Facebook Gains an Android Facelift

Facebook for Android (s goog) got a long overdue update tonight (perhaps the final push was Mark Zuckerberg’s installing the Android app himself last week?), after playing second fiddle to the iOS version for far too long. The updated app gains some of the iPhone’s client look and feel, but also adds a draggable Notifications drawer and a new photo reel showing pictures and videos from friends.

The new client for Android supports more actions from the main screen. You can now respond to friend requests in the app, for example. There’s also a one-touch button to post a status update, support for Events — including RSVP in the app — and the new photo reel along the bottom. A Facebook spokesperson told me via email that the new client now supports in-app video playback that uses H.264 encoding, although I haven’t tried videos just yet. None of my friends are camera-happy today, it seems.

Android device owners that already have Facebook installed will see an update in the Android Market now. There’s still room for improvement here — I’m thinking support for Facebook chat and contact groups — but overall, the overhaul is welcome. And the Notification shade is a nice play on the native Android notifications, allowing Facebook users to be informed, but not overwhelmed with new information from their friends. After missing the fuller-featured app when I moved from iOS to Android in January, I’m ecstatic that I now have a richer Facebook experience — consider that a warning to all of my Facebook friends that I’ll be annoying them far more often now.

Many of the updates seem designed to keep users in the application longer. That’s not a bad thing — I personally prefer to stay in apps instead of bouncing out to the web for related features. Though like other Facebook mobile products, the new Android client doesn’t yet have ads, Android’s massive growing user base combined with increased engagement could make a killer platform for mobile revenue opportunities.

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