About two weeks ago I reported on participating in the trial of Facebook Messenger’s voice calling service for Canadians who had Messenger 2.1 for iOS on iPhones and iPads. But it was limited to calls between Canadians over WiFi or wireless data plan connections; earlier this week it was expanded into the U.S.
When it became available Dan York made a test call with me and reported on it. Again excellent voice quality once the connection is made. In effect the “Free Call” button previously reported as inactive for Dan has become active. (There is no upgrade to the Messenger application involved; still using version 2.1.)
During a call the iPhone’s speakerphone can be used and you can go to other applications while having access to the call via a red bar across the top of the screen
But Dan also reports on the on huge caveat (and the difficulty I encountered when it was first available to Canadians):
It is difficult to find someone to call because:
- it is limited to iOS devices
- the other party must have Messenger running on her/his iPhone
- It does not link into Facebook for iOS itself.
So the real question boils down to one of who would reasonably be using it:
- Messenger itself needs more visibility and awareness as a Facebook app independent of the main Facebook app
- Will it become available on other platforms, such as Android and even the forthcoming BlackBerry 10?
- Will the service be made available outside Canada and the United States?
- Will it be integrated into the main Facebook application?
- The original integration of the Skype infrastructure into Facebook does not appear to have much traction; certainly there have been few, if any, reports on its use.
Bottom Line: we are continuing to see attempts at free voice calling services via various applications. RIM recently upgraded their BlackBerry Messenger to include BBM Voice (over WiFi only for about 60 million BBM users). Yet we see little extension of these services to end points beyond smartphones and, sometimes, PC’s.
The long term underlying question, however, remains what will be in the impact of acceptance of a WebRTC standard – where calling can be embedded into the browser? The debate for standardization continues.
2013 will prove to be a landmark year for the evolution of IP-based communications.
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