Review: Facebook on Symbian, a seven way roundup (facinate, fMobi, Nokia Social, Borg, Facial, Kasvopus, Gravity)

Here's the very latest, December 2011 update to my ever-growing roundup of Facebook clients for Symbian^3/Anna, looking at no less than seven different options. It'll give you a great idea of where to start with accessing Facebook on Symbian. In this update, I've added the brand new client 'facinate', updated the other summaries with new editorial comment below and some new screens, plus a rewritten conclusion. A three way tie? Just about - Facebook on Symbian has never, ever been so smooth....

Author: various

Facebook in Nokia Social 1.3

As I say, I won't pretend that the Symbian contenders here are 100% definitive - Facebook has a very public API and all sorts of applications and services interact with it (any number of image and video uploaders, chat clients, contact thumbnail synchronisers, etc.) But the apps tested here are claimed to be actual Facebook clients: facinatefMobiNokia Social, Borg, Facial and Kasvopus, plus Gravity (which now has plenty of dedicated Facebook functionality) - for the average user, how do they fare in speed, ease of use, stability and functionality?

Again, I'd emphasise that I'm not a Facebook guru. And I'd also point out that mobile use of Facebook is likely very different to desktop use - after all, there are none of those time-wasting little games and usually none of the 'advanced' features like photo tagging or page management. Mobile Facebook is, by definition, somewhat stripped down, but that doesn't mean you can't do quite a bit, share your life and generally stay in touch with your friends.

NB. The original article also featured Facebook browser, a shell on HTML5 access to Facebook. This has been omitted below because it scored so lowly last time and doesn't seem to have been updated significantly since.

In score order (i.e. best first), we have:


Interface, speed, cosmetics, stability Status messages/news feed Facebook email Photo browsing Media sharing/upload Other features (Groups, Tags, etc.)


from JiiKoo

In Nokia Store

AAS Facebook rating:90%

Written purely in Qt, there's a Symbian Belle-like interface throughout (top status bar, 'Back' button, etc.), full kinetic scrolling, an (optional) innovative side-tab system that works surprisingly well. Plus an icon-based homescreen that's attractive. 'Fluid' is the word that best sums up fMobi's interface.

Well implemented is a fabulous set of Settings customisations, including an optional 'dark' theme, which means that fMobi is nicely power efficient on OLED-screened smartphones like the Nokia N8/E7/C7 etc., plus numerous alert types, an optional transparent bottom control bar and, wonder of wonders, direct control over the font size used.

A beautiful feed* of thumbnails, updates and comments, all presented in a kinetic scrolling list. And everything has 'like' and 'comment' function icons.

*The feed is made up of news, URLs, status updates, photos, etc, with a pop-up menu to allow you to just see a specific Facebook content types. The default of including everything works well though, especially for a Facebook newbie.

Facebook messages load quickly, and a nice touch is the thumbnails of each cc:ed recipient.

Happily, fMobi also now has the ability to send genuine Facebook messages to friends, without using workarounds.

Photos can be accessed through the main feed or by tapping on a friend and then using 'Photos' on the very Symbian Belle-like menu. Thumbnails appear quickly in a beautifully animated fashion. Individual photos then come up quickly too and even higher resolution versions appear within a few seconds, complete with powerful 'zoom in' bar and 'nudge' buttons to the next image. All that's missing is 'swipeability'!

There's the handy facility to download images, though they're limited in resolution by Facebook's own (sad) restrictions, of course.

There's a dedicated 'Photo upload' function, where you pick an 'Album' to upload to and then pick from thumbnailed photos on your phone. These take a while to build each time, as with Gravity, and the caching isn't perfect because they still don't appear immediately next time round either. 

This was tested on an N8 with a few hundred photos in my Photos gallery - more optimisation needed here, I think. Even just displaying thumbnails for the last 20 photos (say) would work better.

I liked the Friends browser, combining a side scrolling alphabet index with vertically scrolling names. You can also respond to Facebook friend requests here. 

There's support for Facebook Chat, for those friends who are online, plus a great Groups browser, to see what you've been invited to and news of events. Talking of what's upcoming, there's even a Facebook Calendar module, good for spotting people's birthdays.

Screenshot Screenshot


Interface, speed, cosmetics, stability Status messages/news feed Facebook email Photo browsing Media sharing/upload Other features (Groups, Tags, etc.)


from Inova IT

In Nokia Store

AAS Facebook rating:90%

A sumptuous kinetic interface, in light or (AMOLED-friendly) dark themes, and with animated transitions that are fast enough not to get in the way, spolied only by the tiny body text font used for posts - this is just about readable in the light theme but very hard to make out in the dark one. 

