Tag Archives: Messenger

Facebook Messenger Tips and Tricks

By Tracey Dowdy

Facebook Messenger has certainly grown up since it was introduced back in August of 2011. Originally designed as a way to send a private message to a friend rather than posting publicly on their wall, Messenger has morphed into a stand alone app that offers far more than the privacy of a direct message.

Check out these Messenger features that you may not know about.

Send money for free. Currently only available in the U.S., Facebook allows users to send money through Messenger via a debit card registered to your profile. There are no fees for the service and the card is easily added via the settings menu. Users must be 18 or older and a US resident with a US debit card registered to your account.

Pause notifications for Group messages. My friend Mike would rather eat broken glass than participate in a group chat, so I can’t help but think he was the inspiration for this feature. Click on Options in the group chat and choose a predetermined time to mute notifications (15 minutes to 24 hours) or select “Until I turn it back on.” You’re welcome Mike.

Play chess with a friend. Open a conversation with a friend and type “@fbchess play” to start a game. It’s a little bit of a challenge but if you’re playing chess you’re already pretty smart, right? Players move pieces by prefacing each move with “@fbchess”. To move your pawn, type “@fbchess Pe4” and the game will move your pawn (p) to space E4. Type “@fbchess help” for instructions.

Play basketball. Just as in real life, playing basketball is less complex than playing chess. Open a conversation with a friend, send the basketball emoji, then tap on the message to open a game. Swipe the ball up to the hoop and earn a point for every shot you make. If you miss, play switches to your opponent and sends your score for them to beat. It’s simple and fun, though I quickly learned I’m as bad at ‘phoneball’ as I am at basketball.

Customize Messenger. If you’re using iOS, tap on the name at the top of the conversation and on Android use the “Info” button. You can give your friends nicknames, change the color of the conversation, or add emojis and gifs to the conversation.

Make a call. Messenger allows users to make free voice or video calls to other users as long as you’re connected to the internet. If you’re not on Wi-Fi, data charges may apply. For voice calls, tap the phone icon at the top of the conversation; for video, tap the camera icon. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Make a group VoIP audio call from any group chat. Tap the phone icon, add the group members you want added to the call and everyone will receive a Messenger call simultaneously. If you miss the initial call, you can tap the icon to join in at any time the call is still live, see a list of others included and ping anyone who still hasn’t joined. Calls can include up to 50 participants. What a relief! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed to talk to 50 people at the same time.

Save to Dropbox from within Messenger. Tap the “More” button within the app and Dropbox will appear as one of the options. From here you can browse your Dropbox directory without exiting Messenger. Users can send videos and images including GIFs and these will be displayed in the chat but other types of files require opening Dropbox in order to preview and save.

Add captions or drawings to your photos. Tap the photo icon in the menu and select a photo from your library. Tap “Edit” to open the image. Choose “Aa” to add text or the squiggly line on the right to add drawings or free hand text. When done tap “Send” in the top right corner.

But wait, there’s more! By tapping the three dots in the menu bar below the conversation, you open a whole world of options. You can share music through Spotify, request a ride from Uber or Lyft, make music videos with Ditty, or create cards and other nonsense through JibJab, plus many, many other fun possibilities.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.


Facebook Not Feeling the Love (Again)

When Facebook announced in April of this year that the messaging feature would be removed from the Facebook mobile app and users would be required to download the separate Messenger app, there was the usual outcry from the Facebook faithful. After all, Facebook users are notorious for not liking change, whether it’s a seismic shift like increasing the size of photos or something smaller like tweaking Facebook’s privacy policies.

However, this time the backlash feels a little different. We are almost four months into the migration period and, if anything, the anti-Messenger sentiment is growing. Over 21,000 people have submitted a review of the app on iTunes and over 95 percent of those reviews are resoundingly negative, leaving Messenger with an embarrassing 1-star rating. (1 star is the lowest rating on iTunes; fortunately for Facebook, you can’t give an app zero stars!)

What are the biggest failings of Messenger? Well, there are numerous complaints about the app constantly crashing and messages not going through, but the biggest objection appears to be the lack of convenience: ‘Why do we now have to use two apps when before we just used one?’ It’s a very good question and the answer probably has more to do with Facebook’s long term strategy for growth that it has to do with the convenience of its current customers.

When Facebook paid $19 billion for WhatsApp back in February, many analysts and tech commentators were left scratching their heads. How could a simple messaging app, albeit one with over 400 million users, be worth so much money? While some of the reasons for the acquisition were defensive – anything to stop it falling into the hands of Google – it was also an admission that, in the mobile era, Facebook has some serious limitations.

