Facebook for PS Vita hands-on (video)

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The PlayStation Vita's Facebook app, which just hit the European PlayStation Store and should be going live in the US any moment now, is a pretty retro affair. From the status update box asking you "What's on your mind?" to the conspicuous lack of Timeline support (which would sure look nice on a 5-inch widescreen OLED), it's a functional yet unspectacular implementation of the service on Sony's handheld.

Unlike most apps for the Vita, Facebook support is actually baked in at the system level — you enter your login details via the main Settings screen, and this lets games post information such as recently acquired Trophies directly to your Facebook feed. That's a boon for setup: once you've downloaded the app, you don't have to type in any more details. The app's LiveArea screen contains the requisite Start button alongside shortcuts for Photos and Messages, which sound like a great idea except for the fact that they don't appear to work at all quite yet, simply taking you to your News Feed just like the Start button does. The News Feed is well organized, with names and profiles on the left, post content in the middle, and various links on the right. You can scroll up and down through your feed by using the rear touchpad, which isn't exactly mind-blowing but works well enough.

The photos functionality is a bit disappointing. Thumbnails are very slow to load, and pictures don't display in full screen. Once you have loaded an album, though, the interface is decent enough, and there's a fairly cool preview mode where you can enlarge thumbnails by selecting them with the Vita's rear touchpad. You can add photos from your Vita to your existing Facebook albums, but unlike with the Vita's Flickr app, there doesn't seem to be an option to upload direct from the system's camera, and you can't create new albums either. There's not a lot to report from the messages or friends list features, which both do what you'd expect, though as of this writing I'm unsure if they hook into the Vita's notification system. The photos, friends list, and message functions can all be hidden and unhidden by tapping the Facebook logo in the top right, though there doesn't seem to be any reason to hide them.

As with the Maps application, it's difficult to see Facebook for Vita offering new functionality to many people beyond the smartphones we're assuming they already own. Smartphones also have quite an edge on the multitasking front: like the PS Vita's web browser, you can't switch to the Facebook app without completely closing your game in progress. There are certainly worse ways to use the service, though. Besides, some of these issues could easily be fixed by updates, and the world's largest social network having an official app ready for launch day is definitely another string to the Vita's bow — it took the iPad long enough.

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