Last month, Facebook began testing free VOIP calling through Facebook Messenger to any of your Facebook friends to Canadian users. This past week, Facebook updated its Facebook Messenger app for US customers that now allows US users to take advantage of this new feature. However, actually finding the option to make these free calls over Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G in the app isn’t as easy as users would like, or expect, from Facebook.
Before getting started in our tutorial, there are few things of note. First, only US and Canadian users can take advantage of this new feature. Second, only the iOS version of the Facebook Messenger app has the support to make VOIP calls. Facebook has promised an update to Facebook Messenger for Android soon to add this functionality, but for now it’s iOS or nothing. Third, any friend you wish to make a VOIP call to via Facebook Messenger for iOS must also be running the most current version of Facebook Messenger (version 2.1.1).
Once you’ve found a friend in the US, with an iPhone, and who has the most updated version of the Facebook Messenger app, making a VOIP call to them is just a few taps away. Simply swipe from right to left on the main screen to bring up your list of active/available friends on Facebook. Select your recipient by touching their name and you’ll be greeted with the same chat screen for text input. One would expect to find the option there to place a call, but even touching the plus button only yields the options to attach a photo, use the camera, or record your voice for a quick voice message. To make a call, you’re going to have to do a little digging. At the top of the screen you will see your recipient’s name listed between the “Back” button and the information button.
The information button is where users will find whether they’re friend is capable of receiving a free VOIP call via Facebook Messenger. Simply touch this button (or the recipient’s name will work), and you’ll be sent to a page showing your recipient’s FB info. Look below and voilà!, the “Free Call” button will be right below their name on the left side. If the button is active, with a green phone symbol, simply touch that to start your free VOIP call to your Facebook friend.
So how does Facebook Messenger’s VOIP calling fair compared to other VOIP solutions like Google or Skype? Actually quite well in our tests. Calls were clear, with no lag between the caller and the recipient. I ran my tests on a 35 Mbps FiOS Wi-Fi connection, as well as a 4G LTE connection from Verizon Wireless with no noticeable difference between the two data connections.
While exciting, this newest addition to Facebook’s services is a logical step for the company, who has penetrated every other facet of how we communicate. With the ability to make phone calls, Facebook now has modern human communication covered: email, social media, text messaging, and now calling. Facebook users in the US who have an iPhone, iPad, or recent iPod Touch model, can download Facebook Messenger now from iTunes, or existing users should fire up their updates now.