Editor's Note, March 17, 2014: This review has been updated to include features added in the newest version of the app.
Facebook Messenger (Android | iOS | Windows Phone) is a standalone app that lets you chat with your Facebook friends, send them photos and stickers, and even make free VoIP calls to your friends and family who are already on Facebook. It takes the best parts of chatting over Facebook on the Web and puts them on your Android device.
In a recent update, Facebook removed the ability to send and receive SMS messages in the app. However, the social network makes up for that subtraction with a major makeover that gives the app a much more modern look and adds extra features, which make it better than ever.
The latest update to Facebook Messenger gave the app a completely new look, with bright, colorful conversation pages, and streamlined friends lists.
The main screen, called Recent, shows a list of your recent active conversations, which is every message thread that you have not deleted or archived. You'll see your friends' photos, names, and the last message sent in the conversation.
There's a small icon next to each of your friend's photo that tells you their chat status. The blue messenger icon (which looks like a tiny lightning strike) means they're using any of the Facebook Messenger apps and are currently signed in. The gray Facebook logo means they are only signed into Facebook's Web site, though it doesn't tell if they are currently online.
Next to that main screen, there's a page with two lists of friends. The first shows all of your friends who use one of the Facebook Messenger apps, whether on Android, Windows Phone, or iOS. Your favorite contacts are at the top of that page, followed by an alphabetical list of the rest of your friends who have Messenger installed on one of their devices. The other list is called Active, and displays your Facebook friends who are online right now, whether on mobile or the Web.
Chatting with friends
For anyone who's chatted using Facebook in a desktop browser, the Facebook Messenger mobile app should also feel completely familiar. It lets you send messages to one or more recipients, as well as reply with text, photo attachments (from the Web or from your mobile device), stickers (small still or animated images) or voice recordings.
From the Recent screen, you can tap the plus sign at the bottom to start a new chat, where you can send messages, photos, and stickers. Just start typing a friend's name and the app will search ahead to find people who match. If your Recent page already has conversations that you started in another app or on the Web site, you can tap on anyone's name to continue chatting.
Each conversation has a clean, simple design, similar to what you'll see on Messenger for Windows Phone and iOS. In the text field, where you type your message, there are options to send a photo, or add a sticker (more about those below). When you send a photo, you can either snap a new picture, choose an existing on from your phone, or search the Web for an image.