Big Changes in LinkedIn for iPhone

There are two things all professionals seem to have in common these days: smartphones and LinkedIn accounts. Accordingly, LinkedIn created a native iPhone app a few years back to help busy people connect on the go. Though it allowed you to use basic LinkedIn functions like viewing profiles and updates, it was far behind other social media apps in terms of usability, design and features.

This August, LinkedIn released Version 4.0 of their iPhone app, and it’s more than just an update: they’ve completely overhauled the app’s interface and functionality, bringing LinkedIn to the forefront of social media app development. Take a look inside after the jump!

Meet LinkedIn 4.0

The LinkedIn app defines four categories for you to interact with: Updates, Profile, Inbox and Groups & More. In recognition that updates is the most accessed feature, the updates screen is the first one you see. The new redesigned app features a stylish leather theme with a more intuitive interface. Touching the logo/page name at the top of the screen will take you back to the “home” screen, and the share and search features are available from any page through the icons beside the logo.

"Home" screen and updates page

"Home" screen and updates page

Though I mostly like the main interface and organization of content, I found myself wishing it was easier to access a list of all my connections.

Updates

The main Updates screen shows you a few top news stories, a quick visual overview of who has new connections and a stream of LinkedIn or Twitter updates from people you’re connected to.

Though you might not initially think of LinkedIn as a place to go for news and updates, I’ve found that it can be surprisingly adept at automatically curating news feeds to your interests.

Viewing news feed and sharing options from within browser

Viewing news feed and sharing options from within browser

From the Top News page, you can scroll through news stories related to your interests, or manage the kind of stories you want to see. If you find an interesting story, you can open it up in the built-in browser. Unlike some other apps, the built-in browser is usable and stable, with the same back/forwards/reload/stop functionality as Safari, as well as options to share, open in Safari or email the link. Integration with ReadItLater or Instapaper would be a welcome addition.

Though the interface is attractive and functional, I found it a bit irritating that it took so many clicks to actually get to the story in the browser. If you see a story you want to read on the first page, you first have to go through the article list, then the summary, before getting to the article.

Profile

The “You” section is where you can access a read-only version of your profile, browse through your connections and check out people you may know. It doesn’t seem very obvious that you need to go to your own profile to find connections, and this could frustrate some users. The “People You May Know” interface features buttons that allow you to quickly connect to or hide potential connections as you scroll through.

Profile view and suggested connections

Profile view and suggested connections

Clicking on a connection displays their profile, recent activity and any connections you have in common. The profile view also gives you access to one-touch emailing and calling from your phone.

Scrolling through connections, viewing a profile

Scrolling through connections, viewing a profile

Inbox & Groups

The inbox and groups features work pretty much as you’d expect them to; the inbox works like an email app, and the groups feature works like any message board with simple comment/like features for links and posts. The groups feature was missing from previous versions of LinkedIn for iPhone, and was a highly requested feature. The app doesn’t disappoint, and participating in groups on the iPhone is intuitive and enjoyable.

The "& More" is really just another "People You May Know" section

The "& More" is really just another "People You May Know" section

Speed Improvements

LinkedIn boasts that they’ve made their new app 2–10 times faster, and it’s really noticeable. Not only is LinkedIn 4.0 faster than its predecessors, it’s also noticeably faster than most other similar apps (definitely faster than Facebook), which makes a real difference when you’re using an older device (like my iPhone 3G) or on a slow network.

Mobile Web App

If you’re looking to check LinkedIn on the go without the commitment of downloading the app, they’ve also created a new mobile-optimized HTML5 website at touch.linkedin.com, with many of the same cool features you find in the native app. In fact, the only thing missing from the mobile site that exists in the app is the groups feature.

What’s Missing

Though this update makes a lot of improvements, there are still some features I’d really like to see in a future update, such as integration with device contact lists and job search functionality. It would also be nice to see a more easily accessible connections list — in my opinion, connections are the most important part of LinkedIn and should be more prominently featured.

Conclusion

You can tell a lot of work was put into this app to make it intuitive, easy and fast for people to stay connected to their LinkedIn peers on the go. With major design, speed and functionality improvements, I think LinkedIn sets the bar for mobile social networking apps.

I was surprised to read several negative (but vague) reviews on the App Store, and a lower star rating for this version than over all. There are definitely a few areas for improvement (article reading, profile editing, accessing connections), but I definitely think it’s a massive improvement over previous versions, and a great app in it’s own right. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts: how does LinkedIn 4.0 stack up?


Summary

LinkedIn allows professionals to connect with each other, share news stories, keep each other informed and make contacts.

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