More than six years ago the world was introduced to Facebook Messenger. It started as a regular chat-based feature within Facebook’s web and mobile apps before getting released as standalone service. Since debuting in August 2011, Facebook Messenger has quickly grown to become one of the largest messaging platforms in the world. Whether you have a Facebook profile or not, you can still use it.
Facebook built something that goes far beyond just simple text and media communication. These days you can do so much more without ever leaving the app. Facebook Messenger allows you to send messages with text, photos, videos, stickers, GIFs, money, and more. You can also play games against friends, contact businesses directly, make calls, and chat with robots. Many of the things you formerly did in multiple apps have been funneled into one. That’s why more than 1 billion people use Facebook’s messaging platform every month.
Not everyone loves Facebook Messenger, though. People don’t like the amount data and battery it demands, and there have long been concerns over privacy.
Putting trust in Facebook varies by person, but I’m not someone who expresses any doubt in the company’s handling of users. Facebook rarely experiences data breaches. I’m also not someone who uses its mobile apps despite being a heavy user. With Chrome for Android, I can have Facebook’s mobile site forward me notifications. And, when I get a direct message, I let it sit there until I can go on Facebook from my laptop. But I have always wanted to use Facebook Messenger. It’s demanding performance, though, kept me away. A lot of good comes from Facebook Messenger, but particularly the decrease in battery life never seemed worth it.
In 2016, Facebook launched Facebook Messenger Lite. It is, as the name suggests, a simplified version of the very robust app. The company says Facebook Messenger Lite is “a fast and data-efficient messaging app.” That’s totally true. You get the essentials of messaging and no fluff. Less than 10MB of storage is needed for you to join the massive, global user base.
The new take on Facebook Messenger keeps devices running longer, saves on internal space, and uses less data.
Facebook didn’t realize how many people wanted something like this. For over a year the app was limited to users in countries where a wireless connection is sluggish. Then, in October 2017, Facebook Messenger Lite entered the mainstream by being available around the globe.
If you’re like me and have been avoiding Facebook Messenger for years, you need to use Facebook Messenger Lite. It’s exactly what I and so many others have been wanting from Facebook.
The rundown for Facebook Messenger Lite on Google’s Play Store (no iOS app yet) is short and sweet. Facebook says you can contact anyone on Facebook, see when they’re active, engage in on-one-one or group conversations, send different types of messages, and make voice calls over WiFi. Video calling is missing, but you have FaceTime and countless alternatives for that. The point here is that you get what you need to communicate effectively.
Unfortunately you’ll need a Facebook account to use the stripped-down version of the platform, and that’s because you lose the capability to send SMS/MMS messages. Facebook Messenger Lite is strictly for communication between people with Facebook accounts. After logging in, Facebook will check to see if you want to sync your contacts. That’s up to you. Once that’s decided, a list of conversations will appear.
Facebook Messenger Lite only has three panels: Home, Contacts, and Profile. Each is self-explanatory. Home shows who you’re talking to and offers quick access to start new conversations. Contacts shows, well, a list of people you’re friends with who have Messenger installed. And Profile is for adjusting settings, which there aren’t many of. All you can really do is tweak notifications.
It’s great that I can finally talk to people on Facebook Messenger without going through layers of extra features I don’t need. Facebook Messenger Lite actually helped me out big-time over the weekend.
A close family friend’s aunt, who’s not exactly tech-savvy, is in China for the next few weeks. She ran into a problem on her and her husband’s phones. Being that her entire family has iPhones, she reached out to me since I’ve only ever owned Android devices. How’d she get in touch? Facebook Messenger. This was pretty urgent, and I was able to start helping her within seconds. If Facebook Messenger Lite wasn’t in the U.S. yet, she would’ve been waiting until I actually saw the message on my laptop. Because I have the app installed on my Google Pixel, she and her husband had the problem fixed within minutes rather than hours. I even got a ‘thank you’ call from her through the app.
That situation of mine might be rare, but it happened. It saved her from being in a foreign country with an unusable phone, and it saved me money I would’ve been charged had she called and texted through our carriers. We also both benefited from being able to chat fast and without distractions.
We’re going to learn something as Facebook Messenger Lite rises well beyond the 50+ million installs it has on Android alone. Maybe all these companies are overthinking messaging. Do we really need to be able to play Pac-Man and talk to Kayak in Facebook Messenger? The vast majority of us probably do not.
At the end of the day, we simply want to talk to each other. Facebook Messenger Lite lets us do just that.
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