Facebook's new iPad app has been more than a year in the making, and thus far, anxious iPad users have only received ambiguous "it's coming… eventually" updates from Mark Zuckerberg and Co. But Sunday night, enterprising TechCrunch blogger MG Siegler discovered a hidden version of Facebook's new iPad app while playing around in the code for the site's iPhone app. Several other tech bloggers subsequently accessed the app — before Facebook caught on and blocked it — posting their early reactions online. It's unclear when exactly the app will be officially released, but in the meantime, what improvements do we have to look forward to in this "spectacular" new offering? Here are six:
1. Easy sidebar navigation
The "most important difference" between this newly discovered iPad app and current iterations of Facebook on iPhones and other platforms, says Josh Constine at Inside Facebook, is the retooled navigation system. There's now an expandable navigation sidebar that pops out from the left side of the screen, accessed with the mere flick of a finger. From the menu, users can navigate between the News Feed, Messages, Events, and other features, allowing for "speedier movement." The sidebar is a smart use of iPad's "screen real estate," says Chris Gayomali at TIME. Because it can always be tucked away, "your screen is never overcrowded."
2. Time-saving overlay menus
The new app makes "great use" of "pop-overs," or overlay menus, that have become popular on other iPad apps. That means that instead of being taken to a whole new window to view notifications or compose messages, these features just pop up in a small window in the corner of the existing screen. "This allows users to quickly check for these types of activity without losing what they’re currently viewing," says Constine.
3. Improved chat
Just as navigation appears in a sidebar on the left of the screen, the chat feature can now be accessed via a sidebar on the right side. This is designed to "permit persistent use" of chat while doing other things on Facebook, says Constine.
4. A big emphasis on "Places"
"Facebook's location push is apparent" in the way the new app ramps up the Places tab, says Jacob Schulman at This Is My Next. Places, which allows users to check in to locations like restaurants and bars, connects directly to the iPad's GPS, displaying a large map on the right side of the screen, and friends' location updates on the left. You can comment on friends' locations using this feature, too.
5. Eye-popping photos
"Browsing photos on the Facebook iPad app is a fantastic experience," says Gayomali. Not only does the iPad's 9.7-inch screen blow up the photos beautifully, but it's "twitch-fast" to toggle among them. The app also allows you to crop photos using two fingers to define the boundaries of the crop. "It has a nice Minority Report feelin' to it."
6. A better-looking "Friends" page
The iPad app offers an improved showcase for the Friends page, says Gayomali, which now uses "large, square-shaped thumbnails" to display high-quality photos of friends in an alphabetized, easy-to-navigate list. "It seems like [Facebook's] answer to [Google+'s] Circles."