Facebook Messenger Now Has Free Phone Calls in Lieu of a Smartphone

In today’s mobile news roundup: Facebook offers free voice calls for iPhones in the US; Nokia cuts 200 jobs; there’s a new slim activity tracker for health-conscious people; and the next Samsung Galaxy Note III is rumored to be even bigger.

Facebook offers free voice calls for iPhones in the US

Chatterboxes can now enjoy calling their friends using the Facebook Messenger app for iPhones for free.  The social networking giant unveiled the feature today, allowing iPhone users in the US to call their Facebook friends whenever they are connected to WiFi, or by using their cellular data.

iPhone users just need to open the Facebook Messenger app, open a conversation with their contact, press the “i” icon and select “Free Call”.  Facebook stated that they are working on making the feature available for Android and BlackBerry users as well.

The update is a smart one, considering the myriad of other IM apps that already support free phone calls.  As Senior Managing Editor Kristen Nicole mentioned in yesterday morning’s NewsDesk segment, Facebook should focus on developing their software for existing mobile platforms in lieu of launching their own handset.  Rumors of a Facebook smartphone have yielded nothing in the past two years, and Nicole feels Facebook’s efforts should remain dedicated to their ecosystem’s accessibility across iOS, Android and beyond.

Here with more analysis on the topic is Contributing Editor John Cassaretto, who dropped into this morning’s NewsDesk segment with Kristin Feledy:

New slim activity tracker for health-conscious people

Activity trackers are usually apps on your smartphone or some form of a wearable gadget like FitBit’s, but those rubberized gadgets doesn’t really do well when you’re wearing a suit.  Good thing there’s a new activity tracker that you can wear incognito – the Misfit Shine –  a small, quarter-sized aluminum encased gadget that tracks your activities such as walking, jogging, running biking, and even swimming.

It has no buttons or screens, you just tap it to get it working, and it communicates with your smartphone via new WiFi technology since wireless communication is a bit hard because of its aluminum casing – you just place Shine on your smartphone and an app reads and stores all your data.

Shine is compatible with iOS 5 and Android 4.0+, and users can set goals and track their progress.  While on the go, you can tap Shine to know if you’re near reaching your goal, a set of orange lights will indicate your progress.  It is available in Silver for $79 and Black for $129.

Nokia cuts 300 jobs

After posting improved fourth quarter results for 2012 thanks to strong Lumia sales, Nokia is now facing another bump in the road as they cut 300 jobs in Finland.  The phone maker will be outsourcing their information technology operations to Indian suppliers.

Nokia will outsource some of their IT operations to HCL Technologies and TATA Consultancy Services, one of the largest tech firms in India which is planning on setting up a new facility in Indore.  About 820 Nokia employees will be moved to India, but some 300 unfortunate souls will lose their jobs in the process.

Samsung Galaxy Note III rumored to be even bigger

In South Korea, Samsung unveiled two new colors for the Galaxy Note II: ruby wine and amber brown.  The color scheme may have been updated, but the device still features a 5.5” HD Super AMOLED display, 1.6 GHz quad-core processor, runs on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and has the Optimized S Pen that gives users Air View.

But it seems Samsung is prepping for yet another big device launch.  According to rumors, a Galaxy Note III is already in the works and it will have a 6.3-inch screen and will probably be equipped with the recently announced Exynos 5 Octa, which uses ARM’s new big.LITTLE processor technology.  It combines a pair of quad-core clusters: the first, for power, running at 1.8GHz with Cortex A15 cores, and the second, for efficiency, running at 1.2GHz with Cortex A7 cores.  The Galaxy Note III is expected to be announced later this year.