Facebook has spruced up its messenger app to stay in the race, especially with WhatsApp hogging all the limelight.  It has been around for a while and the recently updated version looks quite promising. To begin with, now you no longer need to have a Facebook account to use the messenger; you can simply sign-up with your phone number. While this may seem insignificant, there are still a sizeable number of people who do not have a Facebook account and most importantly, it makes the app universal just like WhatsApp and others. Secondly, the app now also features the ability to send voice messages. We tested the app and here’s what we found.  

The app is swift and you won't expereince lag

The app is swift and you won't expereince lag

Features and UI

The look and feel is in keeping with Facebook, so it’s not difficult to get used to. Also, its layout is quite simple without too many options and devoid of clutter. On the homescreen, you will find all the messages from your Facebook account. Pressing the small paper-pen icon on the right hand corner at the bottom will allow you to create a new message. A dotted bar is placed at the right-hand corner at the bottom, just below the paper-pen icon, to access the settings. From here, you can change the message settings like notification, location services or even switch account to log-in with a different account.

If you want to refresh the page, then you can do so by going to the settings or simply sliding the screen downwards and releasing it. On the other hand, clicking on the icon on the top right corner, or simply sliding the screen to the left, will reveal your friend list. You can see who is online and simply tap on their name to send them a message. Here you will find the edit option that allows you to pin friends you frequently chat with, so that they always get featured at the top in the list. Additionally, you can drag individual names to arrange them according to your liking.         

You can send text, image as well as voice message

You can send text, image as well as voice message

When composing a message, you can send it to a single individual or add as many people as you want. You will see an arrow icon next to 'send', which is for the location; tapping on it will activate the location info. This will make your location visible to the person you are sending the message to.  Apart from plain text, you can send an image, or even a voice message – a feature that was recently introduced. When it comes to sending an image, you can either select one from the albums or click a photo. Additionally, you can search for an image online and simply tap on it to send. If you want to send a voice message, then click on the 'record voice' option, hold down the red button to begin recording and simply release it when done. Currently, it allows you to record up to a one-minute long message.  

The app will show you who has seen the message. If you want to see more details, then in the message window, click on the ‘i’ symbol on the top right hand corner. By clicking on it, you can see all the people who are part of the conversation along with their location on the map underneath. From here, you can give a name to the conversation and even add a picture for it. This is working backwards, as you can only access this after the message has been sent and the conversation is underway. You can also add people to the conversation, manage the notification for current conversations and if you wish to leave the conversation, then you can do so from here as well.

You can set the notification settings from here

You can set the notification settings from here

Performance
If you are quite active on Facebook and have all your close contacts on it, then having the messenger app is a good idea as you can easily connect with all your friends and save on some SMS money. Unlike the other apps, the advantage that messenger has is its familiar layout—not that this should come in the way, but it sure does lead to ease of adaptability. It provides a wide range of emoticons to jazz up your message. It is also very swift and loads quickly without any lag.

You can arrange your frineds and have those you chat with most pinned at the top

You can arrange your frineds and have those you chat with most pinned at the top

However, having said that, the app needs a few more features to make it robust – like the ability to add name and images at the beginning of the conversation rather than having to do so after the conversation is underway. Also, in case you send a message and lose network, then you will have to resend your message. Another thing that we noticed was that if you have both Facebook native app and the Messenger app installed on your phone, then you will receive the notification for new message in both the apps. This can be a bit annoying. Also, currently there is no option to send videos.

In a bid to increase the reach of the app and compete with other existing apps in the market, Facebook did away with the requirement to have a Facebook account to be able to use the Messenger app. We tried to see how that worked as well. If you are not on Facebook, then you can sign-up using your phone number. It will then search your contacts and show you those who are already using Facebook Messenger or the Facebook app on their smartphone. You can invite your other friends who aren’t using any of these services and they will be prompted to download the Facebook Messenger app via SMS. The other features remain the same.

Those you do not have a Facebook account can too use the app

Those who do not have a Facebook account can use the app

Verdict   
Overall, it’s a good app, especially if all your close contacts are on Facebook. It also has all the features that you would need and hence, you won’t be disappointed. The biggest thing going for the app is the familiar layout. And as the app gets updated, the little niggles will hopefully get ironed out. A slew of features is already in the pipeline – like it recently released free calling feature for its iPhone app, which allows users to make free calls to other iPhone users who are using the Messenger app. Currently, this feature is limited only to iOS and is available only in Canada. 

The Facebook Messenger app is available for Android and iOS.

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