Friends (iTunes link), $1.99 USD, is a social networking app that consolidates 5 social networks into a merged database, allowing its user to see everything at once. The app is developed by Taptivate, the developer of apps such as Spring (a Formspring app), Voices (a voice distortion app), and Postman (for making postcards). While Friends has a variety of features, it also has a major “Achilles heel” (negative aspects). However, it is reusable if you can get around these downsides. The Friends app contains many features, sound effects, and a fun looking, complex GUI. We’ll be taking a closer look at these aspects and giving them an overall score out of five.
Friends strongest area is in its features. It contains many features which make it look like an amazing app – on paper. The app merges five social networking apps: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, LinkedIn, and Instapaper.
It merges these social networks which flawlessly allows you to use just about every feature from them. This idea has been tried before by AOL’s LifeStream and TweetDeck. Neither of these are as in-depth as Friends though. The only thing that I have seen in Friends that isn’t supported is Facebook’s Places and Facebook Chat. Friends could also use push notifications.
One of its killer features, in my opinion, is that it can merge all your social networks into one news feed. They call this single news feed “Posts” (which makes sense).
Left: Friends incorporates five social networks. Right: The “Posts” page looks clean and user friendly.
Friends automatically incorporates your existing contacts into the app and locates them in your various social networks you signed up with. A very useful tool.
This is me in my contacts. Friends automatically finds that I have a Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, and that I have myself in my contacts list.
It also has a favorites list to allow you to follow *cough* stalk *cough* your closest friends/family through the social networks.
Another huge unseen feature is that if this app runs in the background, it will actually update everything in the background. So when you open it, you’ll be able to view everything new with your friends without needing to refresh it.
The features in this app are unrivaled by any other app that attempts this. They are abundant and seem to work flawlessly when you begin using the app. Because of a few missing features (Facebook Chat and Places along with push notifications), it will be knocked down a little.
Graphical User Interface (GUI)
When you start the app, you’ll notice that it is well organized and the interface looks simple. However, you’ll learn once again not to judge a book by its cover, as this app does have a learning curve. It isn’t a big one, but it is there from the beginning as you do have to actually figure out how to use it. The organization of this app is complex, but it has to be in order to be able to incorporate everything in.
Left: The start page of Friends. Right: Friends is organized into your contacts and your individual social networks.
Contrary to all of my screen-shots, this app does have full landscape support.
The app is visually pleasing to the eye, but again, don’t judge a book by its cover. More important is how they work. I was pleased when I began using it as it was actually very smooth. This changed the more I used it. Here is a list of common problems I encountered:
- Refreshing just about anything causes lags, freezes and crashes.
- When starting up, it freezes a little… Then it lags.
- Typing any comments/replies causes long lags and freezes.
- A temporary fix for these lags is to delete the app and start all over again which is counter productive.
- With the Instapaper addon, you can log in, but I couldn’t seem to figure out how to use it… Not a good thing.
I do find that there are other small GUI changes they could make:
- A local post button to update status(es).
- Open the app into the last used page (I don’t always want to see the start page when I start the app fresh, quit out of it then start).
- It is too time consuming to add a favorite as you have to add an entirely new contact. They need to add the option to add an existing one into favorites from the favorites menu.
The GUI of this app would be a nicer if it weren’t for the constant lagging. The fact that I can’t figure out how to use Instapaper with it takes it down even more. Although the app still works and functions, the lags and freezes are too much to be comfortable and really destroy this app. Hopefully this will be fixed ASAP.
This app contains many sound effects for various functions. There are 3 main ones that are present in the app:
- A screech sound for reloading anything
- A pop sound to tell you that loading is completed and there are new items (second pop sound for this)
- A page flip sound for going through different things in your contacts
The audio is present, and there is no option to turn it off. This is a downside along with the fact that some of these (especially the “screech” sound) are obtrusive and annoying. These are small, minor problems and don’t effect the overall audio score that much.
There are many reasons why a person would use this app:
- You want all your updates in one news feed
- You don’t want to go through 2-5 apps to view various social networks.
- The integration of the loads of features in each social network. It’s not just the basics.
These features keep it on the SpringBoard, however, the bugs and problems keep it off: constant lags and freezes are the main culprit here.
The app certainly has a reusable value to it. The “Achilles Heel” makes one want to remove it as it is just horrific. I personally think the features outweigh the bugs, by the slightest margin. The bugs, freezes, and crashes will once again bring down this great app. However, it still has found a permanent spot on my SpringBoard.
Value For Money
There are many apps that incorporate multiple social networks, but they cannot stand up to the features offered by Friends:
- TweetDeck: No merged news feed, lack of social networks.
- LifeStream (AOL): Lack of features of and number of social networks.
- Fring: Slow (comparable to this app) when viewing the “Stream”, lack of social networks and features of individual social networks.
There may be more competitors; these are 3 well known ones. They are good replacements for this app, but don’t come up in features. All 3 of them are free, but you get what you pay for.
There are also individual apps for each social network, they have every feature included, but the majority are in Friends as well. The main thing that they have on this app is that they have push notifications.
The price of the app, $1.99 USD, isn’t steep, but on the boarder-line with the bugs that are involved.
- The price is worth it for features included
- Bugs, bugs, bugs… These make the actual value of the app $0.99, maybe even free (until they are fixed).
The app gives you a lot for your money, but it also contains many bugs which bring it down a notch. There are no other apps that have this many features that incorporate all these social networks. None of the other apps incorporate these social networks as deeply as Friends does. This is the main reason why this app could stand high.
Friends is an app that contains abundant features and reasons to buy this app. Unfortunately, Taptivate still hasn’t perfected this app; as it is slow, laggy, and freezes constantly. It is still a good app and a must-have for anyone looking to keep up with their social networks in one place. Once its bugs are fixed, it’ll become a near perfect app for any social network user and well worth its price tag.
Overall Score: 3.5 Stars (“Good”)