Research In Motion has finally released version 2 of its Facebook for Blackberry app after four months of beta testing. The update includes Facebook Chat, the ability to share content to BlackBerry Messanger, a redesigned interface, wi-fi support and a deep integration with native handset features, as shown in screenshots from the official BlackBerry blog. Many of these features were available in beta versions to those registered with BlackBerry Beta Zone, but now any user running BlackBerry Device Software v5.0 or later can access them.
Facebook for BlackBerry v2.0 should make RIM’s devices more appealing to Facebook users. This is especially important as the company’s stock drops, it lays off employees, and it loses US smartphone operating system market share, dropping from 27% to 20% since the beginning of the year.
The growing usage of Facebook for BlackBerry is one of the few things going right for RIM. Over the last month, the app added roughly one million new daily active users in the last month to reach 25.3 million DAU, and grew two million monthly active users to 38.9 million MAU according to AppData. Still, the Facebook for iPhone and Android apps are growing twice as fast.
The last official update, Facebook for BlackBerry v1.9 from November 2010, added Places and search. Even with v2.0, the app still lacks access to Groups, Check-In Deals, video uploading and some Page admin functionality that Facebook for Android gained earlier this month.
Tested Features Made Official
Now, Facebook for BlackBerry v2.0 users can use Facebook Chat. While using the app they can carry on multiple conversations, and after going online but exiting the app, users receive BlackBerry notifications about incoming Chat messages. This should make it significantly easier to contact friends with BlackBerry devices. Blake Smith of RIM’s Facebook app development team says Chat was heavily requested, and his team had been working on it for over a year to increase stability and reliability of notifications, and reduce buddy list loading time.
RIM has significantly deepened the integration between the app and the native features of its handsets. Users can now re-share stories from the news feed to their BlackBerry Messanger contacts, save phone numbers, email addresses, and BBM PINs they see to the Contacts app, and see Facebook Events to their Calendar app. This should reduce frustration from users wanting to take information they find on Facebook outside of the app.
Access to profiles and Pages has been enhanced to include tabs for wall, info, and photos, and the ability to see mutual friends. Users can now publish a variety of posts including photos and Places check-ins from the news feed, and click a “more” button to add Likes and Comments in-line.
Users now use a navigation grid, similar to that of other popular Facebook smartphone apps, rather than the old navigation bar. Users can view Facebook notifications about Likes and other actions that don’t trigger a push notification to their handset. A “Today” view (the right side of this post’s first image) shows a list of a user’s most recent notifications, friend requests, Messages, and Chats. Users can also use the app over wi-fi, which is especially handy for those travelling without a local data plan.
RIM has done a solid job of shortening the feature gap between its in-house developed app and the Facebook for iPhone and Android apps that are developed by Facebook itself. None of these previously tested features should come as a big surprise, but they certainly improve the quality of the user experience.