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Facebook Messengers Updates To Allow ‘Contact Via Phone Number’

14 November 2013

As the smartphone market continues to encourage the development new chat and messenger apps, those already in existence need to continually adapt and improve to stay relevant. Facebook is one of many SMS apps fighting for the users’ attention span and a recent update may help them to do so.

Now offering iOS users the option of ‘contact via phone number’, Facebook Messenger’s latest update also includes quicker loading and navigation as well as a less cluttered interface. Select Android beta testers received the update at the end of last month, but now the improvements are going live to all Android and iOS users.

Prior to the update, users were unable to use the Facebook Messenger app to contact anyone who they were not already friends with on Facebook. However, many of their competitors did not place this restriction on users, leading to the popularity of messaging apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat and KakaoTalk that use phone numbers to message contacts.

The screenshots in Apple’s App Store make it clear that Facebook is taking on a number of competitors with its new features and Messenger updates. It promises to allow users to “Send photos privately”, just like SnapChat; “Say it better with stickers”, just like Line, and markets itself as “Not just for Facebook friends”, just like every other major SMS app.

But does bringing its messaging app up to speed with competitors give Facebook any kind of advantage if other SMS apps have already gained popularity? Part of the problem is that WeChat, WhatsApp, and KakaoTalk already have millions of satisfied users, whose friends are also already using those apps. So why should they bother downloading yet another SMS app that hasn’t differentiated itself?

It’s likely that Facebook’s updates will help it retain existing users, but it’s difficult to say whether the social media site will be able to attract new users to its SMS app.

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