Facebook eyes bigger pie of messaging with revamped app

Nov 29 2013, 12:00 IST
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SummaryFacebook eyes iPhone, Android users in India with messaging app; WhatsApp, WeChat leaders.

Facebook, with its messenger, is planning to take on other popular standalone messaging apps in India, such as WhatsApp, WeChat, LINE and Hike with the launch of its new version of Messenger for iPhone and Android. The social media giant, which has around 82 million users in India, also launched the popular ‘Chumbak Expressions’ local stickers this week with Indian content to ward off competition from home-grown players like Bharti's Hike.

With the explosion in usage of smartphones, more and more users are spending time on mobile devices, making it imperative for Facebook to provide a seamless experience across mobile devices, tablets and desktops. In emerging economies like India, the company is also seeing mobile-only users, a generation that has leapfrogged personal computers.

With the new version, Facebook has tried to make the app work faster on all the versions of Android, especially Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich, used in old and lower-end devices. “This will work across various versions of Android like Gingerbread, Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean, and will be a lot faster than it used to be. That is because its every aspect is looked from a mobile-to-mobile world and has a lot of focus on performance and snappiness of the app,” said Peter Martinazzi, product manager for Messenger at Facebook, adding that the focus was on maintaining the standard across Android.

But Facebook faced problems in emerging economies because of the fragmented nature of Android that is more popular in countries like India, Indonesia and Brazil, which are also its major growth markets. Mobile monthly active users (mobile MAUs) were around 820 million at the end of June, an increase of 51% since Q22012, and it also had around 220 million mobile-only MAUs, 15% sequential growth during the aforesaid period. 

According to Martinazzi, Facebook has focussed on the platform and tried to bring the best possible Android app. The app will now have a common navigation bar, an action bar on the bottom and a compose button, which are same on all Android phones. "We have made sure that the experience is not compromised even when you are not using the best connection. We made sure that the experience is as snappy in lower-end Android phones as that in higher-end phones. This is on top of the Messenger app, which already exists for feature phones. We have considered these as separate issues as the capabilities of the devices are also different.

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