Los Angeles — Relentlessly striving to keep pace with technological advancements, social networking giant Facebook today unveiled a new version of its iOS app it has rebuilt from scratch, which it claims to be twice as fast as the previous version, as well as boost the speed of scrolling through the news feed and opening photos.
The newly released version 5.0 of its universal iOS app (free, App Store), which Facebook said it has “rebuilt from scratch,” was written in Objective C as opposed to being a glorified HTML5 viewer like the previous version, will open quickly and allow users to scroll through stories smoothly and load photos instantly, the company said in a blog post.
According to the release notes, Facebook also made the following enhancements:
As a matter of fact, to keep tabs on new stories, the revised iOS app includes a new banner atop the news feed that highlights how many new posts are waiting to be read. Tap it and new stories will appear.
In addition, Facebook also promised that photos will “load instantly” as soon as you tap. “Pull down to close it with a single swipe,” Facebook said.
According to CNET’s Sharon Vaknin tweeted that she’s definitely seeing an improvement:
Facebook was not kidding — the new iOS app is much faster. The photo-browsing experience has improved 10x, &the little UI tweaks are slick.
— Sharon Vaknin (@sharonvak) August 23, 2012
Moving ahead in full swing, the social media giant said the iOS update will be available later today in the App Store. According to reports pouring in from various sources said that scrolling did indeed appear a bit smoother; in recent months, the iOS app felt sluggish and sometimes came to a standstill while trying to open photos, read comments, or refresh the news feed. Photos also opened quickly, simply filling up the whole screen when tapped. Comments and likes overlay the image when selected. A quick swipe down or tap of the “done” button returned me to the news feed.
Although the new app looks pretty much identical to the previous version it contains other, more subtle changes, in addition to the iOS native code.
According to Cory Ondrejka, Facebooks’ head of mobile engineering, informed Bits that many people have been grumbling about the performance of the previous app: “When you are 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 cannot build a good enough experience on iOS using Web tech.”
Facebook’s previously stand-alone Camera and Messenger apps have also been incorporated into the retooled Facebook app for iOS making messaging and posting photos faster and rolling up three FB apps into one, which is an amazing improvement. Another nifty feature is that Likes and comments are now displayed in real time, as opposed to requiring a refresh as they did in the HTML5 version of the app.
Its a smart move on Facebook’s part to be paying attention to its iOS app, as more that 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.
Admittedly, if this update means a better user experience, that could also mean more eyes on the product and a more attractive platform for advertisers, particularity because Internet companies need ways to make money in the rapidly-growing mobile market.
For more on Facebook 5.0 for iOS, see the slideshow here.