Facebook Messenger Update Adds Free VoIP Call Feature

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Within days of introducing group chat on its messaging app, Facebook has rolled out a new update for Messenger. This new update brings a free call feature that lets you call friends who have the Messenger app installed on their phone. The calls are free over Wi-Fi but data rates will apply if you aren’t connected to a Wi-Fi connection. When updated, the app will ask for permission to access the microphone and will also warn you that calls made over your mobile network will be charged at your standard data rate. Both iPhone and Android apps have received the update.

How it works

To make a call, launch the app and tap the ‘People’ tab. Select the friend you want to call and tap the phone button. Because the call is being made over Wi-Fi, there is a slight delay in connecting the call but if you make calls using Skype or Viber on your phone, you’ll know the delay is neither unusual nor indicative of a slow or poor performing app.

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Your recipient will be alerted to the incoming call only if they have notifications for Messenger enabled.

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In-call functions allow you to route the incoming audio to your phone’s speaker, to mute your microphone, and to minimize the call so you continue chatting with your friends. You can also switch to a different app during the call and return to it immediately by tapping the status bar that will indicate you’re call is still connected. When the call ends, Messenger asks you for feedback on the call quality, pretty much like Skype.

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The Interface

Messenger has integrated the call feature exceptionally well; the call button isn’t the big deal here because it’s integrated more or less the same way as the call button in iMessages. It’s how the app makes use of a contact’s profile and cover photos. The profile picture gets center stage and the cover picture is blurred out in the background.

Caveats

Facebook friends who do not have the latest Messenger app installed will not be able to receive calls. The call button for these contacts will be grayed out to indicate that a call cannot be made. Calls cannot be received from your desktop if you’re signed in to Facebook.

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