Facebook Messenger Adds Free WiFi Calls for iPhone Users: Report

The Facebook Messenger App for iPhones now lets users make phone calls to other iPhone users for free using WiFi.

Facebook Messenger now allows iPhone users to make calls to other iPhone users for free via WiFi, as the company continues to provide its users with new ways to reach out to their friends.

The new feature was launched Jan. 16 without any fanfare or announcement, according to a report by The Verge. The new capability is available to users in the United States following an apparently successful test of the service in Canada earlier this month.

Users of Facebook Messenger for iPhone will now see an "i" button on the top right of their app that when tapped offers the option to make a "Free Call" to another iPhone user using the service.

"Facebook has confirmed to The Verge that the feature began rolling out to U.S. users today, and requires no update through the App Store," said the report.

The service means that users can essentially avoid using their available minutes through their carrier's cell phone plans. If WiFi isn't available, users can make the calls applying their phone carrier's data plans, according to the article.

The Facebook Messenger app for iPhone can be downloaded free from the Apple Store.

The benefits of the new service are intriguing because users can save their calling minutes under their cell phone plans and also can use WiFi calling when local cellular networks don't provide adequate service.

Facebook didn't immediately reply to an email inquiry from eWEEK asking about the new service. It's not known if the company will also be rolling out similar services for users of Android and other mobile platforms.

This isn't the first time that Facebook has reached out to expand its calling services. In July 2011, Facebook partnered with Skype to offer free built-in video chat through Facebook that allows users to talk and view each other on video during Facebook sessions.

Dan Maycock, a mobile analyst with Slalom Consulting, said the new Facebook iPhone to iPhone service comes as the company continues to work to grow its presence in the mobile marketplace.

What's particularly interesting, Maycock told eWEEK, is that the move raises questions about rumors that have swirled about Facebook eventually launching its own smartphones to consumers. By launching the calling capabilities inside Facebook Messenger, one would have to wonder what the company would gain if it did eventually bring out smartphones, he said.

"This could be a precursor to a Facebook phone or it could be that there is not going to be a Facebook phone because of these kinds of capabilities," said Maycock. "This could be a pretty significant mobile play for Facebook."