Spatio: Explore Facebook’s Alternative Side

Most Nickelback fans I know are addicted to their music, but ashamed to admit it. That’s how I feel about Facebook. There’s so much I hate about it, but I’m addicted. It’s an easy way to keep up with my friends and acquaintances.

However, one of the things I hate about Facebook is the mobile app. Until recently, it felt like Facebook really missed a ton of great design possibilities. That being said, I like trying out other takes on what Facebook could be like on a mobile device. Spatio is a whole different take on Facebook: it’s Holo-themed, supports multiple accounts and offers a whole different take on your Newsfeed. Is it for you? Read on to find out.Like the article? You should subscribe and follow us on twitter.

Getting Started

After logging in with your Facebook account, the first thing you’re going to notice about Spatio is that it looks far different than Facebook’s app. Your newsfeed is present, but it loses Timeline’s recent obsession with its card-like presentation.

Swiping to the left from your newsfeed (pictured left) takes you to your personal menu (pictured right).

Swiping to the left from your newsfeed (pictured left) takes you to your personal menu (pictured right).

Swiping to the left takes you to a page that includes access to your Wall, Profile, Photos, Messages, Friends, Groups and Pages. Events aren’t yet a part of the app, but they’re supposed to be coming soon. And exploring photos, groups and even your wall (which is now called your Timeline) is a really visually appealing experience.

The benefit to Spatio is, of course, that Facebook isn’t in control of it through anything except its API. The developers behind Spatio can do whatever they want with the design, and for the most part do. It’s got a great photo browser. It has a refreshing Profile view that reminds me a bit of how Facebook used to be.

I love the dark theme.

I love the dark theme.

The app is also just smartly designed and feels intuitive to use. It has a light and a dark theme, both of which look great, but the dark theme takes the cake as the most visually appealing way of looking through Facebook.

Going Beyond Facebook

Spatio is both more limited and more powerful than Facebook’s standard app. It doesn’t offer access to Events and it doesn’t feel as fast as the native app, but it comes with a number of benefits that outweigh any possible negatives.

Events aren't yet supported, but you do have quick access to multiple accounts.

Events aren’t yet supported, but you do have quick access to multiple accounts.

First of all, there’s support for multiple accounts. If, for whatever reason, you’ve got two or more Facebook profiles, you can manage all of them here. I have a friend who’s a Social Media Manager at a local advertising firm in my area, and this would be perfect for her or anybody like her.

Not only can you manage multiple Facebook accounts with ease, but you can also post to several of them at once. You can also post statuses directly to your Pages without leaving the status. I never deleted the Page for my old band or a high school joke between friends called Peanut Butter Fingers, and if I wanted to, I could post the same status on my personal Timeline and both Pages simultaneously.

Not only that, but privacy options are easily visible. It doesn’t take long to post a status only visible to Friends or certain lists. If that’s still not enough for you, you can also add Twitter accounts to the app and post the same thing across both social networks at once. That being said, you can’t read your Twitter stream in the app; you can only post to it.

Mobile Compromises

As far as the standard features we’ve come to expect, most of them are present and accounted for with a few little twists or compromises. For example, if you want to like a post, you’re going to have to tap on it and open it in its own screen. This is one of the rare times I feel that Spatio is more cumbersome than the native Facebook app.

You can quickly post to multiple accounts simultaneously, but liking a Facebook status requires opening it in a detailed view.

You can quickly post to multiple accounts simultaneously, but liking a Facebook status requires opening it in a detailed view.

Most of the Timeline features aren’t part of the app (as of yet), so Spatio feels much more like the Facebook of old. Most of the time, I think this is a good thing. That being said, I like being able to hide something from my Timeline but not delete it completely. Little things like that are missed.

However, in some ways, the app feels much more responsive than the native Facebook app. It can load content more slowly sometimes, and I get the feeling this could be because of API limitations, but the app itself works quickly. And again, navigating around the app feels faster than the native app regardless, simply because it’s a little more intuitive.

There are some compromises made here that are simply not good. For one, you can’t scroll through photos in an album. You can only view one at a time, and you have to hit the Back button to check out a photo gallery again instead of just swiping through like you normally would.

Photo galleries look great, but if you want to view more than one photo, you could be hitting the Back button a lot.

Photo galleries look great, but if you want to view more than one photo, you could be hitting the Back button a lot.

Secondly, the Search functionality just isn’t great. I could not search for friends that I wanted to message, no matter what I did. I just felt it was broken. There is no auto-complete for searches, so you have to manually hit the Search button every time you’re done entering a query. And whenever you do search for somebody, the app’s recommendations for what you’re looking for are consistently off the mark.

The Little Things

It’s worth mentioning that there are a couple things missing from the app that will make it unusable for many people. First of all, there is no Spatio widget. Personally, I’m not interested in keeping up with my friends that intensely, but I could see why this could be a dealer-breaker for some people. Also, the only available version of the app is ad-supported. There’s no paid version of the app, but the developer is working on a way out.

Making Mobile Facebook Better

There are some social networks, like Twitter or App.net, where the apps alone make the service worth using. In the case of Facebook, I haven’t felt that was the case. Facebook has always felt sloppy to me, and the mobile app has consistently been the worst way to experience the service.

Spatio makes Facebook a lot better on the go, but it’s not perfect. Right now, it’s my favourite way to explore Facebook and I think it’s worlds better than the native app in terms of how I use the service. Despite my recommendation, I know it’s not for everybody. Spatio has no cost of entry though, and I think it’s at the very least worth taking the time to check out. You could very well end up liking it as much as I do.


Summary

Spatio holds a lot of promise as an alternative to the native Facebook app, and for many people it could deliver a more compelling experience.

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