Facebook Beta is a test version of Microsoft's Facebook app for Windows Phone that allows users to get early access to new features that the company wants to include in the next release. The app is free to download and use and can be run side-by-side with the existing Facebook for Windows Phone app.
Features that set it apart from iOS and Android
While it may only be a test version, Facebook Beta still packs in a lot of features that allow you to post to Facebook, chat, and follow what your friends are posting.
Just like the original Facebook client for Windows Phone, you can post status updates, access messages, check your news feed, upload photos, access events, view notifications and more.
Facebook Beta includes some features that set it apart from the official iOS and Android versions of the service. For instance, you can customize your lock screen with photos pulled from your Facebook albums, get toast notifications to alert you of Facebook activity even when the app isn't running (though this feature didn't always seem to work in our tests), and see live tile updates.
Other neat features of Facebook Beta that are not present in the standard client are the ability to pin pages/groups to your start screen and (finally!) the ability to share stories from friends.
The chat and messaging features of Facebook Beta are still not as advanced as they are in the iOS and Android versions. Disappointingly, you can't attach voice or photos into messages or see photos that have been uploaded to group chats.
Familiar user interface
Facebook Beta is a little easier to get around than the existing Facebook app for Windows Phone. The user interface is much more common to the iOS and Android versions so if you're familiar with those you'll be able to pick up and start using Facebook Beta without too much bother.
The options menu and chat windows pop out from either side of the screen so you don't have to swipe across and go hunting for the option or contact you want.
Style and substance
Facebook Beta looks a lot more modern and stylish than the standard version. Although it appears more like other mobile versions of the Facebook app, it retains the 'flat' feel of the Windows Phone UI, making it easy on the eye.
The app seems much faster to load than the previous version, and you seemingly are no longer confronted with that awful 'resuming' screen when restarting the Facebook Beta app.
Although performance seems OK, Facebook Beta is a development so of course you'll notice some strange behavior (patchy toast notifications and live tile updating are examples).
Overall, Facebook Beta is a useful tool to help Microsoft (and Facebook itself) improve the Facebook app for Windows Phone. The design is easier on the eye, and the new features are genuinely useful.
If Microsoft can iron out some of the performance and stability issues, this could one day become the best Facebook app for mobile.
What's new in the latest version?
The latest version includes updated design, improved performance, video upload, support for additional languages, messenger support and post detail page.