Yesterday, Blackberry announced the launch of a native Facebook app for its new tablet device the PlayBook. It will include the ability to browse the news feed, upload and browse photos, send Messages, and most innovatively, Chat with multiple friends simultaneously via two-panel interface and be notified of new instant messages. Unfortunately, the app lacks a core mobile feature — Events — as well as new Facebook features such as Groups and Places.
Facebook for Blackberry PlayBook lags far behind native apps for iOS, Android, and even the standard Facebook for Blackberry, but at least the tablet has an official native Facebook app, unlike Apple’s iPad.
Facebook said last year that it is seeking to maintain feature parity between the native iOS and Android apps, with both receiving new features within a few weeks of their launch on the web version of Facebook. Meanwhile, Blackberry, Palm webOS and Windows are much farther behind, with none of them supporting Facebook Groups which launched October.
The PlayBook tablet’s large screensize makes it useful for browsing media through the news feed. If users click on a video or website link, the content will be loaded in the PlayBook web browser. Users can upload and browse photos in tablet-optimized albums, and also tag friends in photos — one feature lacking in Facebook for Android. However, part of the draw back of an experience designed for a wide screen is that Facebook for Blackberry PlayBook can’t be used in portrait mode.
Facebook’s native smartphone apps only allow users to view one Chat conversation at a time, requiring users to dive in and out to carry on multiple conversations at once. The PlayBook app’s two-panel interface lets users switch between online friends and active conversations on the right while sending instant messages on the right. Users receive notifications whenever they receive a new Chat no matter where in the app they are — a major improvement over the Facebook for iPhone and other mobile apps that don’t include Chat notifications.
While the news feed and Chat may work well, a mobile device needs to support feature that are core to mobile use cases such as Places, which allows users to check in to nearby locations, and Events, which allows users to view the address of a party they might be on their way to. Without these, in many cases Blackberry PlayBook users may be better off using Facebook’s mobile website via the browser, which includes Places, Events, and Groups.