By Harry McCracken | Monday, September 20, 2010 at 1:24 pm
The weekend’s big tech rumor was the possibility that Facebook was working on a Facebook-branded phone of some sort, presumably one with super-tight integration with the social network’s online services. Seems utterly plausible–the scuttlebutt came from decent sources such as TechCrunch and Cnet, and Facebook’s denial was artful rather than comprehensive. Could be cool, too: Joe Hewitt, who’s supposedly working on it, was responsible for the excellent Facebook app for iPhone until he quit that project in disgust over Apple’s App Store policies.
Thinking about Hewitt, though, made me ponder the current state and future of the Facebook iPhone app. It’s seen some tweaks since he left for less restrictive pastures, but nothing radical. And there’s just a ton of undone stuff left that could make Facebook better on an iPhone.
On Android phones, there’s nifty Facebook contact integration that lets you find and call your Facebook pals as easily as any other contact. On the iPhone, the integration between Apple’s Contacts list and Facebook provided by the Facebook app and the third-party utility MyPhone+ is so wimpy that I find it annoying rather than useful. (You can sync niceties such as contact photos, but can’t get phone numbers and e-mail addresses from Facebook onto the phone.)
You can view Facebook photos in the Facebook app, but not in Apple’s app; you can look up events, but I don’t see any way to add them to the iPhone calendar. Basically, Facebook feels like a small, largely walled-off room inside the iPhone.
I suppose that feeling might be one motivation for Facebook to design a phone of its own that it has complete control over–but I’d rather that the company and Apple got together and did what it took to make the Facebook experience on the iPhone (and the iPad, which still doesn’t have a Facebook app at all) as good as it could possibly be.
Back in the 1990s, we didn’t buy “AIM PCs” or “Hotmail PCs”–we expected those services to work with the stuff we already owned. (Okay, AIM and other IM clients still aren’t as open as they should be, but at least they get the job done.) Why should we have to buy a “Facebook phone” to get a truly satisfying version of Facebook on a phone?