Refreshed Facebook for BlackBerry Improves Integration with Native Contacts App

Blackberry has released a “refresh” of its Facebook for BlackBerry v2.0 beta app that improves the app’s integration with Blackberry’s native contacts, phone, and SMS apps; adds some new feature to chat and profiles; and makes it compatible with the outdated BlackBerry Device Software v5.0.

These enhancements underscore Facebook’s increasing role as an aggregator of contact information that augments one’s own phonebook.

The refreshed beta app is now available to registered BlackBerry Beta Zone users, and the new features will likely appear in the official version of the app when it’s released. The initial beta release of v2.0 added Chat. BlackBerry also just released a native Facebook app for its PlayBook tablet device. While it included an innovative dual-panel Chat interface, it lacked crucial mobile features such as Events and Places making it better as an alternative Facebook interface for use at home than a true mobile app.

Facebook for BlackBerry v2.0 can now click on BlackBerry PINs, phone numbers and email addresses they see on Facebook wall posts or profiles to open a menu of options for using that contact information with the device’s native apps. Users can add data to their contacts, call or SMS phone numbers, send an email to clicked address, or send a BlackBerry Message to a PIN. The interface works better than that of Facebook for iPhone, which automatically takes the corresponding action when contact info is clicked, rather than giving the option to save the information for later.

Facebook asks users to connect a mobile number to their account for security purposes, leading them to also display their numbers in their profiles, making Facebook a more and more reliable way to find the phone numbers of associates. This can be especially useful in emergency situations, and these new BlackBerry features facilitate this utility.

The app has also improved the Chat experience by letting users see if their conversation partner is currently typing — another feature lacking from Facebook for iPhone and some other native apps. Users can also search their friend lists to find chat partners quickly. In terms of performance, BlackBerry reports that it has improved Chat connection, shortened online contacts list loading time, and made Chat message delivery notifications more consistent.

Other minor improvements include the ability to see a friend’s friend list and your mutual friends, and easier navigation of the news feed thanks to a persistently visible cursor. Compatibility with the old BlackBerry Device Software v5.0 that was released in late 2009 means those with older devices can use the latest Facebook features.

It’s impressive to see BlackBerry one-upping in some way the Facebook for iPhone app.  While it still lacks some major features present on the iOS app including Groups, the company’s mobile development team appears to be focusing on deepening the Facebook integration with BlackBerry’s core value proposition — contact organization.