A Facebook Phone? Company Testing Voice Apps Now

Facebook added voice messages to its Messenger app and is testing VoIP calling.

ByABC News
January 4, 2013, 5:23 PM

Jan. 5, 2013 — -- Facebook is building a phone right in front of our faces. Maybe not a real phone, but all the apps and features you'd expect one to have.

Facebook has just added a voice message feature to its Messenger app for iOS and Android. Within the app you can now send a recording to your friends. If you've downloaded the new update you can tap the + button next to the box where you input a message, then tap Record, speak your message and then send it off.

But that's only the start of the voice capabilities Facebook is thinking about. In Canada, Facebook is testing live calls using Voice over IP (VoIP) calling similar to Skype. If you have the iPhone app and live in Canada you can tap the "i" button in the corner of the app and tap "Free Call." You can then make a free call to a Facebook friend who is using the same app. You can't call landline or cellphone numbers.

The system can work over 3G and 4G cellular networks, but it's cheaper if you use Wi-Fi. If you are on a cellular network it will eat at your data plan.

Facebook didn't make a big announcement about the services, but it's a very big move for the social networking company. While Facebook declined to comment on whether it would come to the U.S. or if they could charge for the service, it is a step into voice calling for the company. Not only could that be ultimately disruptive for cellular carriers that offer monthly calling packages, it represents an alternative revenue stream for Facebook.

This is just one of many mobile announcements Facebook has made in the past few months. It upgraded both its iPhone and Android apps to make them faster and it released is new Poke app, which destroys messages 10 seconds or less after you look at them.

In addition to its main app and its Poke app, Facebook also has a Facebook Camera app. You'll also recall that Facebook bought Instagram in April 2012.

Rumors of a Facebook branded phone have swirled around for quite a while now. The New York Times and AllThingsD both reported that the company had internal plans to build its own hardware. However, Mark Zuckerberg denied the rumor in July.

"There are a lot of things you can build in other operating systems as well that aren't really taking, that aren't really like building out a whole phone, which wouldn't make much sense for us to do," he said on an earnings call.

That might make sense, but with all of its apps and now voice features, it sure looks like Facebook is transforming our phones into Facebook phones or it's building its own right in front of our faces.