Facebook updated its Messenger app for iOS and Android today to include the ability to make voice calls through the app. Users can make calls for free over wi-fi, and calls over cellular data will count against a user’s data plan usage, but won’t cost more money than that.
To make a call, users tap on a phone button in the upper right-hand corner of a conversation with a friend. The app will inform users that the call will use up their cellular data, and then connect to the friend in question. At this point, it’s not possible for users to set up conference calls through group messaging. (Group messaging is a feature that Facebook recently added to the app.)
It’s a strike against Microsoft’s Skype division and other companies that offer voice over IP calling on mobile devices, and another sign of how Facebook is trying to expand its reach and appeal. The news comes after screenshots showing VoIP calling capabilities in WhatsApp, which Facebook recently agreed to acquire for $16 billion, surfaced last month. While the two companies will be joining up soon, Facebook is clearly still working to develop its own app’s capabilities.
Mobile voice calling has become an increasingly crowded space, with Google and Apple each offering their own solutions to allow users to phone friends without having to spend phone minutes, or even know their phone number.
Interestingly, Facebook still partners with Skype to provide video calling capabilities through its desktop website, though the company is using its own technology to provide calling through Messenger.