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Mobile Applications

Facebook Messenger arrives for Windows Phone

Facebook has made its Messenger app available for Windows Phone 8, a bonus for Microsoft as it seeks to increase the number of applications available for its smartphone OS.

The app lets users see who's online for a private or group chat, and lets them decorate messages with pictures and stickers, according to a blog post made Wednesday. Users can also share their location, and contacts are automatically added to the app.

For now, some features available on the Android and iOS versions -- such as the ability to record messages and send photos privately -- are missing on the Windows Phone app. The pop-up chat heads Facebook has implemented on Android are also missing.

The availability of apps on Windows Phone has been a problem for Microsoft when competing with Apple's iPhones and the Android camp. At an event in conjunction with Mobile World Congress, Joe Belfiore, who runs Microsoft's Windows Phone platform, highlighted recent additions such as Instagram, Vine, Waze and Mint.

The arrival of these apps is more than a coincidence: It's a result of Microsoft working with third party app developers and slowly growing phone sales, according to Paolo Pescatore, director of apps and media at market research company CCS Insight.

"They are very much needed. Microsoft has been trying to bridge the gap with iOS and Android, but frankly the rate of development hasn't been as fast as it should have been," Pescatore said.

The company still needs to convince or help developers of many local video and entertainment apps to create Windows Phone versions, according to Pescatore. For that to happen, Microsoft and its partners need to sell more phones, he said.

The Mobile World Congress event also detailed the company's plans to make Windows Phone a better fit for low-end smartphones and presented new hardware partners, including Foxconn, Karbonn, Lenovo, LG Electronics and ZTE. With Microsoft soon closing its acquisition of Nokia's handset division, Windows Phone is at a critical juncture.

"Microsoft needs to move faster and be more decisive, instead of sitting on its hands all the time. The Windows Phone 8 platform is a good one or two years behind Android and Microsoft needs to close that gap with utmost urgency," said Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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