With enough users to populate a small planet, Facebook has become the quintessential Internet experience. We’re all hopelessly addicted to it whether or not we agree with some of its business practices.
Since I’m a big fan of the iPhone Facebook iPhone app, I naturally went straight to the App Store when I bought my iPad in search of the iPad version and was quite disappointed to see that one doesn’t exist. In lieu of an official app, today we’ll look at your three primary options for getting Facebook free on your iPad.
I’ll start by saying that there are a few non-free apps available that let you use Facebook. However, since Facebook is a free service that works fairly well, as we’ll see below, in the plain old iPad browser, I just can’t see why I should dish out a single cent to use it.
Call me cheap but unless someone develops a revolutionary Facebook experience in a paid app, I’m sticking with free!
Option #1: iPad Safari
The first option is the most obvious. It’s important to remember that the iPad is not the iPhone. It doesn’t have a tiny screen that makes using full-size sites difficult and time consuming. In fact, the screen is only a little smaller than the MacBook screen that I’m currently staring at.
Using Safari, you get nearly the full Facebook experience, excluding of course games and other Flash-driven content. You can update your status, comment, like, and poke to your heart’s content. The site design is minimal enough that it’s actually quite easy and even enjoyable to use.
If you want something a little touch-friendlier, navigate to touch.facebook.com for an even simpler interface.
iPad Safari Verdict
I really don’t mind using the full Facebook in Safari for most of the time. However, I do think that the touch version is too simplified and doesn’t really feel like it’s taking advantage of the iPad as a device.
There are some major downsides to the full version though. Uploading pictures form your iPad isn’t easy. As far as I can tell, the typical upload system doesn’t work at all so you’re forced to work with an email workaround. Further, video content isn’t the best. In my tests, videos shared by my friends continually launched the YouTube app and closed Safari. This is quite annoying and usually makes me avoid watching videos altogether. Finally, Facebook chat is disabled in mobile Safari.
So the verdict here is, skip the touch version, use the full version. It’s just a much richer experience and has the general feeling of Facebook how it’s meant to be.
The Facebook iPhone App
Let’s not forget that the iPad runs iPhone apps just fine. You can either use the Facebook iPhone app in its actual size or choose to blow it up and suffer through the ugly pixelation that occurs as a side effect.
The functionality here is excellent. Everything that you love on the iPhone app works perfectly and it’s designed specifically for an iOS touch experience.
Facebook for iPhone Verdict
As I mentioned above, I really like this app on the iPhone. Facebook has done more than simply port the site to a small screen, they really took the time to make it a unique experience.
However, the iPad isn’t a small screen. If you use it small, it feels like a phenomenal waste of screen real estate. If you use it large, things get ugly. Further, even large it’s really not making good use of the screen. The layout just feels like a blown up small app rather than something that was designed for a large screen.
With the Facebook app you’re also stuck in a vertical orientation for certain parts of the app (some screens work in horizontal mode). Since I really like using my iPad horizontally, this bugs me a lot.
Overall, despite liking the iPhone app on the iPhone, I think the Safari experience is much better on the iPad. Adding photos and a few other functions are a lot easier on the iPhone app, but a quick stop by the service feels much better on the full version of the site.
Friendly for Facebook Lite
Up until recently, Friendly was a paid-only app. However, they just released a free lite version that is surprisingly fully featured. In fact, I’m not sure what the differences are between the two aside from an ad placed at the bottom of the lite version (which is easily closable).
Friendly looks a little like a more developed version of Facebook’s Touch site and is quite close in functionality to Facebook’s official iPhone app. You can chat, upload images, edit your profile, watch videos without being rerouted to another app, check in with places, view your notifications and a lot more.
Friendly not only matches the functionality of the official Facebook iPhone app, it surpasses it with something I haven’t seen in any other Facebook option: multiple account support.
When you start up Friendly, you are given the option to login using one of four accounts that you previously setup. This is great if you share an iPad with a spouse like I do.
Friendly for Facebook Verdict
Friendly is awesome. As far as I’m concerned it’s just as good or better than an official Facebook iPad app would be. I’ve only just started using it but it has quickly become my standard option for Facebook on the iPad.
It’s important to note though that the Safari version does have a couple of advantages of Friendly. For instance, it’s nice to be able to filter your feed by photos, links etc. However, in my opinion, the clear benefits of Friendly easily make up for these small missing features.
Before you decide that the full Facebook site in Safari is the way to go, download Friendly for Facebook Lite. It’s Facebook on your iPad, it’s free, and it’s amazing.
How Do You Use Facebook on Your iPad?
Now that you’ve seen the different options for using Facebook free on your iPad, try them all out and let us know what you think.
Are you sticking with the iPhone app? Or perhaps you’re like me and instantly loved Friendly? I’m sure there are bound to be a few purists out there who stick with the browser version. Leave a comment below and cast your vote!