Facebook Home is due out today and will likely arrive soon, but the standalone Messenger app update is already here, and it brings Chat Heads support to most Android devices, regardless of whether or not you have Home installed. That means that when you’re using other apps or on the home screen, Messenger messages will pop up with the Chat Head icon of the person messaging you, allowing you to quickly jump into a conversation without leaving your current app.
You can also dismiss the conversation by swiping down from a Chat Heads message. I’ve been testing the feature and it works well out of the gate, displaying multiple incoming conversations and letting you switch between them, overtop of any other Android apps you may be using. The feature is a killer one, no doubt, and makes Messenger a lot more of a threat to other messaging apps out there, by placing your messages where they’re actually useful to you.
It’s a little like having Growl notifications on your Android device, but more useful since it actually doesn’t require you to switch apps to engage with the ongoing conversations. The only downside I can see is that if you get a lot of FB messages, you may feel a tad overwhelmed while trying to keep up, and it’s definitely a visual and auditory distraction. Luckily, you can disable Chat Heads in Messenger at any time from the app’s Settings menu.
While some users may be reluctant to turn over their entire phone to Android, this added functionality in Chat Heads is useful for pretty much anyone who uses FB Messenger, and could provide impetus to convince others to switch away from competing services. I have to wonder how other developers will feel about Facebook interrupting their experience with customers within their own apps.
It doesn’t appear as though Chat Heads in the standalone Messenger app pulls in your text messages too, based on our tests. Still, it’s already turning out to be pretty addictive in just a short time using it. Update: Turns out you can have Messenger field your text messages, too. You just need to enable it in Settings under “SMS/MMS.”