Another Look at the iPhone Facebook App

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Last July I looked at the then-current Facebook app, compared it with using Safari to view Facebook, and found the app lacking. Today I’m looking at the latest version, 5.0, and comparing it with three different browsers using my iPhone 4S running iOS 7.1.1.

The Facebook app has made some steps forward since then, and Facebook has launched a separate Messenger app to handle Facebook messaging separately from the regular app. I find that very nice – and it’s about the only big step in the right direction that Facebook has made since last summer.

The Facebook app is notoriously buggy and prone to spontaneously quitting in the middle of a session. That’s just plain frustrating and inexcusable.

Facebook 5.0 on iPhonePerhaps the worst thing the Facebook app does is forget where you were the last time you used it. With multitasking, apps should be able to save their state and bring you back to the same page you were on when you switched to another app. Facebook for iOS doesn’t do that. Instead, it brings you back to your news feed, and if you were reading an article, that’s really frustrating.

One advantage the Facebook app has over using Safari is that you can easily sort your news feed by Most Recent or some other criterion. Since Facebook defaults to sorting according to some arcane algorithm known only to the Facebook intelligentsia, it’s nice to have the ability to easily sort your news feed the way most Facebook users seem to prefer it, starting with the most recent posting.

Facebook on iPhone Safari

Facebook on iPhone SafariLast July, I recommended Safari over the Facebook app for two specific reasons. The first is its Reader feature, which lets you view just the text of many web pages. For pages with small type or lots of ads, this is a real blessing. The other advantage is that when you follow an external link, Safari creates a new browser window, and that also means that you don’t lose your place in your news feed.

One great frustration with using Safari on the iPhone to view the mobile version of Facebook is that you completely lose the ability to sort your news feed. Not only that, but Facebook seems to change the order of items in your news feed every time you reload it. That’s very frustrating – and frankly inexcusable. If Facebook’s custom sorting algorithm is so darned good, why is it so inconsistent?

Safari gets points for Reader, using new browser windows for off-Facebook content, and being stable. It loses one point for not having a tool for sorting your news feed – and that’s all Facebook’s fault, as you’ll see below.

Facebook on Dolphin

Facebook in Dolphin for iPhoneI’m a big fan of the Dolphin browser on my iPhone. It’s quick, and it loads a home page with buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other pages you’re likely to frequent. Very convenient.

Dolphin is stable and handles Facebook nicely. Like Safari, it opens external articles in separate windows, so you don’t lose your place in your news feed.

Alas, also like Safari, Facebook Mobile does not display with a tool to sort your news feed. We have to wonder if Facebook does this deliberately to nudge people toward their Facebook app instead of third-party browsers.

The only disadvantage compared with Safari is lack of the Reader feature.

Facebook on Chrome

Facebook in Chrome for iPhoneI’ve become a big fan of Google’s Chrome browser on my MacBook and Mac mini. It’s probably the browser I use the most in OS X 10.6 and 10.9 – and it’s nice to have it available on my iPhone as well.

Surprisingly, when you view the mobile version of Facebook using Chrome on the iPhone, you have a Sort button where Safari and Dolphin display a search window. That’s what has me thinking that maybe the folks at Facebook are deliberately crippling their mobile site on most browsers to push people into using the official Facebook app.

The alternative explanation is that Chrome is big enough and Google is powerful enough to put some pressure on Facebook to display that Sort button in Chrome.

Whatever the reason, of the three browsers I have on my iPhone, this is the one to use if you want to sort your news feed.

Conclusion

There are valid reasons for avoiding the official Facebook app, stability being chief among them, and while each browser provides some pros and cons, not one of them has all the benefits.

Because I often read articles linked in Facebook, Safari is my first choice, because Reader makes a lot of pages far easier to read. (I often open lengthy articles into Safari from the Facebook app so I can use Reader, keep them in a tab, or just not have to worry about Facebook crashing and having to find the article again.)

That said, if you want the ability to sort your news feed, Chrome is the winner among these browsers.

Dolphin is a competent and quick browser, but I don’t see a reason to choose it over Safari or Chrome when viewing Facebook. That said, you still might want to give it a try. I find it a very pleasant browser.

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One thought on “Another Look at the iPhone Facebook App

  1. I’ve used Facebook on Safari for years until I discovered Facebook Paper, although you need a US iTunes account, they basically created a fast and good looking app that integrates messaging and gets rid of all the clutter (that includes ads) you can also opt out of notifications, definitely worth checking it out

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