Report: Facebook's iPad application hidden inside iPhone app code

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Facebook's long-awaited application for Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad tablet is reportedly buried within the code of the latest version of the social networking giant's iPhone app, issued this weekend.

TechCrunch reports that Facebook for iPhone 3.4.4 includes a fully executable version of the native, HTML5-based iPad app, although the solution is currently usable only on jailbroken iPad units. The app touts a left-side menu system, popover menus, News Feed, Places integration and other features. A source confirms that the edition of Facebook for iPad discovered in the iPhone app code is the same version the company plans to formally launch sometime in the near future.

More than 12 months after the iPad first hit retail, Facebook remains conspicuously absent from the tablet platform. In mid-June, The New York Times reported Facebook for iPad has been in production for over a year, evolving through a series of design iterations. People who have seen the app say its user experience is tailored for the iPad's touchscreen interface, with revamped Facebook Chat and Facebook Groups features. Facebook also will unveil new full-screen photo and video-sharing tools.

Sources indicate that Facebook also plans to retool its mobile website to accommodate the iPad form factor--one person said the site is not intended to compete with Facebook's iPhone and iPad apps, but it will "supplement these experiences." Last month, TechCrunch reported that Facebook is developing an HTML5-based mobile platform optimized for the iPhone and iPad designed to circumvent the App Store distribution channel, giving Facebook far greater control over the user experience as well as premium app downloads and in-app transactions.

Apple has sold more than 25 million iPad units since introducing the device in April 2010. During that time, Facebook users have consistently bemoaned the absence of a web interface developed for touchscreen-based devices. Third-party developers have stepped in to fill the void, rolling out Facebook-themed iPad apps including MyPad, iFace and Facetab.

Facebook now boasts almost 700 million users worldwide, with more than 250 million consumers actively using Facebook's mobile products across all platforms, up from only 65 million a year ago. According to Nielsen Company data published last year, Facebook is also the most popular app on Apple's iOS platform, with 50 percent of users accessing the solution within the last 30 days.

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