Friday 4 January 2013

Facebook testing free calls, voice messaging in Messenger App

Facebook is currently testing VoIP and voice messaging features for its Messenger app in select parts of the world. The social networking giant recently revealed that its Messenger app can now be used to make voice calls in Canada for free. Using a Wi-Fi or cellular data connection, Facebook users can now make free calls using the messenger service on iOS.

The VoIP service is currently rolling out only to Canadian iPhone users, but if the tests go well, this feature could roll out on Facebook Messenger for Android for users globally as well. To make a call using this feature, users need to hit the ‘i’ button and then choose ‘Free Call.’ To try this out, users will only need to update their app and use a Wi-Fi connection or their existing data plans.

While Facebook users in Canada will be able to actually hold a real-time, phone-like conversation, users across the world will have a new feature in the Messenger app wherein they will be able to record short voice messages to send to their friends.  To send a voice message, users need to click on the ‘i’ button and hit record.

While the voice mail-like feature seems to be a nice way to say hello to friends in your own voice, the bigger question is, why Facebook is adding such features so late in the day when they are so freely available with VoIP apps like Skype.

Facebook is testing the VoIP feature with a small test group and might open up voice calls to the rest of the world too. Recently, Facebook  tweaked its Messenger for Android to embrace users that weren't a part of the social networking site. Armed with only a phone number and a name, anyone can use Facebook Messenger to contact friends both on and off Facebook using the Messenger App. Once the Facebook Call over VoIP function is expanded to Android, the number of users taking advantage of the free call function will be immensely larger.

Adding a call and voice message function is one of the many changes Facebook seems to be incorporating in their apps since the past few months. Besides opening up Android Messenger to all, Facebook has also launched Poke, a self-destructing message app that's similar to Snapchat.

Using Poke, Facebook users can send messages and images to their friends and set a time after which the message will automatically be destroyed. Only open to iOS users yet, Poke can send out messages to multiple users at the same time.

Facebook has also been in talks with network carrier Orange to introduce a group calling feature using VoIP called ‘Party Call.’ The feature, touted to be similar to Orange’s own Libon App, will route calls directly through Orange’s voice network to make group calls without needing phone numbers.

In an announcement made in November, Orange had announced that the ‘Party Call’ feature will be available on the mobile and desktop versions of the social networking website, and users will be able to call each other and make group calls using ties on Facebook.

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