Facebook Messenger for iPhone adds free voice calling for US users

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Facebook may not have announced a new phone but nevertheless it does have something in store for users in the United States. After Facebook tested a free voice calling feature for Canada users earlier this month, the social networking giant has now rolled out the feature to iPhone users in the US, The Verge reports.

What this means is iPhone users in the US can make free calls to each other via the Facebook Messenger app using a Wi-Fi connection, with no carrier data charges, or using their data connection plan while on-the-move. Users do not need to update the app in order to use the new feature.

Within the app, users can initiate a voice call by selecting a friend from their conversation list and tapping the "i" icon in the upper right hand corner, which reveals a "Free Call" option. So if you're a heavy talker and don't like wasting your cell phone minutes, then free voice calling from Facebook Messenger could be your saviour.

That said, users won't get a normal phone call. Instead they'll receive a push notification on their screens with the caller's name. Also, users can only connect with a conversation partner who also has Messenger installed on their iPhone.

Users cannot ring up a Facebook friend who is logged in through the website and mobile/ landline numbers cannot be dialled as of now. Calling is still absent from the Android and BlackBerry versions of the Messenger app.

When it comes to VoIP features using the Web version of Facebook, they are integrated with Skype. But voice calling technology in Messenger is completely Facebook-based.

Voice calling isn't something we aren't familiar with. Google has had it for a long time now with Google Voice and through Gmail Chat and Skype has been around for quite a while too. The only disadvantage is that both seem to have a smaller user base in comparison to Facebook.

From a user point of view, with the integration of voice calling into Facebook Messenger, that's one less app to use and many more Facebook users on mobile.

This latest announcement joins the company's list of various mobile announcements made in the past couple of months. In June 2012, Facebook Messenger v1.8 for iOS and Android brought the ability to quickly switch between multiple conversations using in-app notifications.

In August, Facebook for iOS was completely revamped with the app being built from scratch to bring a major speed and performance improvements.

Then in October 2012, the Messenger app was again updated for the iOS with a new interface, support for iOS 6 and iPhone 5 that came about a week after the app was updated for Android.

In December last year, the company had rolled out its new Messenger app, allowing mobile phone users without Facebook account to sign up the service with a phone number. In the same month, the social network announced the Facebook Poke app, which erases pictures and messages within 10 seconds of being sent.

In India, Reliance Communications had launched a new 'Facebook Messenger Plan,' which offers unlimited access to Facebook (including the Facebook Messenger), for Rs. 16 per month.

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