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Hands-On with Facebook's Official iPad App

Facebook today released its long-awaited native app for the iPad, allowing users to get the complete and immersive Facebook experience on a full tablet spread.

General User Interface

The first thing you'll notice when you fire up the app is that this is all very familiar territory. Facebook for iPad retains the same dark blue and slate gray color scheme of its website, and prominently displays your profile picture in the upper left-hand corner. Right beneath your picture is a menu with quick-access links to your Wall, Info, Photos and Friends. A menu right across the top of the right-side panel contains functions for updating your status, viewing your photo albums, or doing a quick Check In. At the same time, the familiar blue navigation bar--containing icons for friend requests, messages and notifications--stays permanently at the very top of your screen, so you never lose your place in the app.

Drill down to a Status update, and you get options for tagging your friends within your blurb, adding in a location via Facebook Places, and selecting an accompanying photo. (We were using the first-generation iPad app to test the Facebook app, so we could only choose from photos that were already loaded onto the device, but we assume that iPad 2 users will get the option of taking a picture with the built-in camera.) Finally, the app lets you filter the networks who will get the privilege of seeing your status update--Public, Friends, etc.

Fantastic Photo Albums

Photos look absolutely outstanding, given the iPad's additional screen real estate. The user's albums are arranged in a generously spaced grid, and a tap on the cover of any album brings up a similarly laid out grid of the photos within it with a bouncy, slide-in animation. 

Once you've selected a photo, you can pinch to zoom in, or scroll through a carousel of shots in a menu that appears across the bottom of the app to get to the photo you want. It's a fun and natural way to view your photos--just like a slideshow.

Tap on the icon on the upper left corner of the app, and a left-hand menu bar appears, conveniently letting you access your games, apps, groups and lists. The app automatically detects the sections you use the most, and floats them right at the top for easy access. Additionally, a search bar sits right at the top of this menu, allowing you to search for people, games, pages, and more without having to switch out your screen.

The official Facebook for iPad also comes with a slew of much-desired new features: You can chat with your friends right inside the app, play Facebook games in full-screen mode, watch embedded high-res videos, record HD video, and seamlessly stream multimedia content to Airplay-enabled devices.

In addition to releasing its official iPad app, Facebook has dropped several other updates, including improvements to its iPhone app and an enhanced HTML5 version of

Facebook for iPad is free and available on the iTunes Store right now.