Facebook is going head-on into the path of most resistance when it comes to Android. Its main app has been the butt of jokes since it was launched, and even since it went native in 2012 the company has endured scrutiny for poor performance.
Today, Facebook has announced plans to combat such scorn with the launch of a beta program for its main app. By partnering with Google Groups and the Google Play Beta Program, Facebook will allow users to sign up for the beta program, giving them access to the new app through official means — Google Play itself — as opposed to download an APK and overwriting the original file.
Google announced support for an extensive and granular alpha and beta program at its developer conference in May, allowing third-party developers to use Google Groups or Google+ to officially distribute tester versions of its apps through the Play Store. Customers like Falcon Pro, Plume, Sliding Messaging and Flesky, among others, have already taken part.
In a blog post today, Facebook said of Android: “Facebook is the most-downloaded app in the Play Store, so we need to make sure it works for everyone, no matter their amount of RAM, network conditions, or version of Android they might be using. We want to make sure we’re always optimizing their experiences. With so many use cases to solve, testing becomes crucial to ensuring positive, consistent experiences across Android.”
In other words, Facebook wants early adopters, across a variety of devices, form factors and network speeds, to be the guinea pigs for its Android team. Recently, the company released Facebook Home, a launcher replacement for a small subset of Android devices running Ice Cream Sandwich or above. The reception was tepid at best, but the social networking giant, which surpassed 750 million mobile users recently, has promised to work out the kinks in monthly updates.
So too will it endeavour to fix the issues plaguing many Facebook for Android users. Notably, the app scrolls slowly and renders images at glacial speeds. Early indications point to dramatic improvements in the first beta version, along with some neat updates to the interface. For example, it’s possible to open the left- and right-side menu bars by swiping in from either side. This was previously only possible by tapping a button at the top left or right of the interface.
To join the beta program, follow the following instructions. Once joined, downloading an update from the Play Store will replace the original Facebook app. Most users won’t notice much of a difference at first, but Facebook promises monthly updates.
1) Join the Facebook for Android Beta Testers Google group
2) Allow beta downloads by clicking Become a Tester in the Play Store (you need to join the Google Group before becoming a tester)
3) Download Facebook from the Play Store to update your app
4) Join the Facebook for Android Beta Testers group on Facebook to tell us what you think