It's quite impossible to find a single smartphone user out there who isn’t on some social network or the other. Still, standing at the number one spot on the social networking list has got to be Facebook. The problem is that the native Android app designed for Android smartphones hasn’t always worked out for me—though it tries its best to emulate the online edition. On EDGE – and I’ve experienced this via multiple carriers – it always seemed like it would take forever to open, firstly, and still longer to actually do anything else. I decided it was time for a change and while looking for alternative apps to access the popular social network, I stumbled across FriendCaster. Here’s a closer look. 

Design and layout

As third part applications go, FriendCaster isn’t altogether dissimilar to Facebook’s own app. It has a certain semblance, in fact, to older editions of the original app. The layout, unfortunately, is nowhere near as refined as the original. But it is, nevertheless, quite well designed. The simplistic UI makes accessing all your frequently used Facebook options like Messages, Notifications, News Feed and Events quite easy. It also uses your Timelines header image on the desktop of the app, adding that slight personal touch. Quick access buttons to update your status, upload photos or check in to a location are also provided. 

Quick access to all you need

Quick access to all you need

What makes the layout of this app a little more interesting and slightly more ‘accessible’ for using quickly are the pop-up boxes for checking in, updating your status or uploading an image. There’s that level of control or customisation, if you will, that Facebook’s own app has as well, but feels just a little easier here. The layout is simpler and easier on the fingers in terms of button size and layout. You can quickly tag people on your friend list when checking into a place and even set up a message simply enough. Likewise, when updating your status, you can paste a URL, change the level of privacy and select the list where you’d like to post the message (News feed for all to see, Friends, Favourites). There’s even an option to share the post with another app of your choice.

With FriendCaster, you also have the option to have pop ups for your notifications, which I recommend you disable. They tend to disrupt other activities like gaming to a large extent. Stick to a standard alert and perhaps even an alternative notification LED. 

Easy to navigate menus

Easy to navigate menus


Performance

For a while, I opted to run both apps simultaneously on my Galaxy Nexus so I could clearly gauge which one was worth keeping. My finding was that the FriendCaster app ran circles around the standard Facebook original. Functioning was so much faster on GPRS or EDGE as compared to Facebook’s own app. There’s also a choice of cool themes that make it visually a little more appealing as well. Coming to the Map system for locating others who’ve checked into various locations, I can’t say it is better than Facebook’s, but it is quite well-designed and is certainly faster. You can also sync your Facebook contacts with your Google contacts stored on your handset. The developers have even included an option that allows the system to use higher resolution images for your contacts.

Plenty of useful settings

Plenty of useful settings


The bottom line

Just like Facebook’s Messenger App, FriendCaster also has its own free version. It works best with ICS, but there didn’t seem to be any issues with Jelly Bean either. A pro version of FriendCaster is also available, which removes all ads from the app. It’s priced at Rs. 274.47 on the Google Play Store. There’s also a version for the Apple iPad that’s naturally designed a little better. So if you’re not too thrilled with the regular Facebook App and its slow performance, I’d urge you to give FriendCaster a shot. It’s quite worth the space it occupies on your handset. 

To download this app for iOS click here

To download this app for Android click here

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