Alright, Google. It's time to stop leaving your VoIP service to languish on the vine. Facebook has released a double-whammy of big news bits. For starters, today the social network is rolling out an update to its Messenger app that will allow users to send each other short, recorded audio clips. It's voicemail for the 21st century, if such a thing can even exist without being horrible. And, really, this sounds like it's not.


Perhaps more interestingly, though, is that Facebook is also testing free VoIP calling in Canada right now. This is a huge deal, as it competes directly with Google Talk. Right now you can use Talk to place voice calls to other users, but as anyone with an Android phone could tell you, there are vastly more people who use Facebook than Google Talk.

Of course, the bigger problem is convincing people to turn to their IM service for two-way voice calling. For starters, VoIP calls over 3G networks are still not as high-quality as phone calls and WiFi/LTE have less coverage than current purely-phone networks (in most areas). Oh yeah, and there's that whole ditching-the-phone-number thing that would be difficult to program people to do.

Either way, though, one-way voice messaging is a great new feature that brings Messenger up to par with things like iMessage. Meanwhile, Google's communication services are still pretty scattered. In his comprehensive preview of 2013, Ron predicted that we would see a grand merging of the various communication services. If this is how the competition is starting 2013, Mountain View is making a mistake if they're not working on that.

In any case, the update that brings one-way voice messaging should be rolling out at some point today. Widget below for those who don't already have the app.

Update: The update is rolling out now (some of us have already received it) but if you haven't, you can force an update from the Play Store by heading to the web client via the widget below and selecting to install it on a device that already has the app downloaded. Or installing it fresh on one that doesn't have it at all, of course.

Update 2: Hands-on time! So, the way this works is kind of odd. While voice recordings are treated like just another kind of message you can send. Just tap on the + sign next to the text box to send a voice recording. Once you do, a button with a red dot will appear. Here's where things get interesting: to record, you hold the button and speak, then let go to send. If you make a mistake, you move your finger off the button, and then release, at which point it will cancel the message.

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It doesn't quite feel entirely natural. One wonders why a simple "tap to start, tap again to stop" wasn't implemented, but it's a minor quibble. Otherwise, the service works just fine. I was able to send a 7 second voice message relatively quickly, and the person on the other end played it back about ten minutes later. I could definitely see this being handy.

Source: All Things D

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • woj_tek

    riight... google has to finally get the grips and merge all of their chat services and then we can start talking about voip and whatnot... currently users disable Talk after they isntall android because it's annoying... and they go to extra effort to search for facebook, get the app, login, and use it... take note google! (tho, I would love gtalk more - better quality and nicer UI of the app)

    • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

      Different groups of friends and all, but I honestly don't know a single person that intentionally disables Talk. Neither Talk nor Facebook are particularly great about timely notifications of messages, but I really don't see anybody using either one of them for regular messaging unless they use it with specific friends or for specific features. I think the biggest problem comes from the lack of a Google-created Talk client on iOS (and other platforms). If that hole were filled, I imagine Talk would stand a chance to overtake Facebook and start replacing SMS.

      • woj_tek

        disables as in sign off and never sign in which basically disables it (i know a lot of people from my contact list that currently own droid device and are not online)
        I'm also not confronted with anyone using fb/gtalk exclusively instalead of reuglar messeging but... i was making the point that if someone is acually using one of this two then it would be fb... actually i don't know anyone using gtalk on the phone to actually chat instead of just being online...

        • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

          Almost everybody I know owns an Android phone (iPhones have become amazingly unpopular here), but they don't show up in Talk because I've never added them as a chat contact. I use Talk intermittently with about 5-8 people. I prefer Talk on the phone because it's more reliable at message delivery than Facebook has been, and I prefer Talk in general (over SMS) because it's the only way for people to send a message to me and I'll see it on my phones, tablets, and computer even if the phone is nowhere near me. As a bonus, I get a message on Talk and I can walk over to my computer and start typing responses with a real keyboard (without using one of those awkward SMS-from-computer apps). The cross-device capability of Talk is a huge selling point for me.

          I do a little bit of IM'ing with Facebook, but that's because those few people are already very Facebook attached...and they are almost entirely the few remaining iPhone users, who don't have a good Talk client :)

          • woj_tek

            I hear what you are saying BUT... 2/3 of my contacs doesn't own nor plan to onw smartfone therefore whole debate IM vs SMS is pointless in it's root for me (which I stated in the beginign also...). From the chatpoint for view only - as I staed - more people from my contacts use fb than gtalk because it's in one place and not in gazzilion incompatible incarnations and they are online when they go to fb.com... in case of gtalk: signoff from mobile gtalk, when they go to g+ they have something different, in gmail they sign-off from chat because who uses it (in their mind)?! Whicked circle...

            disclaimer - I use xmpp for any IMing excusively, but... it's not that easy ;)

      • Ray

        I intentionally disable Google Talk. I live in Aus and the only thing Talk is good for is messaging, which I can do via SMS anyway. So, Google Talk gets disabled.

  • Mitchell Feigley

    So fb is going to have VoIP on Android before Google will? That's absurd considering Google should have added this to Google Voice long ago!

  • Disqus Sucks

    It's Facebook, of course it's going to be horrible.

  • zmberven

    Whoa. It works incredibly well. Can be played on PCs and such, too.

  • Davy Jones

    Yay, in Canada. Maybe that will convince Google to finally bring Voice up here.

  • thisphuckinguy

    How do you set up voice messages? Can't see where to initiate it

    • thisphuckinguy

      Nevermind. Figured it out :-)

  • http://twitter.com/ao9news andy o

    Not to mention Talk's features are extremely basic, not even picture sharing. I literally only have two contacts on Talk, Whatsapp and Viber take care of most others.

    And it's also very buggy. Mine is always showing up as available, and from googling, it's happening to others without any fix possible. I even went as far as deleting all connected apps and deleting individual app passwords, then changing my Google password. Nothing. When I try to go invisible I get a message that I can't cause I'm connected somewhere else but it won't tell me where! And since I did change my password, that can't even be true anymore.

    WTF wouldn't it let you know where else you are connected, beasts me. Even super lame MSN messenger has had that feature for years, ever since they started allowing multiple log ins, it's just common sense, if not just for security reasons.

    • http://www.facebook.com/benjamin.pavel Benjamin Pavel

      +1 i agree with you especially about not able to send pictures/videos/voice and that bug about being always available.

  • Piyush

    viber is better.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kadeep.wattakaew Kadeep Na Pen

    why iphone

  • bw

    i get an error creating audio attachment message on my motorola electrify

    • http://twitter.com/xlbear Max

      me too on my motorola atrix

  • Igor

    I think that latest Facebook Messenger App update is really awesome. Voice messaging is exactly what we all waited for for so long. However there's still one thing missing. Members of numerous Facebook Groups and Events don't actually have a native tool for live voice conversations.

    We're trying to change this with GroupVox app that brings live voice messaging to existing Facebook Groups and Events. It feels natural to send voice notes to communities you're a part of, right from any iOS device, Android or using built-in web-based player on Facebook. All voice messages are stored on Group's Timeline and can be played anytime.

    Check it out at Google Play and at AppStore. It's free.


  • melina

    If I get an "error creating audio message" what do I do ?