Android users get two treats from Facebook today: an update to the Facebook app and the stand-alone Facebook Messenger app that not only makes the service look better, but also adds the ability to send texts through Facebook.
In the updated Facebook Messenger app, users can bring up the chat window (which in-browser Facebook users will be familiar with) by swiping their finger to the left anywhere in the app. This screen displays who is available to chat and, just like the browser-based version, friends that users message most frequently will appear at the top of the list.
But the biggest design change-up is in how these conversations actually appear on-screen. Facebook Messenger now mimics the way SMS messages are viewed on smartphones (much likes communications apps Viber and WhatsApp do, too).
The conversation layout is now more attractive, less cluttered and a lot easier to follow. This new view will also be available in the main Facebook app and, inside this app, users can tap the icon on the top right of the screen to access the chat window and find out who’s available to talk.
Facebook’s move to become a communications hub
Facebook has also added SMS functionality to the new Facebook Messenger. Users can now text contacts directly from the app and these texts can be viewed alongside Facebook messages, as well as emails to users’ @facebook.com email addresses, all in one place. Clearly, Facebook wants to be a one-stop-shop for users to communicate with friends.
This feature is only available on certain phones, though, as Facebook works towards adding more devices down the line. Currently, TechCrunch finds it’s compatible with the HTC EVO 3D, HTC One X, LG Optimus Black, LG Optimus Hub, Samsung Galaxy Ace, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S III, and Samsung Galaxy Y.
The Android update for Facebook Messenger is available today, while an iOS update will arrive later. Because the app will now require access to your SMS functions, the new update will not be rolled out automatically but can be manually downloaded from Google Play.