Some months ago, it was announced that Mark Zuckerberg’s team would emerge with what is known as a “Facebook phone.” The goal, for the Facebook team, was to become “more than just an app to be downloaded.” Social networking sites are wonderful apps that enhance our connections and social activities; however, at the end of the day, they are just that – nothing more than an application we use to enhance our lives. Consumers may not have a perfect IQ or SAT score, but they know the difference between a social networking application and a smartphone manufacturer – and Facebook is only the former and not the latter. This is why the Facebook Phone rumors were squashed immediately after the announcement arrived.
For iOS users, Facebook has now introduced its voice-over-Internet-protocol (VOIP) application for Facebook account users so as to allow them to contact any one of their friends at the famed networking site. Similar to Skype (except that the calls are free), users can contact anyone simply by having a friendship – regardless of whether or not they have a phone number. These calls are free over Wi-Fi, so you do not need to worry about whether or not they count against your phone minutes.
To get started with Facebook’s new VOIP service, you need to download the Facebook Messenger app from the App Store, then enter into the application and start calling right away. While you are allowed to make phone calls to any Facebook user on your friends list, you cannot call other random smartphones (involving non-Facebook users) or make calls to landlines.
Facebook’s move to add Wi-Fi calling is the social networking site’s newest lifeline in an attempt to remain more than just a downloadable app. If the company does not do something, it fears that it will not be viewed as a social media giant in the same circle as Google. With this new feature, Facebook wants to compete with the likes of Google in the social networking arena. Google added a free voice calling service to its Gmail application for Gmail users, and Facebook has decided to follow in its rival’s footsteps. Facebook may very well create its own “Facebook phone,” not to mention acquire its own mobile OS and become a force on par with Google and Google +.
Both Google and Facebook’s Wi-Fi calling applications allow you to make calls via Wi-Fi instead of using one’s own cellular minutes to make phone calls. Skype provides free Wi-Fi calls by way of a tablet or laptop, but does not allow you to make free calls by way of a smartphone. Google +, on the other hand, does allow free Wi-Fi calls – even if you find yourself in a network area that does not allow you to send texts via your iPhone.
Facebook’s new Wi-Fi calling (and texting) feature is awesome for individuals who find themselves in an area where their cellular service is not available. I have lots of friends and acquaintances that I can contact through Facebook. All I need to do to access Facebook messenger is access my Wi-Fi feature on my iPhone 4S.
Wi-Fi calling is Facebook’s newest lifeline, but it may be just the thing the Zuckerberg team needs to take Facebook to the next level – someday, that Facebook Phone may become reality.