Apple iPad, Day 7: Social Networking on the iPad

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30 Days With the iPad: Day 7

While some may debate the business purpose or value of social networking, it is a staple of my work day. I use social networks to stay on top of trends and breaking news, and I use social networks to share with others when I find interesting news or write posts of my own. Since I rely on social networks, one of the litmus tests for this 30 Days With the iPad project is to ensure the Apple tablet can meet my social networking needs.

I have built social networks on Facebook--both personal and a Facebook Page--LinkedIn, and Twitter. Unfortunately, of those three Twitter is the only one with an actual iPad app, and my preferred tool for working with Twitter on my PC--which is available for the iPhone--is also not available in an iPad version. I can tolerate using an iPhone app in standard size in limited doses, but I abhor expanding iPhone apps to fit the iPad display--it's pixelated and looks like crap.

Let's examine each of the social networks separately.

You can use the Facebook site on the iPad, but some things don't work--like posting photos.

Mark Zuckerberg was asked about a Facebook app for the iPad and replied "the iPad's not mobile". The statement did not make any sense to me. I thought, "Has he never seen or used an iPad?"

Eventually, I understood the statement to mean that Zuckerberg didn't believe the iPad needed a mobile app because it has a larger display than a smartphone, and it runs the full Safari browser--so users can just visit the Facebook site in the browser like they would on a desktop or notebook PC.

That may be true to a point--right up to the point where it's not. First, the Facebook site doesn't fit nicely in the Safari browser on the iPad display. Using the Facebook site requires a lot of panning and pinching and zooming to navigate about.

Second, the iPad is mobile. I use my iPad at Starbucks. I use my iPad at my daughter's gymnastics class. I carry the iPad with me--way more often, and to way more places than I ever considered lugging my notebook. Granted, there is virtually no time ever when I don't have my iPhone on me as well, but because the iPad is portable it would be nice if you could check-in to Facebook Places on it, and find out about Facebook Deals. You can do it, but only by using the Facebook iPhone app.

Then there is the problem with photo sharing. The iPhone app knows how to connect with the iOS photo library, or interact directly with the camera to add a photo. The website, however, expects to find a traditional system of files and folders to browse, or to connect with a webcam using a tool that requires Adobe Flash. You can resort to uploading a photo via email, but that is a clunky solution compared with the elegance I experience with the iPhone app.

I have used two different third-party iPad apps for Facebook: Friendly for Facebook, and MyPad (formerly FacePad, but I think Facebook slapped it for infringing on the word "Face"). Both provide iPad-sized access to my Facebook social network. In general, I prefer to use MyPad. I like the look and feel of the interface better--it's a lot like the Twitter iPad app. However, MyPad doesn't seem to have any easy way of adding photos to Facebook either, while Friendly for Facebook lets you use the iPad camera or upload from the iPad photo library.

I was hoping the big news from Facebook this week was going to be the rumored iPad app, but instead we got video chat. I'll keep hoping.

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