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Facebook adds voice and chat to its Messenger apps

Facebook is also testing mobile messaging over VoIP.

Facebook added a new feature to its Messenger apps for Android and iOS via an update on Friday: Voice messages and chat. Instead of typing messages or sending photos and smiley faces, now you can record and send quick voice messages.

To send a voice message, tap the "+" sign next to the text field, and a new option to record a message will appear. You tap and hold the record button to record your message. While you hold, Messenger shows the length of your message and microphone volume; if you swipe off the button, the recording will be cancelled. If you simply hold and record, when you lift your finger, your voice message is sent. You can replay your message once it is sent.

Fast but quiet service

In a brief test of the updated Facebook Messenger between the iOS and Android versions, I found the app was quick to send the recordings, but the sound levels can be quite low, even with the speaker at full volume. The app does not indicate whether your recipient listened to your message, unlike text messages that send a notification after the message is read.

Recorded voice messages in Messenger are just a first step, though. Some users will get to test free voice calls between Messenger buddies when you are connected to Wi-Fi. The Voice over IP function will be limited for a few weeks to Canadian users of the iOS app, but Facebook says it will become available to more users later this year. To initiate a call, you tap the "i" button in the top right corner and select "Free Call."

The new features in Facebook Messenger are not unique. Similar features have been available in apps such as WhatsApp, HeyTell, Voxer, or Viber for some time, as well as Skype calls. However, this implementation brings the function to Facebook's 1 billion user base. Facebook users can more easily send voice messages and, soon, free voice calls via mobile apps, without having to register and use yet another app for such purposes.

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