By the end of this week, Facebook expects to complete a “major” update to Messenger for Android that will enable people to use the app to send and receive standard SMS text messages. Vice president of messaging products David Marcus announced the update yesterday in a post on his Facebook page.
Rolling out to “most countries,” the latest version of Messenger for Android will be a fully integrated app that supports a variety of other features on top of standard texting, Marcus said. Those features include support for stickers, voice clips, chat heads and sharing of location information.
In response to a question from one commenter on his Facebook page, Marcus noted that using Messenger for SMS texting is an optional, rather than mandatory, feature. He added that the integrated app is “exclusively” client-side, which means Messenger will handle SMS text messages on users’ devices rather than routing them through Facebook’s servers.
Android Apps ‘Haven’t Kept Up’
“A lot of Android texting apps didn’t keep up with the evolution of messaging, so we felt like we truly had to make Messenger the best SMS client for Android,” Marcus said. “Since a lot of you are asking, rollout has started this morning and will be mostly complete by Friday,” he added.
The latest update to Messenger for Android has been a year-long effort, product manager Andrea Vaccari noted in a separate post on his Facebook page. “With SMS in Messenger, people now have the choice to send and receive SMS messages in Messenger without having to switch between apps to stay on top of their conversations,” Vaccari wrote.
Facebook users can enable the new functionality for Messenger by opening the app, tapping on Settings and selecting “SMS” from the list of options. By then switching on the choice for “Default SMS app,” they will be able to use Messenger for all text messaging.
No Plans for iOS Update
SMS conversations will show up in purple text while Messenger conversations will appear in blue, according to the Messenger page on Facebook. While the updated app will support both standard text and rich content like stickers and emojis, it will not support the sending of GIFs, video or voice calls, transportation requests or money transfers — to handle such tasks, users will have to use the standard Messenger app.
For now, the updated Messenger functionality is available only for Android devices, although SMS texts sent via the app can be read by recipients on any platform, Facebook said. A spokesperson for Facebook told us today that there are currently no plans to make similar features available on Messenger for iOS “as iOS doesn’t currently support app permissions for access [to] text messages/SMS.”
Messenger has been available as a mobile messaging app since 2011. The app has more than 900 million monthly active users and more than 1 billion messages are exchanged every month between individuals and Messenger-using businesses or pages, according to the Messenger page on Facebook.