By Waleska Oporta
“iPhone users who live in the US have an extra reason to join or stay on Facebook as of today: the popular social network company headed by Mark Zuckerberg now offers free phone calls within the US, to anyone with an iPhone using a WiFi connection. Yes, free calls: no carrier fees and no charges incurred in the user’s data plan because the calls will use up the phone’s broadband connection and not the user’s plan minutes.
“Although Skype and Google Voice were the pioneers in offering free VoIP calls, the advantage on Facebook’s side seems to be, according to experts, the integration of the social side and a communications solution for young people, perhaps students with tight budgets, who may perceive true added value in having access to free calls using their iPhone.
“This feature comes as an upgrade to the existing Facebook Messenger App available on smart phones and was released on Jan. 15th along with the announcement of Facebook’s Graph Search: the intuitive search engine which many predict will become a strong rival for Google’s model of search. This may be true especially since Facebook is partnering up with Bing to provide some of the answers to the queries, specifically the ones that drift from the social nature of the site like scientific or factual questions. For all other queries related to the users’ connections (friends, fans, etc), the Facebook Graph Search will deliver prioritized, relevant content that is unique to the user based on the likes, tastes and preferences of the people that the user interacts with the most.
Android and Blackberry phone users are excluded from being able to use the new search on their phones for now and users won’t be able to make phone calls to landlines or cellphone numbers. Google voice does provide with free calls on Android (of course) devices.
“Also, phone calls are limited to mobile users only; a mobile user, for example, won’t be able to call another Facebook user who is logged in from their PC and calls won’t alert users with a ring, as it happens with regular phone calls. The call will look like a regular Facebook message notification.
“Some of the first users report that the phone calls work fine, except for during the conversation and a somewhat “canned or electronic” voice sound.
“The feature was initially tested and released in Canada and although it is only in its first stages of mass use, if the feature proves its stability and functionality there may be a great future ahead for Facebook free call features, not only within the US and probably for different operating systems as well.