Facebook Messenger for Android update follows Google Hangouts upgrade

Social media giant Facebook has announced a major update to its Messenger app just weeks after Google unveiled a major update to Hangouts and the release of Blackberry Messenger for Android.

In a statement, Facebook presents the upgrade as a shift in its focus for its messaging services from desktop to mobile. 

“Facebook messaging started as a desktop chat experience, but when it comes to messaging on mobile, people want something faster and lighter weight.

“Starting today, we’re testing an update to Messenger on Android that makes it a faster and more reliable mobile-to-mobile messaging experience. More details on the features being tested are below.”

Key new features include a mobile Messenger icon that appears next to people currently using the app, the ability to send a message to users that aren’t on your Facebook list by entering their phone number and a revised user interface.

The announcement comes as competition in the mobile messaging market intensifies, with WhatsApp, Microsoft’s Skype, Google Hangouts, BlackBerry Messenger and WeChat.

BlackBerry recently released its Messaging app for Apple iOS and Google Android devices despite a series of technical issues, with the company claiming more than 10 million downloads in the first 24 hours.

Google recently announced its Hangouts app for Android is superseding the original Android Messaging app by handling SMS in Android KitKat, although users will be able to choose their default messaging app.

The upgrade also improved the video call capabilities of Hangouts, with full-screen sharing added across mobile and desktop devices, along with automatic adjustment for poor lighting conditions.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports China Mobile is also keen to join the increasingly crowded messaging market, launching a new app called Jego for overseas users hoping to communicate with friends and relatives in China.

The Jego app gives users a local Chinese phone number, allowing them to make and receive calls or text messages through the app at the same prices as they would receive in China.

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