The new version of Facebook Messenger is now available for iPhone and Android with a more stylized design and a spiffy new interface with which it hopes to emulate the success of the biggest IM apps. The changes are not just visual: the app now lets users associate their accounts with their telephone numbers, so that it works just like WhatsApp or LINE.
Facebook Messenger is one of the main communication apps in the US and has one of the largest user bases thanks to the social network that it’s based on, but in the rest of the world it falls far behind other messaging services that dominate the market. With this new update, the company has made the app more independent and now it seems to function outside the social network itself, with the decoupling of the two now so complete that even the word “Facebook” has disappeared from the name of the app. Maybe, just maybe, this will pave the way for taking on the IM giants.
Version 3.0 is much more simple than its predecessors and boasts a design that’s reminiscent of iOS 7. In addition, it works faster, with a main screen divided into three tabs that makes the app more practical, with separate sections for recent conversations, your friends list, and your settings. Now the profile thumbnail for each contact appears in a circle that will have a small icon next to it indicating whether they are connected as well as their type of connection, either via the app or from the web version.
From the previous version Facebook has retained the chat bubble feature so you can keep receiving notifications and chatting with your friends even when you’re not inside the app itself. Besides just chatting, you can also send stickers, images, and voice messages, or display your location.
But undoubtedly the most important change is the option to use Messenger to talk to your contacts even if they are not your friends on Facebook; you just need their number in your mobile phone contacts and they need to have the app installed. In this new version is will be mandatory to register your mobile number on the social network so that you can send and receive messages on the app. This is also advantageous for those users who log onto the web version of Facebook and want to pick up a conversion started on their phones.
That said, if you’re an iOS user you might get rather frustrated, since if you don’t activate the notifications and the location function or register your number, Facebook will display an alert for you to do so every single time you open the app.