Facebook Messenger gains VoIP calling, but it’s Canada only initially

Facebok Messenger for iOS 2.0 (iPhone screenshot 003)Facebok Messenger for iOS 2.0 (iPhone screenshot 004)

Facebook has just updated its Messenger iOS and Android app with the voice messaging feature. Facebook Messenger version 2.1, a free download over at Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store, now lets you record short voice messages for your friends, up to a minute in length. We’ll see if this is the voicemail for the 21st century, but anyone who updates to the new version gains this feature automatically and that’s a big advantage. But the social networking giant isn’t stopping there.

In the new Facebook Messenger, you can now place voice calls to your Facebook contacts free of charge. Of course, these are VoIP calls so a Wi-Fi or cellular data connection is needed. It looks like Facebook, which some folks though would buy WhatsApp, is adamant to turn the Messenger app into a unified messaging solution. The last piece of the puzzle needed: video chat… 

You should know that Facebook noted that the calling service will be rolling out “in the next few weeks”.

Furthermore, The Next Web says that VoIP calls will be limited to Canadian users of the iOS app at launch, presumably until Facebook feels confident its servers are capable of handling international load.

To use the service, Canadian users will be able to log into their Messenger app, open a conversation with the person they want to call, hit the ‘i’ button in the top-right corner and selecting ‘Free Call.’ To send and receive calls, users will need to have the latest version of the app that is available today.

Hint: you could use a proxy service like HideMyAss to can fool Facebook’s servers into thinking your device is located in Canada.

This is what the feature looks like.

Facebook Messenger 2.1 for iOS (Voice calling)

The new version is currently being rolled out to international App Stores so wait a little if you don’t see it yet.

Facebook Messenger version 2.1 changelog

• send a quick voice message when you have more to say
• call friends for free right from Messenger
• other improvements and bug fixes

Mike Isaac of AllThingsD points out it would have been even better had Facebook allowed anyone to access Messenger without the need for a Facebook account.

Really, why not let us sign up for the service using just an email address or a phone number, akin to Apple’s iMessage. That would really blow the market wide open and – who knows – crown Facebook as the new messaging king.

I wonder how Google reacts to this.

The Internet giant’s own Google Talk VoIP service has been languishing on the vine although its Voice telephony service proved popular with people who want to replace their many phone numbers with just one Google number.

Besides, Google’s IM, video, voice and telephony efforts are scattered across a bunch of services, each in a different development stage, so some consolidation would be a wise move.

Facebook has won this round, now it’s Google’s turn.

What do you think?