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Facebook has just released their updated app for iPhone and iPad, taking it to version 6.0. As promised, this version brings to the table Chat Heads, new iPad UI, stickers, revamped News Feed and more. We go hands-on with the app, and you can check it out right after the jump.

On first launch, you can easily tell that Facebook has given their famed app a little coat of paint. The interface is much cleaner on the iPhone and iPad, it feels snappy and much more complete when compared to version 5.x, specifically. But that’s not important, we’ve seen tons of UI improvements in the past, but today, we’re going to talk about Chat Heads in detail.

Facebook 6 iOS

Chat Heads were introduced as a part of Facebook Home for Android. They’re little floating head bubbles which appear when someone sends you an SMS or a Facebook message. On Android, they appear everywhere, and by everywhere, we mean everywhere. Playing a game, or browsing the web, and you receive a message, you’ll get a floating bubble on the top of the display, simply tap on the Chat Head (the floating bubble) and you’ll get a threaded view of the messages you and your contacts have been sharing. You’ll also get a small badge over a Chat Head indicating the number of messages that particular person has sent.

iOS Screenshot 20130416-233501 03

On the iPhone and iPad, the story is a little different. Chat Heads are limited to the Facebook app only, they are not shown outside the app. This is mainly due to the restrictions Apple has on its mobile OS. So yes, if you’re an avid Facebook user, then you’ll be fine with it since you’re going to be spending most of your time inside the app, but if you’re under the impression that they’ll appear outside of the app; they won’t, and let me make this very clear. They just won’t. Until of course a jailbreak tweak pops-up which enables it everywhere, but we will leave that for later.

iOS Screenshot 20130416-233427 02

The way Chat Heads are implemented in the Facebook iOS app is pretty slick. It feels fast and fluid, the bubble animations are smooth, and it doesn’t look annoying.

iOS Screenshot 20130416-233333 01

Dismissing the bubble is a breeze, too. Simply tap and hold on the Chat Head, and drag it down the X at the bottom of the display.

How does it compare to Facebook Home Chat Heads?

FB Home

Like I mentioned before, the Chat Heads are limited to the Facebook app only on iOS, so you don’t get to taste the goodness throughout the OS, all thanks to Apple’s tight walled garden. On Android, the experience is way better, thanks to Facebook Home, you just don’t have to launch the Facebook app over and over again to access your messages.

SMS integration is missing

This is a huge void which needs to be filled in the future. On Android, Facebook Messenger can hook up to the OS’s native SMS feature and shows all your SMS and Facebook messages in one place, meaning that Chat Heads aren’t limited to Facebook friends only, unlike iOS. The reason for this is again… Apple. They don’t allow other apps handling SMS on their own.

The verdict

At this point, Chat Heads is a very welcome addition on iOS. If you’re ready to digest the fact that they’re limited to the Facebook app only, then you’re good. If you want deeper integration, or in other words, system-wide integration of Chat Heads, then you better look elsewhere (hint: Android). Despite Facebook having system-wide integration in iOS 6; the missing Chat Heads might prove to be a turn off for some diehard Facebook users.

I’d give the new Facebook 6.0 app for iOS a 7 out of 10. -3 for missing integration and +7 for how well it works.

Should I download it?

It’s free to try! So why not go ahead and take it for a spin, it won’t cost you a penny, and who doesn’t like free stuff, right?

(Source: Facebook for iOS on the App Store)

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