With Facebook for Android’s recent update to version 1.9, a few things in the app were changed that have to do with messaging, but these changes also may play a bigger role in overall app development for the company. The update included some bug fixes and performance updates, but the real kicker was the updates to the messaging portion of the official Facebook app. Last year, Facebook released similar features to the Android Market (at least that’s what it was called last year), but they weren’t in the official Facebook app, instead they were released to a side-project dubbed Messenger.
Messenger offered a much smoother UI for messaging and chatting with friends, but it also offered a smoother UI than the entire Facebook app users had installed on their devices. This left us thinking “Why wouldn’t Facebook just incorporate these features into the main app itself?” The answer was right in our app drawers. Google+ had just started getting big and the Android app gave users not only a “G+” icon in the app drawer, but Huddle was a shortcut also added when users downloaded G+ and quickly brought them to the group messaging/chat portion of G+. It was never official, but many believe this is the reason Facebook released their Messenger app–to compete with Google+’s Huddle (which was soon changed to ‘Messenger’ as well” or just to make sure they offered everything G+ did in the mobile realm.
Now it’s April 2012, and Facebook has decided to release an update into the Play Store that updates the UI of the messaging portion of the app to be quite similar to that of Messenger’s, but also added two new shortcuts to the mix. The first is called Messenger. Yes, the exact same name as their previously released, standalone messaging app. The icon is different, but still pretty similar to the icon of the old Messenger app. This may be because they aren’t getting the downloads they would like out of Messenger (though this is probably not the case), or it may just be that they are tired of managing two apps they basically do the same thing. It still is a mystery to me as to why they didn’t just do this in the first place with their official app, but there are probably multiple reasons why, one being not to completely rip Google+’s idea of a shortcut to a messaging service. Either way, Messenger is here now, and included right in Facebook’s main app, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they decided to remove the standalone app from the Play Store, as they can’t expect users to keep both of them installed.
The other shortcut added was Camera, and this just allows users to take pictures directly from Facebook’s camera interface and upload them right to their profiles. This is pretty convenient, but I don’t post many photos to Facebook anyways so I won’t be using it much. Facebook version 1.9 is available in the Play Store now, and we will be sure to keep you updated on what Facebook plans to do with their old Messenger app.