The Facebook for iPad app has been prematurely revealed, after the social network pushed out an updated version of its iPhone software that secretly contained code for the tablet. Using a new side-swiped left hand menu bar, the new app relies on a combination of HTML5 and native code, TechCrunch spotted, to allow access to a user's Wall, info, photos and friends, along with friend requests, Facebook Chat and Facebook Places.
Version 3.4.4 of the Facebook app for iOS appears to be a Universal Binary - i.e. the same download will eventually be used for both iPhone and iPad users - and so despite being billed as merely a minor update (restoring the "Send" button for comments and chat, for instance) in fact it's a far bigger change behind the scenes. Usability-wise it's already getting glowing reviews, with sensible use of pop-up menus, a Photos gallery that fits in aesthetically with the iPad's own native app, and responsive mapping in Places.
It's also expected to be the starting point for Facebook's so-called Project Spartan, the social network's leaked strategy to take on Apple's dominance in apps with a system of HTML5 web-apps. Project Spartan is also believed to have Google in its sights, with Facebook rumored to be working alongside Apple on its HTML5 development. The Cupertino company is said to be gaining extra access to Facebook's 600m-strong database of users in return, valuable information that could eventually go on to educate services like the iOS Assistant voice control system.
That strategy is likely to be more appealing given the recent launch success of Google+, with the new social network quickly gathering users and likely to see even greater adoption once Google begins actively promoting it among Gmail account holders. The release date for the Facebook for iPad app is not currently known, but if it's already in the binary then we imagine it can't be far off.