'Chat Heads' Feature is a Valuable but Limited Addition to Facebook for iOS

It is easier than ever to simultaneously chat with several friends using the new Facebook app for iOS. But Apple's iOS "walled garden" makes the new "Chat Heads" feature less useful than the app's Android counterpart.

Facebook Home, a collection of apps announced last week, may be an Android-only affair but the social network yesterday updated its iPhone/iPad app with the Chat Heads feature from Home. Chat Heads is more limited on iOS than Android, but it is still a welcome addition.

When you install Facebook 6.0 for iOS and receive a Facebook message, you see a bubble in the app’s upper-right corner. Tapping it brings forward recent Facebook-message threads. Each person in your threads gets their own photo bubble. The idea is to let users easily juggle simultaneous Facebook message conversations, and Chat Heads succeeds on that front.

Chat Heads iOS Facebook

On Android devices with Facebook Home or Facebook’s Messenger app installed, conversation bubbles follow users from app to app so they’re always accessible. iOS is a "walled garden" and not an open system like Android, however, so Chat Heads are confined to the Facebook 6.0 iOS app. As of this writing, Facebook Messenger for iOS hasn’t been updated since March 7, and there’s no Chat Heads support.

The updated Facebook iOS app adds face emoticons called "stickers," some of which you get for free, but there’s also a "Sticker Store’" where you can download additional stickers. At the moment, all the stickers in the store are free, but you'll presumably be able to buy more in the future. The Facebook News Feed also now shows you updates categorized by Music, Photos and Games, a nice touch.

One heads up: Facebook 6.0 for iOS is available now, but Facebook says "Chat heads and stickers will be available to everyone over the next few weeks," so you may have to wait a little while to get in on the fun.

(Screen shot by Facebook.)

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