In the days of Mango, Windows Phone was the best platform for fans of Facebook. WP8 improved upon WP7’s integration with the social network, but with the release of Facebook Home for Android and Facebook 6.0 for iOS, the WP8 app started to look pretty primitive. Fortunately, Microsoft has taken note of the issue, and has decided to release a revamped version of the official Facebook app for WP8 soon. However, to make sure the new app is absolutely perfect, the MS guys have decided to employ Windows Phone users as the app’s beta testers. Facebook Beta won’t show up in the WP Store search results for now to avoid confusion, but anyone can download the app for free and check out the future of Facebook on WP8.
Facebook Beta is completely different from the current Facebook app for Windows Phone, and resembles the iOS/Android versions to some extent. The new interface looks more at home on WP8, and you can perform gestures to navigate between different screens. On the app’s welcome screen, you’ll see a few basic instructions regarding the new features added to the mix.
Once you have logged in, it is possible to access the options menu simply by swiping from left to right, or by tapping the icon located in the top-left corner. Hit the gear icon next to ‘News Feed’ if you want to sort your stream by ‘Top Stories’ or ‘Most Recent’. The opposite edge of the News Feed reveals chat lists, while the search button stays accessible in most parts of the app at the bottom of the screen.
Apart from a fresh UI, Facebook Beta also offers some completely new features, like the ability to automatically shuffle through your albums on your phone’s lock screen. Users can even choose to use photos from particular albums, or the ones in which they have been tagged.
All profile pages in Facebook Beta now display cover photos, and if you are viewing one of your own photos in the app’s image viewer, there is a pretty prominent ‘Make Profile Picture’ option in the upper bar. The Nearby section of the app looks pretty neat as well.
Facebook Beta is a free app, and Microsoft has warned users that it isn’t very stable for now (we can confirm that). You can, however, make it better by reporting issues via the feedback button located inside the ‘About’ section of the app’s settings menu. We have been assured that the original Facebook app won’t be removed from the WP Store any time soon, and until then, you can grab Facebook Beta by opening the following link directly on your WP8 device.
Update: The app is now out of beta, and features a few UI improvements. There is also support for sharing posts and a timeline view of profiles. Microsoft has decided to keep the Facebook beta app available in the WP Store along side the actual Facebook app, so that it can act as a pre-release version for people wishing to get an early look at upcoming updates.