Feature Article

April 17, 2013

Talking Heads: Facebook Brings Chat Feature to iOS App

Though Facebook Home has yet to find a home in iOS in full Android glory, “Facebook Chat Heads,” the feature's quirky messaging service, has debuted on the company's iOS application. Also premiering on the social media tycoon's iOS app are digital stickers, a feature used in other chat applications like LINE and an all-new layout for the iPad version.

The news was announced at the D: Dive into Mobile Conference, by Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer and vice president of mobile engineering, Cory Ondrejka.

Chat Heads is an innovation on mobile messaging. The tool pairs Facebook Messenger with SMS updates into a lighthearted environment where contacts' profile pictures herald message threads. The floating heads remain onscreen until flicked away.

This is Facebook's first “Home” feature to hit the iOS offering, but the software differs from how it works on Android, which goes against what the Facebook executives promised – that the Chat Heads' design and feature on iOS would be identical to that on Android. 

This can't be the case, as on IOS, the Chat Heads only work inside the Facebook application. On an Android device, the feature goes beyond the apps limits, and the floating heads can appear outside the contained app environment.

The discrepancy is owed, Odrejka says, to the fact that “iOS doesn't give hooks to [allow Chat Heads] to be persistent across the entire device.”

The updated Facebook app for iOS made its way onto the Apple App store Tuesday afternoon. The new version sports the bigger, bolder News Feed design the site recently launched on its main layout.

The Chat Heads rollout may take as much as a few weeks to reach all users.

Although Chat Heads are not the biggest feature of Facebook Home, they've become one of the favorites, and iOS users who use Facebook for individual or group messaging will likely welcome the addition of the digital stickers. 

As for Android users, they are in luck. Last Friday, Facebook updated the Facebook Messenger app so that users can access Chat Heads without installing the Facebook Home software.

Edited by Braden Becker

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