Chat with friends frequently on Facebook? Facebook Messenger isolates that feature and eliminates all the other clutter. The app, touting almost 200 million Android users and almost 150 million iPhone users as of January, lets you chat quickly and easily -- with up to 250 of your friends at once. Plus, it incorporates Facebook's new Chat Heads feature. An easy-to-use app, is Facebook Messenger just as addictive as its parent?
To get started with Facebook Messenger, simply enter your email or phone number and Facebook password. Although this may be obvious, you have to have a Facebook account to use Facebook Messenger.
Facebook Messenger is available for Android, iOS and BlackBerry.
Click to EnlargeFacebook Messenger's interface is straightforward: Your messages are listed in order from the most recent correspondence, and you can scroll to view older messages. Tap the Menu button in the upper right to view your favorites, which are chosen by Facebook (we're assuming it's based on with whom you converse most). We wish you could choose your favorites, like on WhatsApp and Viber. However, a search bar lets you type someone's name or phone number to quickly access a contact.
Click to EnlargeA green dot on the right indicates a contact is active on Facebook Messenger; a phone icon indicates that he or she is available on their mobile device.
In Settings, you can adjust notifications, sound, vibrate and Chat Heads.
The Chat Heads feature links to Facebook Messenger and alerts you via your home screen when you have a new message. A bubble with the sender's face pops up, and you can access the chat by tapping the face. If you have messages from multiple contacts, the most recent person stays on top. We wish you could separate the bubbles to view the chats separately, instead of having to go through the most recent chat to access other chats. That's a complaint for Chat Heads, though, and not this particular app.
Click to EnlargeUsers can also send emoticons and stickers. There's a decent-size inventory of free sticker collections, but we were more impressed with Viber's hysterical emoticons. Facebook Messenger lets you take or choose photos to send, send images after searching for them via a Bing search and record a voice message. You can also display your exact location to friends when you send a specific message or hide your location.
Facebook Messenger has a Record Voice feature, which lets you record audio and then send it, similar to the Walkie Talkie feature in TextPlus. However, we wish there was a video call function, like in Google Hangouts.
Facebook users can call active friends without incurring carrier charges, as well as group chat with up to 250 people at once (which blows Viber's 40 and WhatsApp's 30 group participants out of the water), and see who within that group has seen your message.
Click to EnlargeWhen we placed a call with Messenger, our caller's voice came through loud and clear. The location feature accurately captured where we were at any given moment. Sending voice recordings was easy; however, we wish there was the option to rerecord in case we didn't like the first recording.
Click to EnlargeWhile it's limited to your Facebook contacts, chances are that if you're on that social network, most of the people you'll want to chat with are, too. We wish it had video capabilities such as Viber and WhatsApp, but for those on Facebook, Messenger works as advertised for communicating with your friends.