Symbian Belle guidelines are largely followed, with a 'Back' button prominent and with the facinate 'home' (two page) menu only ever one screen tap away.

Innovatively, side swiping is used in most modules to access further views - very akin to Windows Phone 7, and very appropriate for Facebook with its multifarious linked sets of data.

Performance is generally excellent.


Nicely formatted, aside from the too-small body font, with a nice presentation of thumbnails, post titles, linked items, embedded photos and more.

Every dozen or so posts, you have to tap on 'Load more' - this is done, as with other clients here, to keep the amount of RAM being used sensible, but it's easy enough to load up as much as you like, if you have the free RAM and patience for scrolling through it all!

Facebook names are all hyperlinked through to the appropriate wall, info and photo album pages.

As with the other clients here, you can't reply directly to Facebook messages - the workaround here is to 'reply' by writing on the user's wall, which doesn't seem very satisfactory.

Swiping right from a friend to view their photos is very smoothly implemented. The first thumbnails appear in an album after five seconds and the rest shortly afterwards.

Tapping through and then rotating the phone, you can swipe through all the photos in an album, with caching meaning that the next few you want to swipe to have already been loaded. Very nicely done.

It's also easy to 'Like' a photo or to comment on it here.


Simplicity itself, as 'Add photo' is on the top of the opening news screen and you can then pick an existing photo from the Gallery or take a new shot (or, indeed, video). Add a status/comment and you're done. Uploading is done in the background while you carry on browsing in facinate.

Also of note here are facinate's nice Birthday browser and the way it can optionally pop-up notifications on your Symbian homescreen in a dedicated 'facinate' overlay.

Although free, facinate is ad-supported, with banner ads inserted in the news flow and present on important confirmation dialogs (e.g. after uploading a photo). The ads don't get in the way and it's good to have a totally free alternative to the other top contenders here.

Screenshot Screenshot


Interface, speed, cosmetics, stability Status messages/news feed Facebook email Photo browsing Media sharing/upload Other features (Groups, Tags, etc.)


from ftcn

In Nokia Store

AAS Facebook rating:90%

Surprisingly quick to load and you're instantly in your main news feed, with thumbnails, inline comments, the works.

And it's all kinetically scrolled and in OLED-friendly white on black, though there's a 'white' theme you can tick in the settings if you simply must have everything in black on white.

You can set the 'auto-refresh' (in the background) frequency on your feeds, though the default is 10 minutes and it's nice to have the option to refresh feeds manually by tapping on the main 'home' button or by tapping the time banner. Easy enough, then, though you have to wait while updates are fetched.


Beautifully done, though there's no explicit filtering of posting types. I would have liked a choice of font sizes to use - status updates themselves are too large and text quoted from source articles are shown in a fairly tiny font that you have to squint to read.

Also, having to tap on 'More' to get a 'page 2' of updates explains why the first ones were shown so quickly but gets a bit tireseome sometimes. And then, having clicked further, you have to tap on a button go back a page, rather than having all the updates in one seamless stream...

I did like the way that notifications were shown with a red button, indicating that action is needed.

As with some of the other clients, you can't reply to direct messages directly, but Facial cleverly sidesteps this by loading the relevant part of the Facebook mobile web site in a frame, letting you reply using that service instead. It's very definitely not ideal, but at least it can be done.

You can drill down into Friends and then Photos to produce a list of Albums or you can 'Open album' from a photo in a newsfeed. Either way, album graphics appear quite quickly, photo thumbnails just as quickly and photos themselves faster than any other client here except 'facinate' - turn the phone into landscape mode for best resolution and effect.

As with facinate, you can swipe to move from one photo to the next - swipe slowly and the next image will have been cached, swipe quickly and you have to wait while a progress bar loads. Plus you get the standard Facial screen furniture - a full-screen photo browsing mode would have been neater.


There's a super thumbnail-based carousel for choosing photos to upload, this works really well, you can choose which Facebook album to upload to, and photos can even be left uploading in the background (with a progress indicator superimposed at the bottom of the screen) while you get on with timeline browsing.

Includes a 'Search' facility, looking for your search string in the names of people, events, groups and pages. It works well and is a good starting point for discovery.

I loved the homescreen widget, you tap it to load the next update - so with a handful of taps on the homescreen, you've caught up with the last few posts from all your friends. Very neat.

Almost as fully featured as fMobi and facinate, but what is here is done very well, I quite liked the quirky button interface that often saves screen real estate.

Screenshot Screenshot


Interface, speed, cosmetics, stability Status messages/news feed Facebook email Photo browsing Media sharing/upload Other features (Groups, Tags, etc.)

