What started as a way for college students to keep tabs on each other has blossomed into a cultural force. Facebook has millions of users around the world -- and more than 250 million of them log in using mobile devices each month.
The first mobile Facebook users were only able to update their status using text messages. As smart phones got smarter, they were able to access Facebook's mobile site, m.facebook.com, in their browsers. Then came the iPhone, the Android, and other advanced phone operating systems, which had app markets where users could download small programs made just for these phones.
Facebook of course jumped on that massive bandwagon, creating an app that has evolved to be nearly as fully featured as the web-based version of its site. And Facebook continues to offer more apps and features, such as the chat app that was made available in August 2011. It's even gone a bit retro by offering a Facebook app for "dumb phones," also called "feature phones," that don't have all the bells and whistles of an iPhone or Android device.
No matter which device you have, Facebook's likely got you covered. Let's take a look at how to get the Facebook app.
How to Get Facebook Mobile
If you want to get to Facebook on a computer, it's easy. Just go to facebook.com. If you want to find Facebook on any mobile device, use the dedicated mobile site, m.facebook.com. But the easiest way to navigate Facebook on your smartphone is to use the Facebook app.
First, you'll need to download the app. Visit your app market, which is usually accessible on your smartphone, and install the Facebook app with just a few taps of your finger. It's really that easy. Some phones make it even easier by having the Facebook app already installed on your phone. Two hundred and fifty million mobile users can't be ignored, after all.
Once you've got the app, you need a Facebook account. You can do this through the app when you first set it up, or you can use your computer. In either case you'll choose a user name and password, and give Facebook an email for sending notifications and account information. Then you can set up a profile with your hobbies, hometown, relationships, a picture of you and your cat -- whatever you like. If you've already got a user name and password, the Facebook app will prompt you to enter the first time you tap that blue-and-white "F" in your phone's app directory.
There are apps for just about every smartphone out there, including iPhone, Android, Palm, Blackberry and Windows phones. You can also find Facebook apps for tablet computers, which run on similar systems. As of July 2011, you can also get an app for Java-capable phones that aren't necessarily "smart." Check the Facebook blog to see if your phone is one of the 2,500 that can use this app.
Now that you're in, let's check out what you can do (answer: almost anything).
Facebook Mobile App Features
The Facebook app's home page puts links to all of the web site's features on one small, convenient screen. Your News Feed, Profile, Friends, Messages, Places, and more can be accessed from here, and your notifications are shown at the bottom of the screen. If anyone has tagged you in a post or photo or written on your wall, you'll find out about it here.
Most people start with the News Feed, since that's where you'll find the social part of this social network. Push the "Top News" button at the top right of the News Feed page and it will allow you to select from Top News, Most Recent, Status Updates, Photos, and more from your Facebook friends. Scroll to the bottom of this list to select a group you belong to if you only want to see those updates.
To update your status, click in the text box at the top of the screen that reads "What's on your mind?" and type whatever you like. Upload photos from your phone by clicking on the phone icon next to the status update box. Click on Comments to see what others have said about a post; click the little plus sign on the right of the screen to comment on or like a post yourself. Click your phone's back button to return to the News Feed.
See a slideshow of your friend's photos by clicking on any of the photos in their post. It will show you a slideshow against a black background, just like on the website. Clicking your phone's back button returns you to the News Feed.
The Places feature is fun with the Facebook app, since you can check in from wherever you are. When you click "Check In" from the Places screen, the app uses your phone's GPS feature to suggest a list of places near your current location. You can even created a starred list of friends you check in with often, or add Facebook friends who are with you in real life at the coffee shop or library.
One dealbreaker for some users of the Facebook app is an inability to tag your friends from your phone. On the web site, typing "@" followed by a friend's name will tag that person. Their name becomes clickable, and they receive a notification that they've been tagged. Doing the same inside the app does not officially tag the person, and they do not receive a notification.
As much as you want to share where you are and what you're doing, privacy is a serious issue with social networking. Read on to learn about Facebook's mobile privacy controls.
Facebook Mobile Protection
Though it's had a few privacy mishaps in the past, Facebook has learned to take online privacy more seriously. To that end, it has created a privacy guide formatted for mobile devices, available at m.facebook.com/privacy. When you reach the site, you'll need to log in, but from there, it's the same process to change your privacy settings as it is on the web site.
You can access this -- plus any of Facebook's privacy settings -- by going to Settings, then clicking on "Change" next to Privacy Settings. Just as you can on the main web site, you can set who can see your posts to friends, friends of friends, or everyone by default. You can also select specific people to share with (or not share with) and have those settings take effect instantly.
The app also shows you a detailed view of information you've shared with other apps and web sites so you can control what these companies have access to. Facebook also allows you to access any other app that supports Single Sign-On technology. Once you've signed into the Facebook app, you don't have to sign in again to use another Single Sign-On app, like Groupon or Yelp. The idea is to save you the frustration of typing in complicated passwords using tiny keys or on-screen keyboards.
For more information about Facebook, mobile apps and other related topics, follow the links on the next page.
- Daw, David. "Facebook Launches Mobile Messaging App." PCWorld.com. Aug. 9, 2011. (Aug. 22, 2011) http://www.pcworld.com/article/237657/facebook_launches_mobile_messaging_app.html
- Heynen, Mark. "A Better Mobile Experience for More People." The Facebook Blog. Jan. 19, 2011. (Aug. 22, 2011) https://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=483824142130
- Protalinski, Emil. "Facebook saw record number of unique US visitors in July 2011." ZDNet.com, Aug. 22, 2011. (Aug. 25, 2011) http://www.zdnet.com/blog/facebook/facebook-saw-record-number-of-unique-us-visitors-in-july-2011/2894
- Ribeiro, Goncalo. "Facebook Releases Mobile App for 2500 Phones, Here's How to Get It Now." RedmondPie.com. July 13, 2011. (Aug. 22, 2011) http://www.redmondpie.com/facebook-releases-mobile-app-for-2500-phones-heres-how-to-get-it-now/
- Sharon, Michael Eyal. "Control Your Information: Anywhere, Anytime." The Facebook Blog. Aug. 4, 2010. (Aug. 22, 2011) https://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=413846952130
- Tseng, Erick. "Making Mobile More Social." The Facebook Blog. Nov. 3, 2010. (Aug. 22, 2011) https://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=463829602130
- Yao, Rose. "More Control on Mobile." The Facebook Blog. Dec. 8, 2010. (Aug. 22, 2011) https://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=463829602130