Sometime in February 2013, Facebook launched the availability to make free VOIP calls on their official Facebook Messenger app. At that time, it was only available for users with the iOS app in US and Canada. Then, a few days ago, they enabled it for users of their Facebook Messenger app in UK.
Guess what? If you’re using the Facebook Messenger app on your iPhone or Android, you can now make FREE CALLS using the app in Malaysia!!!
Although the text “FREE CALL” may be a little misleading here. Basically, this option allows you to make a VOIP call, aka voice call using your data connection instead of your usual phone call minutes. Think Skype calls, which uses your data connection. Just like sending messages on WhatsApp, Line, WeChat, which uses your data instead of your regular SMS charges.
** VOIP = Voice over Internet Protocol / Voice over IP = voice calls over data connection
Facebook Messenger’s FREE CALL option allows you to make calls to your friends using either WiFi or mobile data (3G, HSPA, etc). On my Android app, there’s a pop up to warn you that the Facebook Free Call will incur mobile data charges, just in case.
How To Make Facebook Messenger Free Call
As you know, Facebook Messenger is a standalone app for you to manage all your Facebook messages with your Facebook friends. Recent updates also allows you to merge your phone’s SMS/MMS into the Facebook Messenger app. Basically, Facebook wants to be your one-stop app to check ALL your messages.
Now, the function to make free calls via the app has been enabled for Malaysians!
In your message list, click on the top right icon to view the list of friends.
The right tab will expand with a list of friends available online to chat / call. Friends who are online will be indicated by that green coloured dot next to their name.
Clicking on the name will open up a new message / chat screen. Click on the “i” icon on the top right for more info / options.
In the detailed view of the contact, you will now see the “Free Call” option. Regardless of whether you have their phone number or not, as you can see from the left and middle image above. If the contact is not available for you to call them, the “Free Call” option is grey-ed out, as seen in the right picture.
Only friends who have the Facebook Messenger app downloaded and online will be able to use this “Free Call” option.
Options in Facebook Messenger “Free Call”
Making or receiving a Facebook call shows your contact profile picture in full screen, with the “Answer” and “Decline” option button.
Once the call is in progress, you’ll see a timer on the duration of the call at the top, and 3 options underneath for “Speakerphone”, “Mute” and “End Call” button.
While in an on-going call, you also have the option to go back and continue with your Facebook Messenger chat. In my test, I clicked on the “Speakerphone” option, so I can continue to talk and type at the same time.
As you can see in the picture above, when I click back to the chat screen, the call is still on-going shown by a red bar at the top. I can continue to type and chat, send/receive pictures as well as add emoticons.
In my first few tests, the app has difficulty connecting the call. Although the call is connected, the screen just keeps showing “Connecting…” and we couldn’t hear each other. We both restarted the app and it seems to work fine after that – for calls made both on WiFi and on mobile data.
Call quality is not great compared to a Skype call, for example. There seems to be a tiny 1 second (or less) lag on the voice call. The sound quality is not perfect either. Of course, I am not going to compare the quality to a proper voice call on our phone, this is a VOIP call after all. And because it’s a VOIP call, if you have spotty data connection, you might experience worst call quality, and maybe not be able to connect the call at all.
If you’re not already using Skype (for VOIP call on desktop and mobile) or other VOIP mobile apps (eg, Viber) you might want to check out Facebook’s Free Call option on their Facebook Messenger app. You don’t need to have the phone number of your contact, just as long as you’re connected on Facebook! I think this is rather handy, although I’m not sure how many of you will use this function.
As far as I know, this “Free Call” option is available on both the iPhone and Android Facebook Messenger app. Checking their Facebook Messenger mobile product page HERE, there’s apparently a Blackberry app, too. Anyone using Facebook Messenger on Blackberry, let me know if the “FREE CALL” option is enabled for you, too?
PS. Thanks to @pisstolpete for the tip late late last night!