By Mike Riley on Sat, 09/10/2011
Among many other things, Facebook offers its members an easy way to upload and share photos. But the browser interface that Facebook uses to display those photos isn't the greatest, especially when using Safari on an iPad. Developer Lifelike Apps felt the same way and created the Facebook Photo Album as a result. Does it succeed at its goal of a cleaner, more iOS-friendly interface to your friends Facebook photos? Read on to find out.
Facebook Photo Album approaches the problem of displaying your friends Facebook photos in a photo album style metaphor. Up to four photos can be displayed at a time on the page. Selecting a photo expands it to full screen. Full screen mode can also be used to trigger a Photo app-style slide show (delay and 'Ken Burns effect' settings can be managed by clicking the "Slideshow" button), allowing your friends Facebook photos serve as dynamically changing digital photo frame content. Pages can be turned with a flick of the finger, followed by convincing page turning animation.
Initialization time also takes up to a minute when the app is first launched, but this is forgivable due to the negotiation the app must make with the wonky Facebook API and the caching of the latest images. There's a timeline on the bottom of the screen that allows you to quickly scan over the pages by image date and friend name. Specific friends can be filtered in or out of the photo album, and the album background style can be either dark (the default) or light. Between the two, I preferred the default dark background.
If they exist, captions added to photos are displayed along with icons for any other friends comments made to the image. The name of the friend who uploaded the photo is also superimposed in the lower right corner of the photo in a very classy style. Another icon shows how many "Likes" as well as a button to add your "Like" to the total count. Photos can also be emailed, copied or saved to the iPad's Photo Library.
A 'My Friends' and 'My Photos' tabs on the top of the page allow you to switch between your friends Facebook photos and the ones you uploaded into your own photo album on Facebook. You can connect to additional Facebook accounts to view a collection of photos from multiple accounts.
Unfortunately, the developers have not yet taken the Photo app metaphor far enough. Having become smitten with the pinch and expand metaphor used by Apple's bundled Photo app for the iPad, I was hoping to do the same with the Facebook Photo Album. Unfortunately, photos have to be flipped through a page at a time rather than expanded and fanned out the way the iPad Photo app does so elegantly well. It's too bad, because slogging through pages and pages of photos, especially when I'm looking for a specific image, feels like a step backward. Hopefully Lifelike Apps can consider this option in a future update.
The app is free with additional in-app purchases. Its initial 50 pages of 200 photos should give you enough of a trial to see if you want to buy into the tiered pricing available. These packages are:
If you like the app, I recommend buying the unlimited package. It's far more convenient knowing that you have convenient access to your entire Facebook friends photo libraries. One thing I did encounter when quickly zipping through years of photos on the timeline was an occasional crash. Whether it was memory exhaustion or network lag, the crashes occurred frequently enough for me to hesitate quickly scanning large swaths of photos at a time. I'm sure Lifelike Apps will continually upgrade and improve this program the same way they have their other apps, including the very popular and critically acclaimed Lifelike Craig HD application.
Overall, Facebook Photo Album achieves its intended goal, albeit with some issues. It has also spoiled me, since it makes looking at friends Facebook photos so much easier and I no longer have to deal with the less than optimal web photo interface on the Facebook website. Assuming Lifelike can zero in on the source of the infrequent but annoying crashes and hopefully add the ability to pinch/expand friends photo albums the same way I can using the built-in iPad Photo app, it will get a big thumbs up from me. As it stands today, it's definitely worth a free trial look by anyone who uses Facebook as one of their primary networked photo hubs.
Product: Facebook Photo Album
Developer: Lifelike Apps
Price: $5.99 in-app (unlimited photos)
Rating: 3/5 stars