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Facebook releases updated Messenger app for iOS, Android

Update includes ability to see which friends are currently using the standalone app, along with capability to send messages to people who are not Facebook friends.

Contacts on Facebook's updated Messenger app. Facebook

Facebook on Wednesday released an updated iOS Messenger app and announced that its Android version would become more broadly available after two weeks in limited testing.

The updated standalone app, which was released for Android in late October, sports a new look and functionality. Among those updates is the ability to see which friends are currently using the mobile app, with the help of an icon that appears in a users' contact list.

The update also adds the capability of communicating with Messenger app users who aren't Facebook friends, using only their registered telephone number. It also introduces a fresh navigation look for accessing recent conversations, settings, and other people using the app.

"As more and more people use Facebook to connect with their friends on mobile, we are focused on building the best mobile products," Facebook said of the update. "Facebook messaging started as a desktop chat experience, but when it comes to messaging on mobile, people want something faster and lighterweight."

The renovation is part of Facebook's effort to make Messenger the go-to smartphone app for instantly getting a hold of friends and address book contacts. Along with enhancements in speed, function, and design, the updated app is based on a "mobile-to-mobile" philosophy that intends to make sure people using the app are immediately available to each other on their smartphones.

Updated at 5:15 p.m. PT to clarify the app's testing period as ended.