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With the new Facebook free calling app, your voice plan may be obsolete

Sites include . Published on February 25th, 2013. Written by Loic Cobbina.

Last month Facebook rolled out on its standalone messenger app an option to make free voice calls. This same functionality has now been added to its flagship iOS application. The new version 5.5 is currently live in the Apple’s App store and users that live in U.S. and Canada can now call friends for free just by hitting the button on the right hand side bar.

To see the voice-calling option you just have to tap on a friend’s name, the button will then show up on the top right corner of the screen. If that friend happens to be online at that particular time, the “Free call” button should be made clickable for you to dial them directly without having to know their number. In case the friend is not online the button will be grayed out.

Facebook usually uses its standalone app to test out new features on its smaller user base before releasing the final version on the main application.

Facebook started offering voice functionality earlier this year. The social network first began by offering users the ability to send a one minute voice message. Then the features was extended to the iOS and Android messenger applications. The next step was to test an open source VoIP calling option. It was first tested on Canadian iOS Messenger users that were using a data plan and later on the feature was introduced into the U.S market a few weeks later.

With its new voice calling feature it is obvious that Facebook is not much interested in strengthening its partnership with skype which had powered Facebook’s voice calling tests on the desktop in the past.

Entering voice messaging and VoIP world could be a way for Facebook to kick out the default calling apps on smartphones. Facebook knows that if it wants to remain the biggest social network, it can’t just limit itself to just news feeds and profiles. Knowing who a user is close enough to to exchange voice recordings and calls with will help Facebook determine which Friends on your “Friends’ list” you are really close to. This information can then help the social network improve on its algorithm in such a way that your news feed becomes more relevant in relation to the friends that matter to you.

If that plan should succeed there are more chances that users start using Facebook for friend to friend communication. Having this friend to friend free voice calls going on could open another revenue stream for Facebook. We already know the social giant is now willing to charge users for sending messages to strangers on its network. It will not be a surprise if there is also a fee involved in voice calling a stranger.

Eventually this Facebook feature might be able to kill the calling aspect of the smartphone. As at now iPhone and iPad users should be able to download the latest update from iTunes. Android users will have to wait for a while as the Facebook team is testing it out first.

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