This past July, Facebook's excellent iPhone application joined similar apps for BlackBerry and Palm to bring core Facebook features to mobile socializers in a distinctive Facebook wrapper. Curiously, there's no official software for the Windows Mobile platform, and no word that a program is in the works. In fact, Facebook has kept mum to my inquiries, and Microsoft's Windows Mobile team responded with evasive PR nonsense.
That doesn't mean social butterflies of the Windows Mobile breed are left in a lurch. Two software companies have stepped up to bring their own freeware versions of Facebook to Windows Mobile smartphones and PocketPCs. There's FriendMobilizer, which debuted in July for Windows Mobile Smartphone and PocketPC, and Snap2Face, which just released its first full version on Thursday. Neither is as simple to install as the sanctioned Facebook mobile apps, nor are they as comely to behold. Yet both are acceptable stopgaps until Facebook comes out with a long-awaited replacement. They're certainly more convenient than hitting up Facebook's mobile site, m.facebook.com.
Snap2Face and FriendMobilizer give you many of the same features as the Facebook-branded mobile apps, but with little of the visual refinement. Snap2Face uses a tabbed interface to switch between your profile and your friends' pages, then places mini Facebook icons at the bottom of each screen so you can partake in photo-viewing and message-sending activities. Snap2Face also boasts a photo album slide show and a feature that syncs Facebook profile photos to your phone contacts. Both would have been neat had the app not been plagued by crashes and hang-ups that required us to frequently refresh the screen or restart the app. Installation could also be smoother, but because one component of Snap2Face is a third-party Facebook app, you'll need to give it log-in permission via Facebook.com.
FriendMobilizer looks even less like Facebook.com, opting for a table-of-contents-like interface that lists new notifications to the left and places an ad to the right. Other actions are navigated to through the context menu, a system that actually works because it requires less scrolling than Snap2Face and lays out the tasks in a form factor that's familiar to Windows Mobile users. The benefits pretty much stop there when it becomes clear that FriendMobilizer is a shortcuts portal that opens pages in Facebook's mobile site. At 381KB, FriendMobilizer takes up one-third the space of Snap2Face's 982KB app, yet only has a fraction of the capability.
Though Snap2Face is by far the better product of the two, it would struggle to hold its own against Facebook's faster, smoother, and prettier proprietary apps for Palm, BlackBerry, and iPhone.
That begs the question: why is Facebook dragging in releasing its own Windows Mobile app? Until it does, FriendMobilizer gets the opportunity to make a buck off an ad placement and Snap2Face gets to revel in being the only convincing show in town. That's not a bad thing, but it's also not the best thing. Hurry, Facebook, hurry.