Facebook for Android v1.4 Mobile App Includes Places and Groups, but Still Lags Behind iPhone

The latest version of the Facebook for Android mobile application reduces the functionality gap between Google’s younger OS and the iOS by adding new features Places and Groups. However, some core features such as Chat and push notifications are still missing, leading many Android users to feel neglected or ignored by the app’s development team.

The Facebook for Android v1.4 follows the August v1.3 update which added the ability to respond to friend requests and Event invites, video playback, a redesigned home page, and a photo carousel which is unique to Android.

The most recent release might have come sooner, but Facebook said at its mobile event that Google bought the company it was outsourcing development of the app to at the last minute. Single sign-on, allowing other Facebook-integrated Android apps to piggyback on a user’s login to the Facebook for Android app, was also announced at the mobile event. However, neither Facebook Deals nor the new Messages product appear to be supported.

The features added in v1.4 run smoothly. Groups, accessible through a home page icon, lets users see a list of their Groups with counters denoting unread posts. Users can read posts, share to a Group’s feed, and see a Group’s members.

Places can only be accessed from its home page icon, and there is no option to check in through the news feed. Users can view check-ins of friends, choose a nearby Place to check in to, and tag friends, similar to the first Facebook for iPhone release with Places.

However, v1.4 doesn’t include second generation Places functionalities such as being able to add a photo to a check-in, or tag additional friends after the check-in has been made, which are available in the latest Facebook for iPhone 3.3.1.

Users now see notifications about comments and updates which link to that activity within the app. High resolution photo uploads are also supported in this release.

Along with the lack of Facebook Deals, users must still use external apps such as Go!Chat to instant message with their Facebook friends. This is a major gripe amongst Android users, with hundreds pleading for Chat on the Facebook for Android Page where the updates to the app are announced. The other significant deficiency is the lack of push notifications, meaning users must constantly open the app to check for new notifications.

Facebook was slow to begin developing an app for the Android OS. The company may still be throttling feature releases to handicap Google, which it has clashed with recently over data portability, and could be competing with when Google’s social product is eventually released. In the meantime, Facebook for Android users are still a step behind iPhone users, but should take comfort in knowing they’re stil better off than those with Blackberry or Palm devices.