Facebook, RIM, 'tis better to be greedy

Letting users perform key activities should be the goal for every mobile version of a Web site. For some users on some carriers, Facebook for BlackBerry can't deliver.

Article updated 2/28/08 with new information about Facebook's mobile settings.

The old adage, " 'tis better to give than to receive" should never apply to mobile software, much less to cell phone versions of social networks.

I initially thought BlackBerry's maker, RIM, was the culprit of a unilateral experience using Facebook for BlackBerry that let me push data to friends' Facebook accounts without receiving notice of any messages in return. It's since been pointed out to me that the product isn't so stingy to most, who can and do receive notice of new messages, photo comments, and wall posts.

So why couldn't I? I can't verify anything until I hear back from RIM, but I suspect it's because of an inconsistency in Facebook's mobile settings, which doesn't include the U.S. T-Mobile carrier in its drop-down menu. Ditto for any U.K. BlackBerry owner contracted with anyone other than O2, and anyone outside the U.S., Canada, or the U.K. A RIM representative said the e-mail notification settings are not only to receive messages on your phone's in-box that new Facebook activity has occurred, but it's also instrumental for having a full-featured application. Without it, it's possible that users will share my one-sided view of what is actually a bilateral application.

Facebook for BlackBerry
Facebook for BlackBerry looks good and cuts down on scrolling.

In its entirety, Facebook for BlackBerry is a good-looking, smooth-operating program that reproduces Facebook on the BlackBerry with more style and speed than the WAP site, m.facebook.com. With the mobile profile on your Facebook.com account set to receive text messages on your BlackBerry, you can pretty much execute on all of Facebook's core activities, including uploading photos and video from your phone. However, if your carrier is not supported, the most you'll be able to do in terms of account management is upload media and update your status.

For most international users whose carriers haven't yet made Facebook deals, there's little extra reason for BlackBerry owners to favor Facebook's mobile application over the WAP site. Hopefully that will change soon. Those with unshaken devotion to third-party Facebook diversions like Scrabulous may enjoy Facebook for BlackBerry in a pinch, but will miss SuperPokin', sending free gifts, and scribbling on friends' fun walls.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.