(v2.0 'preview')

from Mobile Ways

In Nokia Store

AAS Facebook rating:85%

The original demo app for what could be achieved with kinetic scrolling and a responsive UI, Gravity excels here. 

Primarily a Twitter client, Facebook (and other) functionality does seem at times a bit of an afterthough. So context-sensitive tappable buttons aren't always where you'd think they'd be. Still, a good start and I'm looking forwards to the full release version.

UI works in 'dark' or 'light' themes.


Terrific, you get lots of updates, inline comments, thumbnails, and automated loading of 'More' pages when you reach the bottom of what's loaded.

Fonts are great too (I use View|Large fonts).

There's no filtering, but it's hard to fault such a sumptuous timeline experience.

Somewhat amazingly, Gravity manages a full Facebook email experience - it just works. 

Very nicely integrated and presented.

You can tap through from your 'Friends' list, knowing (somewhat unintuitively) to tap on the top/profile pane for each, to browse a friend's photos. The album organisation is lost though, photos are presented in one list.

Also you can't swipe between photos - you have to keep going 'Back' and then tapping the next one.

Interestingly, if you tap through to 'Album' from a photo posted to a friend's timeline, you can view just related photos. It does seem as if some logical links and UI flow have not yet been implemented in this 'preview' edition.

Photo uploading has to be done from the Gravity 'home' screen, since uploads are intended (possibly) for multiple services.

This is fine and works very well - thankfully images get scaled down by default, to save bandwidth. After all, Facebook then resamples them down hugely, so there's no point in uploading full 12mp photos!

Thumbnail building does take a few seconds but is rarely a problem.

There's also full support for notifications, for Groups and for 'Pages' (e.g. for promotions and entities).

Most of all, Gravity stands out by also offering stellar Twitter support, plus Google Reader, Foursquare and others.

When Gravity hits a release verison of 2.0 and with the remaining Facebook logical links in place, it'll be a contender for the top spot. 

A truly remarkable piece of software.

Screenshot Screenshot


Interface, speed, cosmetics, stability Status messages/news feed Facebook email Photo browsing Media sharing/upload Other features (Groups, Tags, etc.)


from Borg Software

In Nokia Store

AAS Facebook rating:72%

There's a nice fluid, function-based interface, again - as with fMobi, mimicking Symbian Belle. There's heavy use of a 'Back' icon for navigation though, since there seems to be no way to navigate between the different areas of Facebook other than by going 'back' to the opening scrolling menu each time.

There's support for Symbian Anna split-screen input, but I get the feeling that at every stage, Borg is hovering well into 'beta' territory. Some things just don't work seamlessly yet and I had several outright crashes of the application.

There are touches of being OLED friendly, but most modules then end up being black on white - greater consistency, or at least more settings, needed.

In addition, there was perhaps too much 'white space' everywhere - better use of space on the small smartphone screen (as per the other clients here) is needed.


These load quickly but you can be stuck watching a 'loading' indicator while some page elements load. Luckily you can just hit 'back' to stop the loading and start reading.

Everything's very clearly laid out, with inline comments. There's no filtering of news/update types though, so you get everything in the one list.

Facebook emails are helpfully shown with a thumbnail of each sender, then you can tap through to see full text, though as with the other clients you can't currently reply in-app.

Tapping the thumbnail composite icon in a friend's profile brings up their photo albums, but these can take forever to load if there are more than a handful. Thankfully you can tap 'back' to stop the loading and click through to an individual album. Within each, all photos are loaded in parallel and so you have to wait again, but then they're all presented well and can be clicked through to.

A couple of touch bugs remain in this module, it's too easy to go into a photo when you just want to scroll the page of photos, etc.

'Photos' lets you upload any photo you've already captured, along with a short comment (only visible in the editing screen, but at least it gets saved), and the result shows up in a new 'Borg' photo album under your profile, rather than using an existing 'Mobile uploads' album or similar.

Terrific location-based support for Facebook Places, it's just a shame that this service is being stopped - a case of unfortunate timing. 'Here' lets you add a new check-in location, neatly integrated into Ovi Maps, and sharing it with your friends.

Additional features including support for 'Groups' and 'Events' from your Facebook account and friend pool. Plus you can (in theory - it didn't work for me) search Twitter or YouTube, all from Borg's interface.

Screenshot Screenshot

Nokia Social

Interface, speed, cosmetics, stability Status messages/news feed Facebook email Photo browsing Media sharing/upload Other features (Groups, Tags, etc.)


from Nokia, built into device firmwares

AAS Facebook rating: 71%

Written in a complex mixture of Qt and Web Runtime, this looks slick enough but even on the latest, faster, version in Symbian Anna, isn't quite as fast as most people would like, in terms of status update loading and scrolling (especially while data transfer is happening in the background). Does have the big advantage that it also handles Twitter, making it a good 'all in one' solution.

