RIM launches Facebook for BlackBerry 2.0 beta

A limited release of the new Facebook for BlackBerry shows off enhancements and additions we've been wanting for a long time. Are they enough to overcome the app's damaged reputation?

BlackBerry-maker RIM hasn't always seen a rosy reception of its Facebook for BlackBerry app, but the version 2.0 beta might change some minds with its much deeper integration.

Facebook for BlackBerry 2.0, which launches today in a limited beta, gets a laundry list of new additions, big and small. There's Facebook Chat, which you can access from the Facebook application or launch from within your BlackBerry contact list. You'll also get notified of new Facebook chat messages in your message list.

RIM has also created a logical new way to get to all your menu items, in the form of a navigation grid of icons overlaid on the screen to help you move around (pictured above). This menu used to appear in previous versions as a strip of menu icons at the top of the app.

Instead, the top of Facebook for BlackBerry 2.0 shows a new notification bar that summarizes your Facebook account and activities, like wall posts, messages, and friend requests. That's in addition to the device notification bar that you can use to see other alerts pertaining to your BlackBerry, like BBM messages and device alarms.

One of the smaller, but equally important, additions involves something as simple as scrolling the news feed and commenting with a single click or tap on the screen. The action fits right into the natural Facebook flow.

Facebook for BlackBerry 2.0's look and feel have changed somewhat, but it still comes across as blocky overall. The additions are definitely welcome, and a long time in coming.

While we continue liking some of the app's BlackBerry features, like the integration of Facebook contacts into the BlackBerry address book, RIM's version of Facebook still seems behind in features and usability compared with Facebook on other mobile platforms, most notably iOS. Let's hope even more changes come in the final version.

As always, feel free to include your own wish list of additions in the comments.

BlackBerry Beta Zone members have a chance of downloading the limited-availability beta of Facebook for BlackBerry 2.0 starting now.

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.