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Facebook launched a stand-alone messenger app for smartphones a few months ago. Users of iPhone and Android devices can use this app to message not only their Facebook friends but also any of their mobile contacts. Facebook is now actively pushing this app to users.

In February of this year, Facebook acquired Beluga, a group messaging service.  They have now fully integrated it with Facebook Messages. The app is very similar to Beluga as well as to Facebook Messages.

The app has been available to users through Apple’s App Store as well as through the Android Market. However, it didn’t get as much traction as Facebook would have probably liked, which is why they’ve now started displaying alert messages at the top of the News Feed in the Facebook Android app, prompting users to download the Messaging app.

When users opens the Facebook Messenger app they see a list of recent Facebook messages. When they create a new message, they can send it to their contacts or Facebook friends. If a message is sent to a user when the app is not open the recipient will receive a notification via their handset. Messages can be sent to all Facebook contacts via Facebook Messages, while other contacts from the phone book can be reached via SMS if their mobile number is verified on Facebook.

Facebook Messenger allows users to directly and quickly contact their friends on the phone, irrespective of their location. The messages are delivered instantly and it is also possible to make plans and carry out group conversations at once.

Google+ Messenger provides very similar functionality, which might be why Facebook is now pushing its own messenger app to Android users more aggressively.

While Facebook Messenger has crept into the #1 spot in the App marketplace this week and is showing a distinct bump in download volumes – since the time it was launched – it is still far behind the likes of WhatsApp Messenger, which has clocked over 10 million downloads.