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Facebook plays catch-up with launch of new image uploader

Competing with apps like Snapchat and Line, the tech goliath's iPhone app adds stickers, colorful overlay text and more to its photo-editing tools.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said the company will continue to develop its standalone apps. James Martin/CNET

Facebook's new -- though likely not very new for you -- image uploading tools will let you spice up pictures on the fly.

The improved photo uploader for Facebook's iPhone app, which is now available to most iOS users, features overlaid text in any color, instantly previewable filters that you swipe across photos and stickers that can be slapped on top images.

The photo-editing tools will live in a new enhancements tray that opens by tapping a wand button in the lower left corner of the screen. Facebook's iOS app previously offered some standard photo filters and had tested stickers. With the new image uploader, users can also now tap through a more Instagram-style list of the filters, tag friends in the photos, add resizable emojis and crop images.

This upgrade is the latest in a string of efforts to bolster Facebook's mobile app game. Facebook, the world's largest social network, has spent much of the last two years -- since it offered to buy ephemeral messaging app Snapchat for $3 billion in 2013 but was rebuffed -- playing catch-up with other messaging and photo apps. The photo-editing tools touted in this latest update are similar to features already found in apps like Snapchat and Japanese messaging app Line. Facebook may be a flagship social media platform, but its growth on mobile depends on its ability to compete with newer photo-sharing and messaging apps that connect people all over the world.

"People want to be creative when they share experiences with their friends and family on Facebook," a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "We are rolling out a new place to house all of Facebook's photo-editing tools, making it even easier to add filters, stickers, or text to your photos."

In its first quarter 2015 earnings report, Facebook said that of its 1.44 billion monthly active users, 1.25 billion people accessed Facebook on a mobile device, where apps are king. Like many tech giants -- see Google's Docs and Spreadsheets apps -- Facebook has rolled out, with varying success, myriad specific-purposed-based apps that move away from the centralized "Facebook Home" model and toward fragmented, user-experience additions that can stand alone.

Available for fleeting stints in Apple's App Store, Facebook Poke and Facebook Camera apps -- both quietly killed at the same time last year -- provided similar services to Snapchat and Instagram, respectively. Camera allowed users to rapidly snap and upload pictures to Facebook, and Poke sent messages, photos and videos to friends that would last up to 10 seconds before vanishing forever -- not unlike Snapchat.

Earlier this month, Facebook introduced Moments, a standalone app designed to let users privately share photos from a party, wedding or other big gathering. Likewise, Facebook Paper puts a more photo-centric facelift on Facebook's service. The company also has chatting apps like Slingshot, another ephemeral messaging service, and Rooms, which is designed to help people chat in groups anonymously. Most of the arsenal has been created by Facebook's Creative Labs group within the last few years.