Everything runs white on black, making the application unfriendly to OLED-screened phones.

Has separately loading scrolling panes for 'news feed', 'pages' and 'status updates'  - confusing, since the content of each will overlap hugely. Update titles and poster names are pushed to a homescreen widget if needed. Messages are shown clearly but load times per message are 3 or 4 seconds - slightly frustrating, but not a showstopper. Uniquely, though, Nokia Social can reply to Facebook messages in the application itself - maybe Nokia has a 'special relationship' with Facebook, enabling a hidden API? 'Photos' feed from the main pick list is handy. Comments are shown but load slowly. You can also get to Photos through 'Friends', picking a name's 'Profile' and then tapping on 'Photos'. Loading times are very slow though - fifteen seconds for a six-image thumbnail gallery to appear, five or six seconds to go from full-screen image to image. Uploading a photo or video from Gallery or a photo from the Camera (live) is a doddle, along with a comment. Helpfully (again), you can also post to Twitter at the same time, a tremendous time saver. One annoyance is that image uploads which fail for connectivity reasons aren't saved in a Drafts queue.

Not strictly part of Nokia Social, but there's tie-in with Ovi maps and homescreen Check-in widget, whereby location, photo and comments can be auto-added to any selected location-based or social network(s), on the fly, if need be. Works brilliantly.

Social profiles can be linked through, manually, one by one, to entries in Contacts. Nice, but more automation of this function is needed for it to be really helpful across all contacts.

Screenshot Screenshot


Interface, speed, cosmetics, stability Status messages/news feed Facebook email Photo browsing Media sharing/upload Other features (Groups, Tags, etc.)


from Tommi Laukkanen

AAS Facebook rating:64%

Around 10 seconds to start, this uses a bottom of screen control panel for main navigation, with a Symbian Belle-like 'More' icon bringing up extra main modules. Scrolling is kinetic and responsive throughout.

Unfortunately, there's an enforced white theme throughout, making Kasvopus unfriendly to modern OLED displays.

Tapping through status updates not only gives the chance to comment, but also to browse through to the user's 'Wall'. Illustrated posts can have their photos brought up more or less at screen width.  No support for direct Facebook messages yet. Great friend photo support, via their Wall. Album thumbnails come up quickly and so do the full-width photos. And, of course, you can comment on them as needed!  You can browse your previous photo uploads, but there's no support for photo (or video) uploading yet. 

There's an 'Events' module, but this just flashes up a blank screen in the current version.

Unusually, for the clients here, you can browse your own 'Wall' explicitly. 

Screenshot Screenshot


Wrap up

As I said earlier, there are other ways to access Facebook content, but these seven applications are perhaps the best at the moment. As you'll see from the scores, there are three applications that are now out in front of the pack, though there's so little between them that the scores are almost as much determined by the hassle of me messing around with the HTML table as their individual merits! I'd rate all three more or less equal.

facinate is the new kid on the block and equal billing at the top of the heap thanks to a fabulous and almost faultless Qt-implementation, maybe drawing inspiration from the other packages on show here - plus it's free, which always helps. Facial has improved enormously in recent weeks and, once you get your head round the slightly unusual UI, it packs an awful lot of functionality, stability and overall performance. 


Facial's photo browser (I just loved this photo - (c) Donna Suffling)

fMobi is also excellent and has a more coherent UI, improved even more in recent versions, though is let down slightly by the speed of photo browsing. All three applications are scored the same, currently, I just can't pick a winner. Maybe facinate because it's free, though note that a) £1.50 for the other two isn't expensive! And b) Facial also comes in a free 'Lite' version.


In fourth place and, obviously, so much more than a Facebook client - it's the King for Twitter, for example, it's Gravity v2. If you already have this for Twitter use, then it's a no brainer to just use this for Facebook as well, and you'd gain the advantage of photo uploads to both networks at the same time, for example, all from the one interface.

In fifth place, Borg is still competent and would do well in the absence of the other contenders here, but Borg is in need of a major new version if it's to keep up in terms of polish. Nokia Social topped the scores in the original version of this feature, but has received only a few small updates itself in the intervening months, it's still the slowest client here and very OLED (and therefore battery) unfriendly - even its integration with the OS and good media uploading hasn't prevented it being overtaken by third party clients. Kasvopus simply needs more development, but it's responsive and shows promise.

Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, updated 20th December 2011

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