Facebook’s iPhone App Gets New Push and Sync Features

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By Eric Eldon Comment

Facebook has made a quiet update to its popular iPhone application today. For any device owner trying to get the most out of the service, it is worth downloading.

One part of the update is the option to receive push notifications — pop-up windows or sounds — when people do any of the following: send you messages, post to your wall, request or confirm your friendship, tag you in a photo, invite you to events or otherwise comment on anything related to you. The web interface already lets you decide whether or not to receive email updates for each of these features, as well as others; the push interface basically mimics those options.

The other part of the update is the ability to sync the profile photo and URL of your Facebook friends with your iPhone contact list. The app appears to match the names of Facebook friends with the names of your iPhone contacts. The URL for each friends’ profile appears as a link within their address book entry that, when clicked on, opens their Facebook profile within the Facebook iPhone app. This is an easy way to get information about your friends’ latest activities before calling them. Within the sync interface, Facebook also interestingly asks users to “make sure your friends are comfortable with any use you make of their information” even though the Facebook terms of service and privacy policies already provide for this sort of usage.

However, at this time there’s no way to export your Facebook friends’ phone numbers or email addresses to your iPhone contacts. But, as before, the Facebook app friend list shows you people who have provided their phone numbers, and clicking through will let you call those numbers using your phone.

Notably, some third-party iPhone apps, like PhoneBook, have already let you pair your Facebook friend’s photos with their entries in the iPhone address book.¬†From what we’ve seen, the Facebook app replaces the photos and other data from those apps with its own.

And, judging from user comments in the iTunes App Store, iPod Touch users have not been able to access the new version of the app. It’s not clear if that’s a bug or what. The number of touch Facebook users appeared to grow considerably over the holidays as third-party studies indicated people received the device for Christmas then went and downloaded the Facebook app to use over their WiFi connections. On our end, we saw the app grow significantly, starting on Christmas and continuing up until now.

It now has 23.5 million monthly active users, nearly half of whom use it every day, making the app one of the most heavily used on Facebook’s platform. Today’s update is its biggest since the 3.0 version release earlier this summer; the last release included the additions of versions in Chinese and Japanese. Still to come, according to the app’s previous roadmap, is the addition of site-wide searches that you can save.

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