Meta’s Messenger app has become an incredibly popular way to make free voice and video calls. Now, a new design tweak will make the call button (slightly) easier to find. Meta is adding a dedicated tab for audio and video calls to the function bar at the bottom of the app. The new tab will appear alongside “Chats”, “Stories” and “People”, and open up to a list of the user’s contacts, along with separate buttons for voice and video calls. It’s a subtle change, but likely a move to make Messenger seem more like a messaging and calling app in the style of Whatsapp. Prior to the change, users had to open up a separate chat thread with a friend in order to call them. The new feature allows users to dial friends directly,and may also serve as an introduction to those less familiar with Messenger’s calling features.
According to Meta, daily audio and video calling on Messenger has increased by 40 percent since early 2020. The company expanded the features available to its encrypted messaging earlier this year, adding reactions, stickers, message-specific replies and forwarding. Meta’s plan is to eventually make end-to-end encryption the default for Facebook and Instagram in 2023. It’s added a number of AR effects to its video calls, letting users experiment with filters, masks and animations.
As far as free messaging apps go, Messenger has a long list of competitors, including Google Voice, Viber, Signal and WhatsApp, which Meta bought in 2014. While emphasizing the audio and video functions doesn't do much to make Messenger stand out from the pack, it remains one of the few major apps in this crowded field, other than FaceTime, that doesn't require a phone number to use.
Update 6/2/22 1:13PM ET: This post has been updated to clarify the 40 percent increase since 2020 pertains to daily calls on Messenger.