Facebook puts a new spin on mobile messaging with Chat Heads [Updated]

facebook chatheads

Update: While the full range of features like VoIP and push-to-talk from Facebook Messenger won’t be available at launch, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed with Digital Trends that Facebook will “eventually hope to support the full range of messages functionality from within the Chat Heads interface.” If you want to access these features, “you have full access to all Messenger features (including VoIP) through Chat Heads by navigating through to Messenger.”

Update 2: Facebook’s spokesperson also confirmed with us that to download Chat Heads, users are required to have the latest version of Facebook Messenger downloaded. And to get to those extra features like VoIP and push-to-talk you’ll be directed to Messenger through Chat Heads for now.

There might not be an official Facebook Phone or OS, but we were introduced the closest thing this morning with Facebook Home. In addition to the big mobile announcement, Facebook also spotlighted a new messaging feature called Chat Heads, essentially Home’s baked-in Messenger, with some new bells and whistles. 

chat heads exampleAt the core of the new messaging experience is the idea that Facebook doesn’t want to shift your attention away from what you’re doing on your phone at the moment a message pops up. Instead, a bubble of your friend’s profile photo, called a Chat Head, will pop up on the corner of your phone. This notification sits at the top of the page until you’re ready to interact with it. So if you’re playing a game, and your friend messages you, a bubble will pop up and ping you. If you tap on this bubble, a derivation of Facebook Messenger will hover over your current app, without closing whatever you were currently doing. You can quickly reply to your friend’s message and tap out to close the chat screen, and continue on with the app you originally had open. The Chat Head will stay pinned while you navigate through other apps as well. 

Sharing content that you’re viewing to the person you’re messaging with is also very easy: One tap can take you from looking at an Instagram, Facebook Photo, or a tweet to sharing it with someone via Chat Heads.

Other perks include being able to throw away the bubbles with a swipe in case you’re bothered by the hovering Chat Head, or simply done chatting with them. And Chat Heads can be repositioned anywhere on your screen. 

The feature appears incredibly gesture-friendly, and Facebook pulled out all the design stops for Chat Heads. But some questions remain: Will messages sent via SMS have all the functions of Chat Heads for someone using Home? For instance, if someone without a Facebook account sends you an SMS text, a Chat Head will pop up, but will it have all the same capabilities as someone who sends you a message via Chat Heads from their Facebook Home-supported device? And it’s incredibly unlikely this feature would work with third party messaging apps like WhatsApp or WeChat. 

The main purpose of Chatheads, however, is to keep you from being “siloed off” by a messaging app, to keep from interfering with what you’re currently doing. And all questions aside, Facebook has done a great job of building a messaging app that doesn’t look like … well, just another messaging app.

Product Review

It's not a spy, but you still won't want to friend Facebook's Portal+

Facebook has jumped into the smart home game with the Portal+, a video-calling device featuring an Amazon Alexa speaker and a screen. While it has lots of cool calling features, we’re weary of Facebook taking up counter space in our home.
Social Media

Going incognito: Here's how to appear offline on Facebook

How do you make sure your friends and family can't see if you're on Facebook, even if you are? Here, we'll show you how to turn off your active status on three different platforms, so you can browse Facebook without anyone knowing.
Social Media

Facebook is rolling out a Messenger ‘unsend’ feature, and here’s how to use it

Facebook is starting to roll out a "remove message" feature for its Messenger app. It lets you delete a message in a thread within 10 minutes of sending it, and replaces it with a note telling recipients that it's been removed.
Social Media

Vine fans, your favorite video-looping app is coming back as Byte

Vine fans were left disappointed in 2017 when its owner, Twitter, pulled the plug on the video-looping app. But now one of its co-founders has promised that a new version of the app, called Byte, is coming soon.

Social media use increases depression and anxiety, experiment shows

A study has shown for the first time a causal link between social media use and lower rates of well-being. Students who limited their social media usage to 30 minutes a day showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out.
Social Media

Twitter boss hints that an edit button for tweets may finally be on its way

Twitter has been talking for years about launching an edit button for tweets, but it still hasn't landed. This week, company boss Jack Dorsey addressed the matter again, describing a quick-edit button as "achievable."
Social Media

‘Superwoman’ YouTuber Lilly Singh taking a break for her mental health

Claiming to be "mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted," popular YouTuber Lilly Singh has told her millions of fans she's taking a break from making videos in order to recuperate.
Social Media

Build a wish list and shop videos with Instagram’s latest shopping update

Eyeing a product on Instagram? Now there are more ways to shop from the social network. Instagram just rolled out options to save products in a collection as users can also now shop from videos.
Social Media

Addicted to Instagram? Its new ‘activity dashboard’ is here to help

Ever get that nagging feeling you're spending too much time on Instagram? Well, a new "activity dashboard" has a bunch of features designed to help you better control how you use the addictive photo-sharing app.
Social Media

Why an American named John Lewis gets lots of Twitter hassle from Brits

Spare a thought for Twitter user John Lewis. When he signed up as @johnlewis soon after the app launched in 2006, little did he know what he was letting himself in for. Clue: There's a U.K. department store called John Lewis.
Social Media

Instagram purges fake followers, likes, and comments generated from other apps

Instagram looking a little more authentic? You can thank machine learning. A new tool is helping Instagram spot followers, likes and comments generated from third-party apps -- and this is just the start.

Dual cameras for Spectacles 3? Report suggests Snap-designed glasses with AR

Despite underselling the first generation, Snap Inc. isn't done with camera glasses yet. According to a recent report, the company is rumored to be working on another Snap Spectacles with dual cameras for augmented reality features.
Social Media

Time alerts put the brakes on Facebook consumption, are rolling out now

Just how much time do you spend scrolling through the Facebook feed? Facebook will now tell you. The new features also include daily alerts that tell users when they've spent too much time on the social network.
Social Media

Facebook removes one-click comment test after users call the tool ‘dystopian’

A faster way to comment on posts sounds innocent enough, but when a Facebook test of the feature appeared on a story about a shooting, users weren't happy. The tool attempted to suggest one-click comments.