Facebook Messenger for Windows Phone review: Nearly flawless Facebook chatting
Facebook Messenger for Windows Phone is a standalone app that lets you chat with your Facebook friends, send them photos and stickers, and that's it. It takes all the best parts of chatting over Facebook on the Web and puts them on your Windows Phone in a streamlined app.
The app is unique because it's the first Windows Phone app published by Facebook. Microsoft built the Facebook app for Windows Phone, though the company said it had help from the social network. While the main app looks nearly identical to Facebook for iOS and Android, Messenger uses the traditional text-focused, flat Windows Phone aesthetic, which blends well with the rest of your phone.
Like other Messenger apps, this version is fast, clean, and easy to use. Compared to sending messages with the original Facebook app, it the best way to chat in real time on your Windows Phone.
No surprises here, you'll need to login in with your Facebook account to use the app. Once you do, the app will ask you to enter your phone number, so that anyone who has your phone number, but isn't friends with you on Facebook, can add you as contact on Messenger. You can opt to not give your phone number, if you don't want to.
Chances are if you're interested in this app, you're already familiar with Facebook's chat features. If that's the case, the app will feel very familiar.
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 friend's photo, name, and the last message sent in the conversation.
Next to photos of friends, you'll see a small icon 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.
There are two other pages in the app, but neither are as useful as the main screen. The first is called Messenger and shows the people Facebook thinks you want to chat with, followed by an alphabetical list of all of your friends. The second screen is Active, and has a list of your Facebook friends who are online right now, whether on mobile or the Web.
Since you can easily start a new chat from the main screen (more on that process below), I don't see the point of browsing or searching for friends to chat with on the other two pages. The Active page could be helpful if you want to kill some time chatting with a friend who's ready to receive your messages, but I rarely do that on Facebook.
Chatting with friends
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 Android and iOS. Below the text field, where you type your message, there are options to send a photo, a sticker, or a "Like" quick reply, which shows a large thumbs-up in the conversation. When you send a photo, you can either snap a new picture or choose an existing on from your phone.
Stickers are free images of smiley faces, cats, and even branded characters from Disney and more, which you can add to your conversations. As silly as they are, I really like the stickers, especially the animated Pusheen the Cat choices. One tip I picked up while playing around with the app is once an animated sticker stops playing, just tap it to start it again. You can download more free sticker packs (themed collections) without leaving the app, which is nice.
You can choose to share your location with your friends in a chat, by tapping the small dot next to the text field. If it's blue, that means your friend can see the city and neighborhood where you are. If the dot is gray, that means location sharing is turned off. When you or your friend has location sharing on, you can tap and hold any message, sticker, or photo and select "View details" to see, on a map, from where the message was sent.
Another handy feature of Messenger is group chatting. From the Recent conversations screen, you can tap the plus sign at the bottom to start a new group chat. That will send one message two or more people at once, just like on Facebook's website. You can add more people at any time, give the conversation a name, or set a group photo from the menu on the conversation page.
Unlike the iOS and Android Messenger apps, this version cannot send recorded voice messages or place phone calls. Also, Messenger for Windows Phone doesn't have Chat Heads, which allow you to pop a conversation out of the app and continue it when you're doing other things on your phone. That feature is only available on Android, though the iOS app has Chat Head, but only inside the Messenger app.
If chatting is important to you, Messenger is worth getting for all of its helpful features. Messenger can tell you if your friends are online, show from which location they're chatting, and send stickers. Almost every chat feature from Facebook's Web site is available here.
On the other hand, the Facebook app for Windows Phone has far fewer features for sending messages, all it can do it simply send and receive. If you only need to send the occasional message and use Facebook more for your news feed and other features, the original Facebook app will be fine.
Additionally, while this app comes from Facebook, it doesn't connect with the Microsoft's Facebook app. If you try to view a friend's timeline from Messenger, it just opens a Web page instead of directing you to the app. That makes it far less useful if you want to multi-task by sending messages and browsing your news feed simultaneously. In contrast, both the Messenger apps for iOS and Android will open Facebook links in the native apps.
Facebook Messenger for Windows Phone takes all of the social network's most helpful instant messaging features, marries them with a pleasing design, and serves them up on your mobile device.
As is the case with many Windows Phone apps, this version is missing some features that the iOS and Android apps have. However, it's easy to see that the social network put a lot of thought into designing Messenger to mesh with the other apps on your phone and give you a familiar Facebook experience.
Download the app if you want to stay connected with your friends away from your desktop, and want all the same chatting features from Facebook's Web site. If you're more interested in checking your news feed, and only occasionally check your inbox, the Facebook app for Windows Phone is enough.