Facebook is working on a native app for Android users, but development poses a challenge

Daniel Bader

August 24, 2012 11:20 am

Just as Facebook for iOS got a complete native overhaul, it’s come to light that the company’s Android app is not highly considered within it’s own walls. But according to the company’s own employees, things are about to change for the better.

Prior to Facebook for iOS’ update to version 5.0, both platforms used the company’s HTML5-based mobile site within a native app wrapper, making the experience slow, buggy and unreliable. Many features we took for granted on the desktop, too, were not present on mobile.

The company’s director of mobile engineering has taken to Reddit to address some of those concerns, and they’re encouraging to say the least.

Yes, your hope is justified. Facebook is committed to both Android and iOS, and you’ve now seen what we can do. Stay tuned. (There are things in the Android app that aren’t in the iOS one today, like mentions in posts and comments, photo multi-upload, event creation. Since version 1.9 the Android app has tested faster than the iOS one, but FB-iOS 5.0 obviously changes the game.)

Android presents some unique challenges for developers, especially those with a large user base, but we do and will power through them. A lot of time is spent dealing with device-specific issues and limits, and you really have to fight with the toolkit to get iPhone-smooth interactions. Some vendors have a different HTTP stack (!), none implement the Camera APIs consistently, and reliability of hardware acceleration is…imperfect, GC pauses are terrible, lots of the toolkit insists on doing real work on the UI thread and allocating recreationally. On iOS you can test on 5 devices and basically have the market covered. We have to test on many dozens to get to the top 1/3 of our users, and then the tail starts to get reallylong. I fought with some of these problems during the port of Firefox to Android, but there are a whole new set when you start to use more of the toolkit.

The proof will be in the app we ship you, of course, and text is cheap. But I see lots of smart people at the office every day who want to build an amazing app, and I’m psyched. I can’t wait to come back here in a little while and bask in your praise — or at least read a litany of more minor complaints!

It’s clear that developing for Android, across hundreds or even thousands of devices, poses a huge challenge to any mobile developer, even one with as many resources as Facebook. While things are improving, especially with the maturation of SDKs and the solidifying of API standards across devices and versions, Android is not quite the development haven users have been hoping for.

Here’s hoping that Facebook ships a native version for Android sooner than later. On the positive side, though, there are a number of third-party alternatives such as Friendcaster and Fast for Facebook that are much faster and more full-featured than the company’s work-in-progress official app.

Source: Reddit
Via: Android Police

  • leafs123

    I hope so…the recent updated Facebook app for Android has crashed twice in a day for me on my GNex.

  • ELNY

    I think all developers need to make min requirements for Android apps, just like on PCs. If your phone can’t run it, too bad, time for an upgrade. It would make things a lot more simple for everyone, in my opinion.

  • Alex

    Bugs the he’ll out of me that they completely disregard the biggest smartphone share for icrap first.

  • barry

    Make it easy on yourself. Make it work for the Nexus line. Let the other manufacturers that butcher android with their crappy Sense and Touchwiz, etc., work it out themselves.

  • Android4Life

    Fragmentation is a myth and this facebook fluff is just an excuse. They were paid by Apple not to do an Android app. Apple probably threatened to sue them. I write apps every day that run on all Android phones, regardless of OS version or hardware or other excuses Facebook is making here. This is totally bogus. It isn’t rocket science. Hire some real programmers and they’d have a new app out in a week. Android is the marketshare king. If facebook wants to stay relevant they had better start catering to us techies and forget the iOS sheep that aren’t techies. Apple is failing and soon facebook will follow. Join the winners, follow the money…that’s all Andriod baby!

    • SirTCallingworth

      Haha that’s hilarious! If you follow the money iOS clearly makes much more than android.

  • InsiderR

    @Alex – it seems to be less about marketshare than actually developing a good app. There are so many more variables developing for Android across hundreds of devices that it just makes sense that the Android app would take longer. With only a handful of iDevices, it’s no wonder they developed it for those first (or at least finished the app for them first).

  • Pat

    Facebook is to be blamed with lots of bugs, both on iOS and Android, might as well just use facebook on a computer

  • zzZZzz

    So FB is having issues developing for so many phones, yet third party apps (mentioned in the article) manage to work even better than what they have right now.

    Somehow that really sounds suspicious. Thankfully, I barely ever need to check FB.

  • RIMistheBEST

    is this bb10? *rolling eyes*

  • kris

    more excuses from lazy devs

    meanwhile there are single devs who can create more smooth stable and featureful apps

  • Stuntman

    Instead of working to make the Facebook app work better, why don’t they just allow third party apps like FriendCaster Pro to access all of the posts like the Facebook app? The only reason why I don’t use FriendCaster Pro regularly is that Facebook purposely downgrades the relevance of posts by third party apps and does not allow these third party apps to view all Facebook posts.

    FriendCaster Pro is a great app that works on my Android phones and works much better and more reliably than the FB app. There should be no excuse for Facebook not being able to make something as reliable as FriendCaster Pro considering FriendCaster Pro has better features.

  • BB

    its a shame, thats why web apps some time are better you can make one app for all devices ios, blackberry, and android. Sure some of the integrated features aren’t there, but your pretty much surfing the web anyway. I have no use for facebook, but pretty soon you won’t be able to have a job unless you have millions of friends or a twitter account with followers!

  • mrlostman

    Why not take it one step at a time? They can separately maintain their html5 app (which they have to do anyway) while building a good native app for nexus and galaxy products, and releasing support for more devices as they go.

  • A

    The only thing annoying about Android development vs iPhone development is designing the app. I would’ve preferred if google made it a requirement to have a 16:9 or 1.5:1 aspect ratios.

  • ak

    What about WP?

  • 2dfx

    This folks, is why you develop for a polished, professional, and fluid OS like BB10.

    Easy to program, easy to use, easy to love.

  • Adam

    Sounds to me like they asked their team of iOS dev’s to build the Android version. The only people who complain and make excuses are those that don’t understand the platform.

    If you have a cursory look at the top apps in the Play Store, you will find that, when done properly, Android apps are every bit as smooth, stable, responsive, and feature-rich as those on the iPhone – and many are better.

    Seriously, a company with the cash and brand-awareness such as Facebook should be able to do a lot better than the garbage their dev team has put out. I have used their iOS and Android clients, as well as the web, and all have significant problems from time-to-time. There are no excuses when you are as big as they are.