While Facebook continues to pick up additional users in various parts of the world, it has reached saturation point in many of its largest markets, including the U.S. In fact, younger American users have been abandoning Facebook in droves, preferring less cluttered, more direct social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and even Twitter.

It’s this movement back to straightforward messaging that has Facebook worried. Not only can you get back to a more meaningful one-on-one dialogue (or one-on-many using group chat), but the latest texting and chat apps allow you to add photos and videos, and even engage in one-touch video chat.

With these other options available, who is going to bother to open Facebook to send a simple message? Ironically, the in-app message integration that is so convenient to traditional Facebook users is now a major inconvenience to non-Facebook users, and it’s those non-Facebook users that are so important to the future growth of the company.

As they have demonstrated many times in the past, Mark Zuckerberg and friends are quite willing to take a little criticism now if it means they stay relevant down the road. Meanwhile, Facebook mobile users can either download the Messenger app or switch to one of the many alternatives. Either way, we end up doing what Facebook wants us to do and that’s open another app!

7 Messaging Apps That Are Replacing SMS

When texting first became popular, most texts were sent via a wireless carrier’s network. This service (also known as SMS) used to be a huge revenue-generator for the carriers, but is now largely bundled with ‘free’ voice or calling plans as the carriers switch their attention to data.

If you are still using SMS to text your family and friends, then rest assured you are not alone. Despite all the chatter about WhatsApp, SnapChat, Messenger and the rest, SMS remains the #1 messaging option for an overwhelming majority of smartphone owners.

But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way forever. The ability to add multimedia functions, group chats, video calls, and much more is quickly adding to the allure of messaging apps, and it seems only a matter of time before they catch up and even surpass the popularity of SMS.

If you have a teenage son or daughter, it’s almost guaranteed that they are using at least one messaging app. If you are thinking of joining them, here are 7 of the more popular options:

Facebook Messenger

messengerTNUp until now, Facebook included a messaging feature in its social network app, so there was no need for a separate download. However, Facebook has just announced that all future mobile messaging will have to be done through the stand-alone Messenger app. Desktop users will be able to continue to use the built-in messaging app as before.

Messenger includes text, group chat, photo and video sharing options, and even stickers. The good thing about Facebook is that almost everyone is on it, so you won’t have to spend time adding all your contacts.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry


whatsappTNWith over 500 million active users, WhatsApp is arguably the most popular messaging app in the world – so popular, in fact, that Facebook agreed to pay $19 billion to acquire it! WhatsApp’s strength is its simplicity. Once the app is downloaded, WhatsApp checks your contacts and automatically adds WhatsApp users. You don’t need to send a request to be able to connect through WhatsApp.

WhatsApp supports text messages, group messages, photos and videos, and audio media messages. WhatsApp management has also announced that they are developing a voice option, which will be the equivalent of making a phone call.

Cost: $0.99 per year (first year free)
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone


skypeTNEstablished as a desktop tool, Skype has made an uneven transition to mobile, disappointing some early adopters and encouraging other messaging services to step up and fill the void. The Skype mobile app supports text messaging, photos and videos, and face-to-face video and voice calls over Wi-Fi or a wireless network. There is also a low-cost voice calling option to mobile devices and landlines.

Cost: Free (with the exception of some calling options)
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone

Google Hangouts

hangoutsTNAlthough Google Hangouts supports an instant text messaging service, its real strength is in multi-person voice and video chats. The video chat option is particularly appealing and supports a number of increasingly sophisticated production options. The messaging app is very basic but it does support photos and GIFs, which can be automatically saved in a Google+ album.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS, Android


snapchatTNExtremely popular among tweens and teens, SnapChat started life as an instant photo-sharing service that allowed users to add a text caption. The photos automatically disappeared after a few seconds, leading to (largely unfounded) fears of teen sexting. SnapChat also supports plain text chat and has recently added Stories, which allows users to video chat simply by pressing and holding the screen.

SnapChat’s success has attracted the attention of Facebook but so far SnapChat’s founders have rebuffed all acquisition attempts. Both Facebook (Slingshot) and Instagram (Bolt) have recently introduced SnapChat competitors, although Bolt is not yet available in the U.S.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS, Android


lineTNPopular overseas, LINE supports free voice and video calls as well as regular text messaging, photos and more. Although the app is fee to download, users can spend money on a range of in-app purchases, which include stickers, games and even messages from celebrities. Music and shopping services are expected to follow.

Cost: Free with some optional in-app purchases
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone


kikTNWith the decline of BlackBerry (and the beloved BBM), there was an obvious need for a smart and flexible cross-platform messaging tool. Enter Kik, a rapidly-evolving messaging service that now has over 100 million users. With Kik you can exchange text messages, videos, images, emoticons, and more, and features like Kik Cards allow for a surprising level of customization.

Price: Free
Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone