Facebook for BlackBerry Version 2.0 Beta Hands-On

RIM has just released a beta version 2.0 of the Facebook app for BlackBerry 6.0 handsets (4.6 and higher devices are coming later). We took the updated app for a test drive on the Torch and found plenty of things to like, including a handy notification bar and grid and Facebook alerts even when you’re not in the app. Read on for our first impressions—and how we think the app stacks up to Facebook on iOS.

Chat

New to the BlackBerry app is the ability to connect with your friends via chat and view various conversations in a list-style layout. Even if you’re not in the Facebook app, a tiny red asterisk will appear next to the Facebook icon on your handset’s home screen to alert you when you have a new message. Clicking on a plus sign next to a friend’s name in the chat home screen gives you the option of poking them, sending them a message, writing on their wall, and more.

Compared to the Facebook app for iOS, which organizes your friends on chat alphabetically, we found the BlackBerry app’s chat screen easier to read at a glance. Chat on the BlackBerry app also offers more functionality, including the ability to click through to a friend’s profile or write on their wall; the iOS version only allows for text message-style chatting and includes no links to other parts of Facebook.

News Feed

The news feed on the BlackBerry’s Facebook includes the familiar stream of updates from your friends, but it also adds the ability to like or comment on a status update by clicking the plus button to the right. The iOS app features a similar plus sign icon, which gives you the option to like or comment on a friend’s status.

Navigation Grid

While the previous version of Facebook for BlackBerry included a navigation bar for switching between your news feed, messages, profile, and more along the top of the app, the new version offers a handy navigation grid (pictured at the beginning of this post) with easy access to all the same functionality. The grid looks almost identical to the home screen of the Facebook app for iOS. However, that grid is easier to find than on the BlackBerry, where you have to click the Facebook logo on the upper-left side of the screen to find it.

Notifications Bar

One of the most useful additions to BlackBerry’s Facebook app is a notifications bar that displays all your recent activity across the social-networking site. Displayed activities include notifications, messages, friend requests, and recent chats.

We found this feature particularly handy; having all this information in one place made it easy to keep track of our activities on the site. iOS doesn’t offer similar functionality; Facebook updates are separate for each of the icons (friend requests, messages, etc.) on the app’s homescreen.

Profile UI

The updated BlackBerry app also boasts a new, tabbed profile UI, with separate tabs for your wall, info, and photos. The layout is very similar to what’s available with iOS, with the main difference being the tabs’ placement on the page.

RIM also touts the fact that theirs is the only Facebook app which includes a link to another profile under the Relationship Status category. (In practice, this meant that we could click through to our friends’ significant others’ profiles if they were listed as in a relationship.)

Verdict

Facebook for BlackBerry 2.0 offers some handy features, such as the notification bar and grid for at-a-glance updates on your latest social-networking activities. We also like that the chat feature includes options to visit your friends’ page or send them a message; it’s more dynamic than what Facebook on the iPhone has to offer. Overall, RIM’s app offers more functionality, but it still can’t beat Apple when it comes to ease of use.

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