Facebook, in its quest to dominate mobile, has just released an incremental update to its Android app through the Google Play Store.
The update lets users change their profile pictures direct from the app (which is something iOS has been able to do for quite some time). Also within the update, Facebookers on Android can more easily manage spam and unwanted stories in their News Feed, and enjoy more streamlined access to group messaging.
The update isn’t all that revolutionary, but it came straight through the Google Play store, which is more than I can say for Facebook’s last Android update.
On Friday, Facebook began testing a new way to roll out updates to Android devices called silent updates, which downloads the update in the background over WiFi and then notifies the user to install it.
It’s a new beta program that’s meant to push fast updates to a group of beta testers who can review the app before it goes live to everyone. To be a part of the program, you must have your Android phone settings set to allow downloads from outside of Google Play.
According to <a target="_blank" target="_blank" href="http://www.insidefacebook.com/2013/03/18/silent-updates-for-android-download-latest-version-of-facebook-without-google-play/”>InsideFacebook, some users who received the silent update said the app notified them repeatedly until they installed the app.
Facebook says the silent updates help “make sure everyone is using the best version of our app.” They also ensure that an update won’t break anything and that’s its useful to users before sending the new update to all Android users.
Facebook has used HTML5 to let it test features on Facebook’s website on a handful of users, before pushing it out to the full billion. First the feature hits one percent of users, and if it works well, it goes to ten percent before being pushed out entirely. On mobile, that hasn’t been the case, since native apps force Facebook to send out a full update to all users at the same time.
In the latest update, Facebook asks for permission to “download files without notification,” which would allow Facebook to expand its beta program and send out silent updates to the 1 percent of its choosing.
The newest version of Facebook’s Android app is available today through Google Play, so everyone can enjoy it. It would seem that Facebook’s first run on “silent updates” went relatively well.