Facebook may revive a messaging feature it killed nearly three years ago: SMS integration. The company used to let Android users view and respond to text messages through its Facebook Messenger app, but it discontinued the feature in November 2013 due to poor adoption. Now a near-identical option is popping up for a select few Android owners in the US, discovered today via screenshots obtained by Android Police. The change means Facebook Messenger could operate similar to Google Hangouts, which combines SMS texts and Google Chat messages into a single client.
Facebook has confirmed the test, telling The Verge, "Right now, we’re testing the ability for people to easily bring all their conversations — from SMS and Messenger — to one place. It’s a really simple way to get, see, and respond to all your SMS messages in just one app. By choosing to access your SMS messages in Messenger, they’re right alongside all the other enhanced features that Messenger offers." Facebook is also launching multiple account support for its Android Messenger app today.
Facebook wants Messenger to eclipse SMS once and for all
When Facebook first launched the feature back in 2012, the company said it would not store texts and would not allow the feature to work on its web version of Messenger or on other platforms. It's unclear if the same restrictions are in place this time around. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.
The feature, if it makes its way to a wider audience, would mark a significant and aggressive push from Facebook to eclipse SMS and long-time US rival iMessage, which Apple is able to layer over traditional text clients thanks to the integration of hardware and software. Messenger last month passed 800 million monthly active users, giving it one of the most robust mobile user bases on the planet. Yet SMS is still one of the default ways people communicate, and Facebook's only option to siphon value from those messages is to try and route users through its own service.
To check if your app has the SMS option, look for "Change SMS App" in the Messenger settings panel. The feature is optional, Facebook says.
Update at 6:03PM ET, Thursday, February 11th: Added comment from Facebook.