Layman’s Take on fMobi–Finally a Facebook Client getting the things right
It rarely happens that I write a Layman’s Take on a Symbian App, barring Gravity posts, but when I was checking out the latest fMobi version 2.5, then it certainly felt worth mentioning and we are here, reviewing fMobi 2.5 that is being called as the best Facebook client out there for Symbian.
While Official Nokia Social app been already a pain for Symbian users, more tragic was the absence of official apps from Twitter/Facebook like popular social services. Adding more insult to injury was the web browser part that never got a preferred treatment from these services despite of having Symbian in market leading position for a time. Part of the blame goes to tedious development with conventional C++ that was always a tough job for developers due to rapid changes across interfaces\features of social sites. With Qt though, Symbian got a sigh of relief and out of many apps getting benefitted from it, one was our fMobi.
fMobi: First released on 05 July, 2011 (not sure of exact date), the Qt-Based Facebook client fMobi kept on growing its fan-base by each passing day due to plenty of features combined at one place with a smooth working UI (Thanks to Qt). You can understand the level of popularity by the fact that It didn’t took even three months, when it got acclaimed as best Facebook Client for Symbian by Nokia itself.
Its not that I didn’t noticed it then, but somehow it was features like shaky split screen input etc (not a fault of app itself but Qt version issues) that kept me away from embracing it fully rather than relying on some other apps, but this fighter app didn’t gave up and kept on luring me time to time with each update. And when I checked out the latest version 2.5, then I was like.. this is the right time, when the app deserves a mention like a Layman’s Take on fMobi.
What makes fMobi special and superior over other clients out there?
The keywords are innovation and consistency which makes fMobi always one step up ahead of the competition. fMobi chooses a different UI and mannerism than the official apps and yet delivers an experience that brings you best of Facebook activities. Being in latest Qt, its smoothness/animations in various actions, native split screen integration and its own way to notification will sure please any Symbian user.
it might not be free like some of the Facebook clients out there, but the way, this is being developed and being enhanced in each iteration, I couldn’t even compare it with any of the existing clients out there (when there is no real official Facebook client there and Nokia Social is kind of no challenge since always). A few things certainly worth the price (Just Rs. 50/-).
fMobi: The features and walkthrough:
Reasons behind high praises of fMobi in such a short period lie in its being a complete one stop solution for your all Facebook related needs. Not only basic news feeds or notifications or messages or friends or groups or events or user profiles etc, but you have more advanced options like photo uploads to specific albums, Facebook Chat, Check-in/Facebook places, Read-It-Later integration for links, sound notifications, pages etc as well. There are a number of settings options inside the app to fiddle with for achieving whatever flexibility you might wish from your Facebook Client.
Its not only one of the rare Facebook Clients for Symbian supporting Dark and Light theme (like Gravity) but would be the only Qt app I seen in recent that supports pinch to zooming in Facebook photos. Being in Qt 4.74 means split keyboard glitches are talk of past now and we have bubble zooming of text as well (as seen in Nokia Store client text boxes)
For a second, opening the fMobi give you the feeling like you would have opened an application folder on your Symbian^3 phone as you see lots of rounded icons (like Symbian icons are since Symbian Anna). Also like Nokia Belle handsets, you find a wallpaper behind the icons as well (not by default actually but you can set it via settings). Also you still can see the notification bar and even pull the same down for checking out any new notification, just like you would do in any application folder.
Also notice the way, notifications are showing up on top right corner of individual icons. Not only that but check out the awesome transparent looking chat notifications in the second pics (such notifications you might have been recently with Nokia Store from Nokia Beta Labs).
In past, what always irritated me about Qt apps was their lack of proper support to native split qwerty, but with the Qt 4.74 over which fMobi 2.5 has taken shape, all the annoyances seems to have left the place forever. Actually you never feel like if its made in Qt or something else as it feels just as natural and speedy like Symbian C++ apps like Gravity etc been.
News Feed in fMobi
Tapping the News Feed icon takes you into Facebook Feeds of your friends, which might be presented to you in multiple ways as per your settings like you may choose to have the left side tab navigation (as shown above in left screenshot) or may choose to have a full view (like the right screenshot). You may make the bottom bar transparent or opaque.
The UI always feels speedy with kinetic scroll and you see the feeds here with picture/video previews and inline likes/comments (just like Facebook shows them).
Also tapping on any particular comment does a nice rotation to bring the actions screen for you (Check the above screenshots, which I managed to take some how).
Tapping on any of the image takes you to the high resolution version of the same where you can pinch to zoom in images.
fMobi also came to be one of only client available for my N8 that was able to make and check comments on the album itself rather than particular photo.
Notifications in fMobi
Next is notifications, which will notify the presence of themselves with a snap kind of sound and then will sit as a number in red bubble on top right of the notifications icon. Notifications are listed just like News Feed with Belle style menu bar in the bottom. Unread notifications will have a blue or white bar on the left and tapping on individual notification will take you to particular update.
