Facebook adds video calling service to Messenger Lite app

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Facebook Messenger Lite, the low-data version of Facebook Messenger that came to the United States last February, is getting video chat functionality in an upcoming update.

The app first debuted as a way for those with weak data connections — especially people in developing nations — to still experience Messenger. The app then made its way to the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, and Ireland, available on Android phones from the Google Play Store. Now, Facebook is expanding Messenger Lite to also include access to video chats.

Facebook says that video calls are subject to growing popularity on the normal Facebook Messenger app, with 17 billion video chats being undertaken throughout the whole of 2017 — twice the number seen in 2016. Face-to-face video calls are rapidly being seen as the next best thing to physically “being there”, whether that’s for birthday wishes, catching up, or just having a chat. Facebook is clearly hoping that users in developing markets and those with low data allowances will stick with Facebook’s services no matter their need, especially since competitors like Google’s Duo calling app are hoping to snag the market.

Emerging markets are becoming an increasingly important space for tech companies and their services, with companies like Google launching initiatives like Android Go that specifically target those areas, so it’s no wonder Facebook is also targeting countries that are not quite as advanced when it comes to connectivity and hardware. While users are still able to “quickly and easily send texts, photos, and links to anyone using Messenger or Messenger Lite,” the new app takes up much less space on a smartphone, and works with much weaker network conditions. “Messenger Lite was built to give people a great Messenger experience, no matter what technology they use or have access to,” Facebook engineering manager Tom Mulcahy wrote in the blog post announcing the app.

Super-lightweight at just under 10MB — 95 percent smaller than the full version of the app — Facebook Lite is both quick to install and start up. Messenger Lite first launched in five countries in October 2016, before debuting in many other countries around the globe in April 2017.

Updated on March 7: We’ve included the news that users can expect video calls on their Messenger Lite apps.

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