Facebook on Tuesday afternoon introduced an app for mobile phones that acts as a standalone group chat client for mobile operating systems. The app, now live for download, expands the chat features in Facebook’s existing mobile app to include features like location-sharing, mobile photo-sharing, and — most importantly — instant messaging to friends or groups on Facebook. The app is already available for Android and Blackberry phones along with the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad (although the app is not yet optimized for the iPad’s larger screen.)
Facebook purchased messaging firm Beluga back in March and it seems that several Beluga team members have had a hand in the app’s creation. The timing of the release along with its features seems like a fairly direct response to Google+ and its huddles feature that also lets you instantly chat with friends.
Facebook has repeatedly denied that the flurry of recent announcements from the social networking giant and the company’s chat releases, like video calling in partnership with Skype, were a response to Google’s new social network, but the parallels are hard to ignore. With Google+ growing to more than 25 million users in just a little over a month, it’s hard to imagine that Facebook isn’t at least a little threatened.
Google+ released an update to its own app earlier this week that brought increased functionality for the nascent social network’s own chat services along with iPad compatibility.