Facebook rolled out single sign-on and other features geared to improve information sharing on Apple iPhone and Google Android smartphones for the social network’s 200 million mobile users.
The company, which made the news at its Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters Nov. 3, also unveiled Facebook Deals to let users of the Facebook Places service get discounts to local businesses when they check into them from the iPhone.
Facebook single sign-on (SSO) for any Android phone or any iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch gadget provides users with a big time-saving perk, Erick Tseng, head of mobile products at Facebook, said at the event.
Users logged into Facebook can easily log into applications that support SSO with a single click without typing in a user name and password every time they want to access the app.
This saves a lot of aggravation for users, which ultimately means they will be more likely to engage with mobile commerce opportunities from Facebook and its partners.
Facebook SSO is available today on Android apps such as Groupon, Loopt, SCVNGR, Yelp, Flixster and Zynga Poker, with SSO for iPhone apps available soon.
Facebook’s new Android 1.4 app now supports Facebook Places, allowing users to check into restaurants, businesses and other locations from their Android handset.
Also new to the Android 1.4 app is support for Facebook Groups, which lets users message small groups of friends in a private space, also from an Android phone.
The Facebook for iPhone 3.3 app also supports Groups, along with a new composer to improve checking in and photo taking.
In addition, the app has been updated to include a starred friends list so users needn’t scroll to find their contacts on their iPhone.
Facebook Deals, meanwhile, launched for U.S. users on the new Facebook for iPhone 3.3 application today, with plans to roll out to Android later.
iPhone users can already use Facebook Places to share their location with friends, but with the iPhone 3.3 app, users can leverage Facebook Deals to find nearby offers from restaurants and retailers.
To find deals, users must go to touch.facebook.com or the latest version of Facebook for iPhone, touch “Places” and then “Check In.” Nearby Places with deals have a yellow icon, according to these screenshots.
iPhone users can view the deal and check in to claim it, then show their phone to the cashier to get the gift or discount.
Deals will vary from merchant to merchant and will include individual discounts: “friend deals,” where users will claim offers together; “loyalty deals” for being a frequent visitor to a place; and “charity deals,” where businesses pledge to donate to a cause when users check in.
Current participating businesses in Deals include American Eagle Outfitters, which is offering 20 percent off merchandise; Gap, which will offer free jeans to the first 10,000 customers to claim their deal; and Starbucks, which will donate $1 per check-in to Conservation International.
Facebook Deals threatens to blow up the monetization strategy of services such as Foursquare and Gowalla, which have long been offering deals and coupons to people who check in to businesses.
Without Deals, few Facebook users had the incentive to use Facebook Places instead of Foursquare, which has 4 million users, most of whom are already Facebook users.