Facebook launches mobile messaging app

Blackberry’s mobile messaging service has come in for a lot of attention in the last few days – not all of it positive. Undaunted, though, Facebook is launching its own version.

The Messenger for Mobile app, for iPhones and Android devices, is launching first in the US but is expected to roll out to other countries soon. It builds on the company’s existing messaging service to allow messages to be sent directly to a cellphone via SMS, and also includes location information.

It ties into the existing Messages feature, which aggregates texts, chats, emails and instant messages in one place. It’s based on the Beluga app which Facebook acquired in March.

“Messenger is a separate app, so it only takes one click to get to your messages or send a new one. Messages are delivered through notifications and texts, so your friends are more likely to get them right away,” says Facebook engineer and Beluga founder Lucy Zhang on the company blog.

“You can use Messenger to reach all of your friends – whether they’re on Facebook or in your phone contacts. All you have to do is type the person’s name.”

It’s also possible to send group messages.

While the timing may not look great, given the part played by Blackberry Messenger in the continuing UK riots, Facebook has its reasons for going ahead with the launch now.

Apple’s iOS 5, due out soon, also includes an integrated messaging function, and Messenger for Mobile isn’t that dissimilar to Google+’s Huddle feature.

Facebook’s Messenger for Mobile is available here.