facebook had turned on Messenger’s location service by default. I’m trying to hold onto the last shreds of privacy, so I’d rather not have a map of my exact location shared with every message I send. There are also some new notification options, all of which are turned on by default as well. You may want to fine tune those, especially because Facebook seems to have finally gotten notifications working.
There are other minor changes, like a few new icons in the interface and a new splash page while the app loads up, but that’s about it for this update. Frustratingly absent are improvements that users have been begging for for what seems like forever. Facebook’s news feed still doesn’t remember that I always want to see the most recent updates and never ever ever want to see only what Facebook’s algorithm thinks I should look at. (Seriously, Facebook. Persistent controls aren’t hard.) The Facebook widget is still unbelievably awful; right now, the most recent status update on my widget is from 12 hours ago, even though the widget is set to update every hour.
And there’s still no way to reshare someone’s picture without re-uploading it nor a way to reshare someone’s news story from the app without opening the browser and starting from scratch. Those have been major features on the desktop version for years now, and with Facebook’s continuing focus on a completely immersive experience, I’m honestly dumbfounded that they haven’t made these basic functions available on the app yet.
If you use Facebook Messenger or share original images, you’ll probably love this update. If you want Facebook’s mobile experience to match the desktop experience, go ahead with the update but don’t expect to be wowed. And if you want a widget that offers the least bit of usability, well, better luck next time.
About Matt Algren
Matt is a self-taught tinkerer who's fallen madly in love with social media and neato Android stuff. He writes on an eight-year-old computer that constantly freezes up on him, leading him to teach the neighborhood kids many new swear words when he has his windows open. He's probably eating chocolate ice cream in his home in Southwest Ohio right now. It's delicious.