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Social networking is key to our work and personal relationships. With online social networks making us and our friends more accessible through mobile apps, smart phones supporting the iPhone, Android (including Motorola's new Droid device) and BlackBerry platforms are making us more connected.
The iPhone has 100,000 applications, casting a large shadow over the Android platform's approximately 12,000 apps. Nevertheless, major social networking apps are readily available for free on all three of the reviewed platforms.
Here are some of the most recognizable social networks across the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry platforms.
Facebook for the iPhone is very well done, incorporating many of the lessons learned based on the social network’s initial iPhone app. With mobile uploads, a great user interface and easy navigation, the iPhone version of Facebook is handy and provides most of the functionality you need. Additionally, Apple’s mobile platform is in cooperation with Facebook’s, meaning that developers will continuously be able to incorporate Facebook apps with those found on the iPhone.
Android’s Facebook app is a different story. The most recent version actually has less functionality than its previous app, limiting the access to links and other important pages in your Facebook account. I found that using the mobile site designed for iPod Touch users works better for Android-supported devices. BlackBerry users will get the bulk of the functionality they need with their Facebook app, including photo upload and status updates.
LinkedIn also works well for iPhone users, improving networking capabilities of professional. I would even contend that the LinkedIn iPhone app is easier to use than the destination site itself. Your contacts’ updates are available, along with a search page and mobile access to your connections.
For Android device users, LinkedIn is equally as dismal as the Facebook application. Developed through a third party developer, the LinkedIn mobile app for Android users redirects you to the mobile site. BlackBerry users do not have a dedicated LinkedIn app quite yet, though one is in development.
Flickr for the iPhone is an official client designed for the Apple device users. With the free app, the experience of the photo itself is of utmost importance. The bulk of the screen space is reserved for photo viewing, with additional options for zooming and panning. Flickr for the iPhone also supports photo upload, though search functionality and friends’ updates are not too different from the mobile-optimized Flickr site.
Again, the Android Market has less robust apps for this photo-sharing app. There are a handful of free apps to use, which support photo upload, browsing and search based on image size, username and other parameters. Photostream is a Flickr-supported browser app released on the Android Market, though it has little functionality and has not been updated for some time.
With Android-supported devices your best bet is BetterFlickr, for $1.49. It provides well-rounded search and filter options for seeking images, upload and tagging support and notifications for friends’ updated photo albums. BlackBerry has a Flickr uploader app as well, offering the bulk of the functionality photo-sharers require.
Tweeting for Twitter
As an application designed for mobile use, you will not have any trouble finding a Twitter app for any of the reviewed smartphone platforms. Tweetie 2 is likely the most popular Twitter app for iPhone users. It combines simplicity with a wealth of interactive options to streamline your use of Twitter.
Twidroid PRO is likely the app of choice from the Android Market, with multiple account support and a phone desktop widget for easy access to update your Twitter status. Twitter apps on both the iPhone and Android platforms are rather similar in functionality. For BlackBerry users, the TweetBerry is one of the better supported mobile applications.
Nearby Friends on Loopt
Loopt is another socially-oriented tool designed for mobile use. With a large focus on its mobile service, Loopt was rather proactive in its efforts to provide an official application for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry users.
For the most part, Loopt operates in the same way for all major smart-phone platforms. The Loopt applications use GPS in order to note your proximity to local venues, as well as nearby friends. Update your location and your status, and seek out activities to attend, along with friends to meet up with. Various privacy settings let you regulate the frequency of your location update, and which friends have access to your shared information.
The bottom line
The iTunes App Store has more apps available for users. Therefore, there are also more apps that aggregate the functionality of several major social networks. This increases the selection for multiple-use applications, which are more difficult to find in the Android Market or BlackBerry AppWorld.
Android is well-integrated for social network usage from a platform design level, making it very easy to share content from one app to another. This is optimized more on later iPhone versions, meaning this tactic is becoming a standard in the mobile platform space. What this means is that the necessity of aggregate mobile apps will be diminished as we move forward, with the mobile platforms themselves becoming the conduit for cross-app cooperation.
Social networks are also more likely to create apps for all the major mobile platforms, as their average users are already heavy mobile users. Failing to create an app on the iTunes App Store, Android Market or BlackBerry AppWorld would be a bad move for any of the large social networks, as it would alienate a portion of their mobile-connected users.