Use Facebook for SMS and VoIP
For a long time Facebook’s reputation wasn’t great when it came to its Android app. The old (HTML5) version of its app was laggy and unresponsive. Until the (fairly) recent release of the native version of its app, this put me off using Facebook on Android and I’ve also ignored its Messenger app.
However, I’ve recently found myself using Facebook more frequently for messaging, especially as SMS is no longer free on my tariff. I’ve therefore started using Facebook Messenger, which works well. It’s used purely for messaging, meaning that you don’t need to load up the full Facebook app (and suffer further distraction) just for the sake of a message.
As an added bonus, you can now use Facebook as your SMS client as well. Due to the cost I’m not using SMS that frequently, but it’s still handy to have both services condensed into one. The thumbnail next to a message displays an icon for SMS or a profile pic for Facebook to distinguish the type of message. As you’d expect the text message is charged at your normal operator rate.
There’s no longer a requirement to have a Facebook account either, so if you have friends that message on FB a lot but you don’t wish to make an account, you’re no longer left out of the conversation.
There’s a bit of a race on at the moment to create a unified messaging app that can also be used to easily share media. Facebook has just added VoiP calling to its iOS app in the UK (it’s been available in the US for the last couple of months) so we can expect it to follow for Android shortly. The service uses Facebook’s own voice-calling client so it will therefore act as a competitor to Skype.
Facebook’s VoIP service is still in its infancy – it’ll need to be rolled out on more platforms and in more regions before it’s a true Skype competitor – but its a step in the right direction for offering an all in one communication app. If Skype or Facebook can get Whatsapp functionality integrated into their apps soon, they’ll have a big advantage over rival services. Being able to make free internet calls, send free internet messages, share media and send SMS all from one app will keep people within the app for longer and boost user numbers.
There was talk towards the end of last year of Facebook buying Whatsapp, although the story doesn’t seemed to have developed any further since. Other rival services include Samsung’s ChatOn, which is essentially a Whatsapp imitation with some added features and BlackBerry messenger, which has a strong feature set but isn’t cross-platform yet. Google and Apple will likely have their own offerings soon enough as well.
The first cross-platform service to include messaging, calls and media sharing for free (excluding data charges) and in a fluid, easy-to-use interface stands to gain a lot of users. In the long run such services will mean that mobile phone tariffs need include data charges only, although high-speed mobile networks first need to be more reliable.