I would have loved it more if the individual notification was popping up like chat notifications were being shown in transparent bar like chat notification but I can also understand that it’s suits chat notifications more than the general notifications.
Chat in fMobi
As you can see from the above screenshots, Facebook chat is the real darling here. We have a list of online users, bubble kind of chat screen, support for split screen, support for smiley with chat screen and if you are not in chat section then transparent notifications on the top (like the last screenshot above). Top of that, the underlying real-time chat mechanism seems to be working flawlessly with native support of Facebook APIs without any workaround.
I was specially impressed with the chat notifications that is sure a first in any of the third party Qt app (Except Nokia Beta Lab’s Nokia Store Client) I would have seen recently. I really think that this should have been the way, Gravity like apps should have been notifying the info.
Photo Upload in fMobi
There is no video upload option in fMobi till the moment, but one should not be having any major complaints with Photo uploads as it supports uploading photos in individual albums rather than uploading them in one particular album.
Tapping on photo upload will take you to a screen with all your albums list in line, then you have to choose one particular album when fMobi open the locally stored photos (not from all folders but from certain default ones), select one of the photo and you will be on the screen like the screenshot shown on the right where you can write the description about the picture being uploaded while the picture will be previewed as enough large thumbnail below the same text. With fMobi, you find a specially crafted upload icon for the upload in place of some text button (turn the same icon down and it will be icon for download just like in photo albums). There will be familiar circular animation while uploading the photo though I would have preferred any of % or circular marker to show the process.
While it serves the purpose, I would have preferred a little tweak in the same process.
What about a setting for keeping one particular album as default rather than choosing the album manually each time when you want to upload a photo? Isn’t this feel too cumbersome when you want to post around 30 photos in some old album that is not being listed on the top of the list (we already don’t have multiple photo uploads here, thanks to Facebook side restrictions)?
Choices of individuals might be different on this, but I feel a tweak like above certainly can speed up the photo upload process otherwise for now, I would stick to Gravity uploads which not only show up the progress but also makes choosing of Facebook album as one time job rather than asking me again and again. Though I know I would loose the original quality of pictures in the same process, which is available if I upload via fMobi.
But will say, its not a kind of negative for fMobi, but just a suggestion from my side.
Check-in in fMobi
I am not sure that how many people actually use Facebook Places check-ins nowadays, but its good to see that fMobi supports it with a nice minimalistic interface.
You can search for nearby places (if available as Facebook places) and check-in with multiple people selected with you. Though I found it strange to see that there is no map snipset along with place like we see in Gravity or other apps (Reason: fMobi is relying over Facebook APIs only and not taking account of Nokia Maps/Google Maps APIs I guess). Not a big deal but would have been nice to see that how fMobi presents maps with its Qt interface.
Message with fMobi
Don’t know why fMobi chooses a different display style for messages than they did with Chat screen. No smiley etc, not exactly that kind of split bar nor the bubbles\colors for the messages. But apart from these visuals, fMobi would be one of those clients who does it right way, when it comes to utilizing Facebook APIs for messages. The delivery is accurate and real time rather than being based on some email based mechanism as some other apps follow.
Your profile with fMobi
With the latest fMobi, you find a cleaner display for the user profile, where all the fields seems to be part of one single page rather than looking like individual entries. You can access the public albums of individuals and would be amazed to see the animated way via which the thumbnails appear.
I didn’t seen the option to poke here, but there is an option to send a private message in the profile.
Friends in fMobi
With fMobi, there is something unique about the friend list as well.
Check out the top bar with the alphabets, these side scrolling alphabets are not random, but are made up of first letter of your friends names. Means selecting any of the alphabet will bring you a list of all the names starting with that alphabet.
Obviously, we also have conventional methods like scrolling or searching via split screen keyboard but I find it innovative and much easier to just flick through the right alphabet and then scroll much lesser to find the exact match I am looking for.
Strange part is, searching doesn’t work with the typing and waits you to hit ok, moreover, searching doesn’t searches through your friends only but searches through the friends network or may be through entire Facebook. I think Facebook search should have been limited to search part only rather than being available in friends search option.
Groups, Search, Events and Pages been the usual deal and I couldn’t find anything specifically different about them as I would have seen in other clients, though what I found missing here was if one wants to post something as a page then fMobi offers no way to do the same.
Settings in fMobi
There are a plenty of settings to fiddle with to match your own preferences and loads of languages to satisfy the needs of various Facebook users across the world. Have you seen any other client offering this much in settings?
So, this was all about fMobi. Did I missed anything here? Did you find any other Facebook client for Symbian^3 doing any better for you than this one? Do let me know via comments or at twitter @nkumar_