In line with my report from earlier this month, Facebook has announced that it will be revamping its Android and iOS Messenger apps. As we previously noted, the new apps have an entirely new design that is flatter and distinct from the standard Facebook application on Android and iOS. The Verge was given a preview of the Android version has some new features besides the new design:
In terms of functionality, there are a host of under-the-hood improvements to make sending and receiving messages faster, says product manager Peter Martinazzi. There are also some front-end tweaks that makes the app faster — especially on Android, where the SMS texting feature, which let you text friends who don’t have Facebook, has been removed.
The highlight feature, however, of the new apps is phone number integration. The repot summarizes the functionality as a WhatsApp competitor:
While Facebook won’t let you text a phone number from Messenger, the company plans to use phone numbers in a new way: to identify its users, just like in WhatsApp. Upon opening Messenger for the first time, it will ask you to provide your phone number. Then, the app can match you with people whose numbers you have, but whom you aren’t Facebook friends with. Facebook guarantees your messages will reach somebody’s inbox if you have their phone number.
The Android version is available as a test with a limited number of users beginning today and on iOS in the future. Also incoming, we previously reported, are updates to the main Facebook app that integrate Graph Search, but Facebook has not confirmed this as of yet.