Facebook released version 5.0 of its universal iOS app (free, App Store) today for iPhone and iPad and it has been completely re-written in objective C. The previous iteration of the app was mostly a portal which displayed the HTML5 version of Facebook's mobile website.
Although the new app looks similar to the previous version it contains other, more subtle changes, in addition to the iOS native code. According Brian X. Chen, writing for the New York Times' Bits blog, Facebook’s previously stand-alone Camera and Messenger apps have been subsumed into the new Facebook app for iOS making messaging and posting photos faster and rolling up three FB apps into one.
According to the release notes, Facebook also made the following improvements:
- Scrolling through news feed is faster than ever
- New banner lets you tap to quickly see more stories – no need to refresh
- Photos open fast and close with one downward swipe
- Instant access to your notifications
Another feature is that Likes and comments are now displayed in real time, as opposed to requiring a refresh as they did in the HTML 5 version of the app. Mick Johnson, product manager of the Facebook apps for iOS tells The Times that the improvements to the news feed make it "feel alive."
Cory Ondrejka, Facebook’s head of mobile engineering, tells Bits that many people have complained about the performance of the previous app. "When you’re just standing in line getting coffee and you pull out your Facebook app, you just want it to load" Ondrejka goes on to say that the move to native code was simply for speed "you can’t build a good enough experience on iOS using Web tech."
Over 425 million users access Facebook from a mobile device every month and a SDK is available for iOS developers. The app is rolling out today and should be available in the "updates" tab of the App Store for iOS. You can also download v5 directly from the App Store.