Facebook Testing SMS Functionality in Messenger

Tim Maytom

Messenger.jpgFacebook is testing a new SMS capability for its Messenger app that could see the social network try to position its standalone messaging service as a true replacement to traditional text messaging on mobile phones.

According to Android Police, users of the Android version of the Messenger app have spotted a new SMS setting pane within the application, enabling users to make the app their default client for reading and sending text messages.

Facebook Messenger used to include both instant messaging and SMS integration, similar to Google Hangouts, but Facebook removed this functionality in November 2013, after it failed to take off.

In the tests, SMS messages are reportedly distinguished from standard instant messages by a purple bubble, although the app doesn't enable users to combine SMS and Messenger threads from the same person.

The new version of Messenger that is being tested also seems to support multiple accounts, much like Instagram, which recently introduced account switching, although whether there are enough users with multiple Facebook accounts for this function to take off remains to be seen.

What prompted Facebook to bring back SMS support in Messenger, and whether the integration gets past the testing phase, remains to be seen. Since launching Messenger as a standalone app with forced user migration, the company has been searching for ways to make the platform more central to everyday life, including testing payment integration. It's possible that bringing back SMS is another step in those attempts.