Facebook Makes Its Messenger App More Like Texting

Facebook is updating its standalone messaging app, Messenger, the company announced Tuesday.

The new version of Messenger, an app that lets users send messages on mobile devices, will be available to both iOS and Android users in the coming weeks. The updated app works a lot like SMS or texting; users can send messages to any of their mobile contacts through Messenger, not just their Facebook friends or friends of friends. This requires app users to include their mobile numbers in order to receive messages from non-Facebook friends.

Recipients who don’t have the app will receive messages in their Facebook inbox. The new version of the app sends messages more quickly and better identifies which of your Facebook friends or mobile contacts actually have the Messenger app by listing a small badge next to their pictures in your contacts list. This helps eliminate the confusion of not knowing which platform the recipient will see your message on, according to Peter Martinazzi, the Messenger product manager at Facebook.


Once a mobile number is added, it appears on that user’s Facebook timeline under the “Only Me” default, meaning no one else can view it. Users will automatically be searchable on Messenger by their mobile numbers, a setting that they can opt to turn off.

Each version was designed specifically for its operating system and works better for mobile-to-mobile conversations, said Martinazzi. The Android app allows users to swipe between tabs across the top, including messages, contacts and settings. Every icon and button in the app now fits the traditional Android style, said Luke Woods, the design lead for Messenger. Previously, both Android and iOS versions of the app used iOS icons.

On iOS, the app is designed with all three tabs across the bottom. Both apps have new sounds for sending and receiving messages as well as a slightly redesigned app logo and coloring, Woods said.

Both versions also allow users to mute sound notifications for specific conversations and utilize Facebook’s Chat Heads feature.

For people accustomed to using standard text and SMS, Messenger still provides benefits, Martinazzi said, For starters, messages received from users not in your contact list still contain the sender’s name and profile picture.

“In other countries, one of the big draws is going to be that instead of paying 10 cents per SMS or whatever the cost is, it’s free,” Martinazzi said. “But we’re hoping people in the U.S are going to love it too. And while the free-value prop is not the reason they’re going to use it, all of the other features are hopefully reasons they’ll like to use this.”

The rollout begins Tuesday with a small group of Android users and should be available to all iOS and Android users icn the “coming weeks.”

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