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Apple (s aapl) has apparently re-introduced code references to Facebook integration to the most recent iOS 5.1 beta that were once present in pre-release software but later removed. It doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily see Apple include Facebook sign-in at the system level, as it’s done with Twitter, but it definitely makes it more likely than before.
The Facebook features, which also include new Facebook fields for Contacts app entries, were originally spotted by iOS developer @jackoplane in the latest beta. Here’s hoping they actually ship in the software eventually, for the sake of both Apple’s users and Facebook itself . Both stand to gain from the social network’s integration in Apple’s mobile OS.
Users would definitely welcome a means to more easily share content, including photos and links, with their Facebook network, which has a much broader user base than Twitter. As for Facebook, there’s a chance to grow even larger thanks to direct, persistent access on the most popular mobile devices in the world.
Twitter integration has been a boon not only for the social network, where CEO Dick Costolo says it has helped propel growth to new heights, but also to services that depend on Twitter to enable content sharing. Music discovery service Discovr, for instance, saw sharing via Twitter increase substantially following iOS 5’s launch, while its Facebook shares remained relatively constant. Basically, taking away the need to login reduced friction and enabled more shares via Twitter’s service. Single sign-on for Facebook would likely have a similar effect.
I’d also love to see Apple offer a unified inbox, complete with access to Facebook messages, as an option in an upcoming iOS update. Since that’s not something we’ve seen yet with Twitter DMs (RIM (s rimm) actually wins on this one with its upcoming Playbook OS 2.0 update), I’m not expecting it anytime soon. But Facebook integration similar to what we’ve seen with Twitter could at least open the door to that possibility down the road.