Thank goodness it’s Friday – and thank goodness Facebook updated their Mobile Application for the iOS. If there is anything worth doing before this weekend, it’s making sure you have updated/downloaded version 5.0. 

“We’ve rebuilt the app from the ground up, so now the app opens much faster and your news feed and notifications load right when you open Facebook,” the company’s product manager, Mick Johnson, wrote in a blog post on Thursday. 

The iPhone (and iPad]) application has been notoriously slow for quite some time now. Uploading your own status updates and images was slow – trying to scroll through the newsfeed and view several hours of status updates was a sub-standard experience as well. Supposedly, the iOS Facebook App is two times faster because it’s built on Objective-C not HTML5. The navigation is mostly the same, with the exception of being able to side-swipe out of the newsfeed and into menu options. 

The news feed has received a bit of a makeover too. If a user has the news feed open and is browsing, and if a new story occurs while the browsing session is happening, the story will be loaded into the app. The news feed is now also updated in real time, with likes and comments showing up without the user having to refresh the post.

A tout will appear at the top of the news feed showing how many New Stories are available – with one click the stories are now loaded into the newsfeed. “You’re sort of data snacking throughout the day,” says Cory Ondrejka, Facebook’s head of mobile engineering in a recent conversation with New York Times. “When you’re just standing in line getting coffee and you pull out your Facebook app, you just want it to load.” This expectation has now become a reality for many users. 

Launch – The iOS App is fast. Previously it could take me up to 15 seconds to load my newsfeed. I am able to see it update within 5 seconds. I did notice several instances where image integrity was sacrificed on initial load (first 4 seconds), but the images eventually tweaked themselves and were loaded correctly by the 10 second mark. May have just been an isolated incident for me, but worth mentioning regardless.

News Feed – Once you’re in the feed, by scrolling down, you’re able to load stories quicker. If you’re in the middle of the feed and a friend publishes a new update you’ll see a drop-down banner at the top of your screen noting “New Stories 5+”. Clicking this will catapult you to the top – you can still  scroll there yourself, or keep browsing without the feed reloading and you losing your place.

A similar “New Comments” bar will show up in real-time when you view individual posts. The ‘Like’ action has been redesigned for mobile as well. If you click ‘Like’ on a story or photo, the button turns blue to denote that you have in fact ‘liked’ the story or photo. The visual update allows you to see, with ease, what you’ve engaged with already – without having to look for instances of the ‘unlike’ button in the feed.

Photos – Photos load faster too! To aid one-handed use, you can pull down to quickly on the actual photo to dismiss it  and return to your previous screen without having to reach for the back button. The big question – why are filters not a part of this update per the recent acquisition of Instagram, a popular mobile application that allows users to alter and share their photos within their social network?

Facebook’s iOS updates will make a lot of people happy – 130 million iOS users to be exact (approx. 425 million access Facebook from a mobile device every month). Now that the newsfeed is literally seconds away, users will be more likely to browse the feed for longer and see more advertisements under the guise of ‘promoted posts’, which Facebook had announced they were testing on August 15th, 2012. A ‘promoted post’ is rumored to not only be able to reach fans of a specific page, but also friends of fans. Get ready to rethink who you’re friends with!

By 2014, mobile usage will overtake desktop internet usage, so it’s important that Facebook begins to set expectations, optimize, and influence usage and user behavior well before that point in time. Plus, with the stock price being in the dumps (opened in May at $42 and currently down near $20), it’s crucial for Facebook to begin monetizing the mobile experience. 

Note: Facebook did issue a smaller update to Facebook for Android yesterday. While not as far-reaching as the iOS update, the Android app now supports faster photo uploads and Emoji (is the Japanese term for the picture characters or emoticons used in Japanese electronic messages and webpages) in messages. Here’s to hoping that the Android community will be able to have a similar mobile user experience in coming weeks.