Facebook updates Android app, adds new shortcuts to take over more of users’ homescreens

Facebook released an update for its Android app on Friday that includes additional messaging features and a shortcut to encourage users to take and post photos with Facebook.

After downloading Facebook for Android 1.9, users will have two new icons on their homescreen — Messenger and Camera — in addition to the icon for the main app. This seems to be a strategic move by Facebook to maintain relevance on Android. By owning the mobile operating system, Google can integrate its Google+ social networking features into users’ phones in direct ways Facebook can’t. For example, photos and videos from an Android phone are automatically uploaded to a user’s private album on Google+.

Facebook, which thrives on photo sharing, has responded with a camera shortcut. With one tap, Android users will be able to pull up Facebook’s camera feature to take a photo or video to share with friends on the site. After capturing a moment, users tag their friends and location, in addition to adding a caption and managing privacy settings.

The updated app also includes a shortcut to Facebook’s messaging and chat features, again as a way to capture users who might otherwise turn to Google-owned apps for conversations. Facebook already offers a standalone app called Messenger, but now Android users will have an additional Messenger icon on their homescreen, also known as the app tray. The latest improvements to Facebook’s native messages product make the standalone app redundant. Group messages, location-sharing, online status and having contacts sorted by frequency of interaction are all features once exclusive to Messenger that are now part of the general Facebook app. The social network might decide to discontinue development of the standalone Messenger for Android and focus on the main app.

Android users can download the Facebook app, which also includes a number of bug fixes and faster performance, from Google Play.

Images from Facebook.