Messenger: Facebook’s iPhone Messaging App

I was standing in the doorway of a co-worker’s office a few days ago when the walls and ceiling started to shake.  The building we were in is new and at times they are still doing construction in some of the office.

For the first few seconds I thought that the construction team was working on the office above us.  But the shaking continued and got worse until I realized I was experiencing an earthquake for the first time in my life.   The 5.8+ magnitude earthquake that hit Central Virginia may seem like its over blown for individuals in California but for us living on the east coast it was a big deal (You have to remember that our buildings are not built with Earthquakes in mind and we have no real planning for such an event).

After the event it seems like everyone quickly picked up their cell phones and tried to reach loved ones to see if they felt the earth move and if they were ok.  AT&T and many other phone companies quickly failed with their voice service and calls could not be made or received.

While voice channels were down, data was still up and text messages and internet access was available in spurts.  I quickly checked with my family via text messages and then started seeing requests and comments come in from friends and extended family around the world.   These messages were coming through Facebook’s Messenger app. It appears that while traditional voice lines are essentially worthless in reaching out to large groups of friends and family during disastrous times, communication apps will provide the ability to quickly connect with others.

Communicate with Friends with Messenger

Facebook released earlier this month a messaging application for the iPhone and Android platforms.  This was somewhat of a surprise move given that people believed such a feature would be included in the New Facebook app being developed.

By pulling it out of their official application, Facebook made it clear that they wanted to allow users of their app to focus on communicating with friends directly.   This move seems to target iMessage, the communication platform that will be built into every iOS device with iOS 5.0. Facebook appears to do everything it can to get ahead of competitors in the social sphere, and to their credit they have done a great job with their Messenger app.

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Streamlined Instant Messaging and Email Like Communication

Facebook Messenger for the iPhone does what so many Apple applications do well, it keeps things simple. Messenger allows you to communicate quickly and easily with your Facebook friends. Select a friend from your list, start typing, and send. Your friends will receive the messages on their iOS devices or on their computer if they’re logged into Facebook.

One of the best features of the messenger app is that when communicating with individuals without an iPhone, or that are away from their computer, they’ll still receive the message the next time they login to Facebook. This doesn’t offer the “instant” feel that many appreciate about mobile communications but it does allow people to quickly send notes and messages, similar to how they send emails, from one application that can either provide instant messaging or email. This has been Facebook’s vision for the future of computer based communications.

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Mobile Alerts & Location

Facebook Messenger on the iPhone is built to notify you of new communications via pop-up alerts. The application lets you set how often you receive these, thus letting you put the application into an email like mode versus instant messaging and texting capabilities.

The app also features location based services that allows your location to be sent with your messages. I expect this feature to become more prominent in future versions of the app.

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Overall the Facebook Messenger app is great for communicating with your social network. It worked flawlessly for me during the earthquake here in Washington D.C. this week and I have enjoyed using it daily to communicate with friends and family.