09
Aug
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A while ago, I had a chance to review an app called Beluga. At first, it looked like it could be a cross-platform answer to BBM, the popular instant message service that comes standard with all Blackberrys. As a cross-platform solution, it worked well.

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However, one of the problems with Beluga was that even though it was good in theory, there wasn't the user base to keep it afloat. You either had to convince your friends to use an untested product, or go back to SMS.

So when Beluga was bought by Facebook earlier this year, all signs pointed to the social networking company moving into Blackberry and Apple's messaging market. Today, out of the blue, the app is available for download for iOS and Android. The app looks to be a standalone messaging solution for Facebook users, with each message syncing across all platforms.

  

At first glance, the app doesn't seem that different from what's already in place with Facebook for Android, as the layout is mostly the same. However, this app is more dependable than Facebook's "vanilla" app, as I find messages and sync work legions better. With Facebook for Android, I found it nigh-impossible to actually leave conversations, or get them to notify properly.

However, Messenger seems to hit the nail on the head that you need everything to sync properly if you want a messaging app to work. Notifications are speedy and reliable, and you can mute conversations on a person-by-person basis, if you so wish. While not instant, the notifications come in at a reasonable pace, and I haven't had any major problems yet.

But otherwise, the app functions like the Facebook for Android messaging app with a few more improvements. For instance, users can be added to a group chat, and their locations can be plotted on a map for easy viewing. The company would like to tout this as a way to get people organized for events quickly, but unless there is a guarantee that everyone has seen/read the message (something that's been omitted from Beluga, weirdly), it still becomes a game of phone tag.

Along with group chat functionality comes photo messaging, which was a part of Facebook's desktop platform. It's really simple, and allows photos to be treated as attachments, instead of posting them to a public album.

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But the question remains: will anyone actually use Facebook messaging?

This is a tough question to answer, because there are so many different variables on the horizon:

  • Do the amount of Facebook users supersede Apple or Blackberry owners? (Yes.)
  • Are more users likely to use a cross-platform client developed by Facebook itself, when they won't have to sign up for anything extra? (Maybe.)
  • Without a Blackberry OS app, will Facebook lose a large portion of its potential userbase? (Maybe.)
  • Is the app functional even if not everyone uses it? (Yes!)

This last one is important. Because the app integrates into the currently-existing Facebook infrastructure and is not its own service, you can still communicate with other people if they don't have the app. While this isn't exactly the most optimal situation, it still means that you'll get some use out of it if you use Facebook.

But I can really see this app shining if more people use it on their mobile phone, which is its intended use. With Facebook launching video chat via Skype, features like video calls or conferencing could definitely become a part of the app. With Apple launching iMessage in the near future, this could definitely provoke a race to see which one can outdo the other.

Ultimately, the point of an app like this is simple: have people send and receive messages in a timely. manner. if for any reason there becomes and issue where the chat isn't as instantaneous as BBM, iMessage, Liveprofile or whatever else, Facebook Messenger will fall by the wayside as an unreliable product. For now, however, I'll give it a pass.

As a free download that does its job well, I can give Facebook Messenger a recommendation. It takes some customization to avoid being intrusive (especially with frequent notifications across multiple devices), but it does the job well and doesn't require any new signups. That's good design.

Matt Demers
Matt Demers is a Toronto writer that deals primarily in the area of Android, comics and other nerdy pursuits. You can find his work on Twitter and sites across the Internet.

  • Letroy

    Notifications never work for me for some reason... -.-'

  • Astria

    thing is, most of the friends that i chat with on FB, they ve WhatsApp as well...

  • http://goo.gl/collinbpage LePeR

    What i like best is i can Fully delete my facebook messages without all kinds of hurdles like the desktop version lol.. FU ARCHIVE

  • Jay

    USA only. Blogs really need to start reporting this for apps.

    • Matt Demers

      I'm Canadian and it works.

    • http://goo.gl/collinbpage LePeR

      I'm Canadian also

  • En klurig en

    And you succeded in not mentioning Gtalk or Google+ chat at all on an Android site. How strange...

  • Matt

    Can someone put up an APK? Why the hell is this US only ?!

    • Russ

      Probably a mapping thing for locations? Not available in the UK yet either

    • http://goo.gl/collinbpage LePeR

      Here's the APK via Multiupload
      http://goo.gl/5WnrW

  • wackadroid

    stupidest app ever. when u type a message to someone and their mobile # is an option the person should actually RECEIVE the message. i tried multiple times to send a text message and it never worked once when i sent it. save urself the trouble and just use gchat.

  • Namuna

    How does this work? If I'm using the FB Messenger on my Android phone...And my Wife only has FB (but not FB Messenger), can we still chat?

    How about if she's at home and on FB from PC? Can I still chat with her then?

    • http://bit.ly/collinbpage LePeR

      Yes and Yes.. This just uses the Messages system from facebook so it works all round

      • http://mgamerzproductions.blogspot.com Mgamerz

        It's facebook chat... it works half of the time and expect it to change every 4 months entirely.

  • aj

    Interesting idea, but it's still useless for me seeing as everyone I know hates Facebook's messaging system, and I don't know ANYONE else who has this app. If I started messaging people with this I know they'll be annoyed at the fact I keep bugging them via Facebook. I'll stick with Talk/Huddle for now. If more people start using the app and messaging through Facebook becomes more popular on phones then I'll get into it. Until then I'll just leave it to hang out un-used in the app drawer.

  • http://mgamerzproductions.blogspot.com Mgamerz

    Sorry facebook, your terrible privacy controls (location on by default?) aren't going to work for me. Not now, not ever.

  • Jay

    Ill stick to Whatsapp thanks. I'm glad they have brought this out but unless there is huge uptake it will just be annoying.

  • Sam

    I installed the Facebook messenger into my my samsung galaxyS the same with my husband on his samsung galaxyS 2,, how come we do not seem to appear to be online (no green dot) when in fact we are both online? can only see the mobile phone icon on the right sidebar. Some of our online friends can see us online?? (with green dot beside our names) Weird,,, so between the two of us, we both appear offline even if we are not? Frustrating apps,,decided to uninstall the apps but nothing's changed. Can someone please HELP!! I want to see my chat box the way it used to be:( appreciated!

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