iOS Safari vs. the Facebook App

Two years ago I made the move from a mobile phone with a keyboard to a smartphone, an iPhone 3GS, and it has served me well since then. I’ve been using Facebook for ages – perhaps sometime in 2008 based on a look at my timeline.

I’ve been dutifully using the Facebook app on my iPhone, first with iOS 5 and now with iOS 6. And it’s worked decently, although Facebook seems to have an aversion to supporting landscape mode (which it shares with Google+, among a host of other apps). Of all the features the app is missing, this is the one most mentioned in reviews.

With recent improvements, the Facebook app pops up a little round image to let you know that you’ve received a message, and there’s a button to click when new posts are available. Those two features are unique to the app, and they’re very nice to have.

That said, I’m using Safari more and more often to access Facebook. Here’s why.

1. Reader

I think the most useful feature in Safari for iOS, especially on an iPhone or iPod touch, is Reader, which does a great job of distilling just the content of an article without all the ads, site headers, and other clutter that make the page busy. It lets you focus on just the article. Sure, you can zoom in on the text, but all that other stuff is there, and even when you zoom in, sometimes the text is too small or too wide to read on a tiny 3.5″ or 4″ display.

2. Landscape Mode

Want to take a good look at a landscape mode photo in the Facebook app? It isn’t going to happen. But in Safari (as well as other browsers), you can rotate your iPhone and move to landscape mode. Videos, except for those shot in portrait mode, also do better in landscape mode.

3. It’s a Real Browser

When you follow a link in the Facebook app, it displays the target page within the Facebook app. Once there, if you don’t like the way it’s displayed or the fact that video or some other feature isn’t supported, you can open the page in Safari, which has better video support than Facebook. Or you can just use Safari to access Facebook in the first place.

4. It Just Works

On the iPhone 3GS, the Facebook app just doesn’t want to launch a lot of the time. Launch it. Launch it again. And maybe again. After two or three or four tries, it might finally launch properly. Since upgrading to an iPhone 4S two weeks ago, I haven’t seen that problem, but the simple fact is that Safari has no problem launching and accessing Facebook on my low-end iPhone 3GS.

5. Facebook Messages

Facebook has launched a separate Messages app, which you can run in the background to let you know about new Facebook messages. One less reason to use the Facebook app and one more reason using Safari isn’t a compromise.

Facebook App Advantages

As I’ve already noted, the Facebook app lets you know when there’s new content, and it notifies you of new messages within the app. The latest version scrolls very smoothly, even on my old iPhone 3GS.

Facebook Mobile header

The only other advantage I can think of is that the Facebook app always keeps that top blue bar in view, whereas iOS browsers do not. Sometimes that’s nice.


Because of the way the Facebook app accesses the Web, it’s not a full solution. There are pages that don’t render properly and video that can’t be viewed – but go to Safari, and you’ve got better video support and Reader.

If you’ve become frustrated by the Facebook app, give Safari a try. Or, as an alternative, you might want to try the Dolphin browser, which also handles social media and the whole Web very nicely. It’s my second choice iOS browser, and I rarely us it for anything other than Facebook.

Don’t feel you’re locked into the Facebook app just because it’s optimized for Facebook, because while it has some advantages, it may not be the best Facebook experience on your iPhone or iPod touch.

Keywords: #facebookapp #safari #dolphinbrowser

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