Facebook on iOS is now faster than ever. The social network dropped its native and HTML5 hybrid Android app for a sleeker and faster-performing native Java-based app on Thursday, much to the relief of many Android owners. And today, Facebook silently rolled out a faster iOS app, version 5.3, with one minor feature upgrade – the ability to upload photos to the album of your choice – and improvements in the overall speed of the app.
Facebook’s iOS app upgrade to 5.0 in August marked a shift in the way Facebook executed its mobile strategy. Originally, Facebook built the iOS (and Android) app primarily using HTML5 elements, which is Web technology (as opposed to mobile-only tech), so that it would be quicker to deploy changes across platforms including iOS, Android, and its Web app. Building Facebook’s app around HTML5 meant that there were fewer updates pushed to its users, and incremental changes could be tested with fewer complications. Of course, this came at an expense to speed and performance, which Facebook discovered was more important to its users. HTML5 hasn’t been entirely dropped from the app “for areas within the app where we anticipate making changes more often,” a Facebook software engineer wrote in August. And the latest update might make you forget about the social network’s former oversights.
Normal Facebook users will find that, while browsing your News Feed, there are minimal, if any, delays with photos and text appearing on the screen. For instance, when you select the “new stories” banner that notifies you of new posts by your friends, the page refreshes instantly. Rapidly flipping down through the News Feed, we found that the images and text weren’t able to keep up with the pace, causing us to see blank posts. But after just a momentary wait, the posts (picture and all) were there. Of course, no one would flip through the News Feed like this, so no biggie.
We did recognize that when opening up the News Feed after browsing another page, like our Timeline, or opening up the app, which triggers the page refresh, we ended up waiting 0.5-10 seconds for the page to load and were stuck on the “Updating…” notification longer than we would have liked.
Overall, there are some kinks that could be ironed out. But overall, Facebook’s iOS app is meeting our expectations.