A new update for the test group of Facebook for Android users briefly enabled lockscreen notifications, at least for new message activity, before a later update today seems to have disabled the feature. The notifications looked very similar to the lock screen notifications Google showed off at I/O this year, one of the new upcoming features of Android L, the next major update for Google’s mobile OS. Facebook has confirmed to TechCrunch the update went out to a “small group of beta testers.”
The update doesn’t require Android L to be installed to work, however, as I encountered the new feature using an HTC One M8 running Android 4.4.2 with Sense 6. It features a Settings expander with viewing options, and tapping on the notification itself will take you to the Facebook app directly, after you unlock your device. As indicated on the notification itself, swiping will dismiss the notification and keep the device locked. Multiple notifications from multiple message senders stack visually one on top of the other.
I was only able to see message notifications because of the type of activity on my FB account during the test, but other FB activity was also included in the new test feature. Facebook often tests new features on Android, but they don’t always necessarily make it to a shipping release. Presumably once Android L becomes production software, it won’t be required, but Facebook could still gain a user attention advantage by delivering lock screen notifications regardless of what version of Android handset owners have installed on their devices.