Facebook recruits Android users for app beta testing program


Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) unveiled a new public testing program enabling consumers to trial beta versions of its mobile social networking application for Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android.

"This new tool will help us get performance data and feedback from more people ahead of release across a wider range of devices and versions of Android," explained Facebook for Android Product Manager Ragavan Srinivasan. "The ultimate goal of the program is to release updates to Facebook for Android that are more reliable and better performing."

The Android beta program lets opt-in users trial updated versions of the Facebook app prior to general release, a move to generate feedback across an array of operating system versions and device form factors. "This will give us the opportunity to eliminate our blind spots and identify a snapshot of the diversity of use cases to test our apps so when we push to our whole user base, everyone has a better experience," Srinivasan said. "Whether someone is using [Android] Gingerbread or Jelly Bean, more complete testing coverage gives us the opportunity to make sure more people can access a stable, high-performance Facebook."

Upon joining the Facebook beta program, users will receive a small batch of fixes and new features every month. Facebook asks that they submit reports when they encounter bugs or other issues. The social network is also creating a group to host active Android beta discussions and provide a forum for feedback and sharing updates. To join the program, click here.

The launch of the beta testing initiative follows six months after Facebook kicked off a partner beta program providing pre-release Android apps to industry partners including Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), HTC, Ericsson, Sony, Huawei and MediaTek. Srinivasan notes the program has helped Facebook better optimize for current and upcoming devices and networks, enabling the company to gain new insight into graphics rendering, multimedia codecs and network infrastructure.

The public beta testing effort also trails roughly three months after Facebook experimented with direct downloads delivering new versions of its app to select Android users. Google quickly revised its Android developer terms and conditions to close the loophole that allowed Facebook to upgrade its app without leveraging the Google Play storefront's update mechanisms.

Facebook is the most downloaded application on Google Play. Its total mobile monthly active users eclipsed desktop users earlier this year and reached 751 million in the first quarter of 2013, a year-over-year increase of 54 percent. Facebook's mobile-only MAUs also increased to 189 million, up from 157 million in the previous quarter.

For more:
- read this Facebook Engineering blog post

Related articles:
AT&T CEO compares HTC First Facebook phone to Apple's ill-fated ROKR
Facebook finally launches hashtag support
Facebook dumping half of ad units to eliminate redundancies
Facebook: Mobile now generates 30 percent of advertising revenues
Facebook: Mobile users outnumber Web users