Messaging apps face competition with Facebook Messenger on Android

by Marty Gabel

Facebook this week launched a standalone Android (and iOS) app called Facebook Messenger, and it’s already seeing massive downloads on both platforms. The app combines your Facebook chats and instant messages into a single app, and you can also send messages to your mobile contacts via SMS even if they’re not using the app or Facebook itself.

It sounds like the app has plenty of potential to become hugely popular, especially with the Facebook brand behind it, as well as the site’s overwhelming popularity in the social networking sphere. Here’s a nice introduction to its features from Dan Seifert of MobileBurn.com:

How does it run?

A few months ago, Facebook acquired group messaging company Beluga, and its influences are clearly felt within the new app. It’s easy to group-message a selection of contacts and you can even see their location on a map if they’ve chosen to reveal that information.

Overall, the app works well. It offers notifications for messages and runs separately from the somewhat sluggish Facebook for Android app. The ability to add photos to messages, not just from your gallery or camera but from the web at large, is a nice touch too. However, it is missing a few important features. It doesn’t show which of your Facebook friends are online, surely an essential need for instant chats, and a big part of me is still wondering why the chat and messaging features weren’t simply included as a major update to the original Facebook for Android app instead?

Alternatives

But there are, already, plenty of other alternatives out there to the Facebook Messenger app. Android users should be aware of this before the social networking company corners the market. GroupMe has been around for a while and has established a keen following. It’s free too, works on all kinds of devices, and supports SMS in case your connection is poor or you have buddies not using the app. It also adds location features, allows private messages, and... well, it pretty much does what Facebook Messenger does, but perhaps without the social networking giant’s huge reach.

Appolicious Advisor, Kristen Nicole, featured textPlus Messenger+Group Text in her Android Apps of the Week recently because it received a big update. It lets you send messages and pictures to people all over the world for free, plus group messaging between Android phones and tablets anywhere. The app’s international scope has seen it grow quite rapidly in recent months, and according to the developer’s blog, there are 54 million messages sent per day using it.

And there’s plenty more out there. WhatsApp Messenger could easily become an SMS messaging replacement with its availability on all kinds of devices, group chat features, and it’s free for a year ($1.99 per year after that). Add video calling to the mix and an app like Fring really begins to shine because it offers group chat, group text, and even four-way video calls.

The future

Facebook recently announced video-calling integration via Skype in its chat capabilities. It probably won’t be too long until we see these features introduced into the Facebook Messaging app. Although plenty of other developers have released apps offering exciting group messaging and chat options in the past, it’s clear that the power of Facebook’s user base, huge financial resources, and technological backbone will certainly make it a force to be reckoned with in the coming months.

Android users should, however, always bear in mind that there’s plenty of viable alternatives out there in case Facebook Messenger doesn’t really appeal.