Are some features better integrated into the OS, rather than using an extra app?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| Published: August 10, 2011

Ever since applications came on the scene, we’ve watched as they’ve wiggled their way into pretty much every facet of our lives. If you look hard enough, you can probably find an application for absolutely anything you need. Financing, gaming, survival, relationship advice; it’s all in there, waiting to give you another reason to drop just a bit more cash on another application, filling up your smartphone’s memory. But, while applications are great, we’re starting to see phone manufacturers begin to integrate some of the most popular services, and some of the most popular application’s purposes, right into the core mobile OS. So which is better, an application or standard integration?

I’m posing the question because of Facebook’s recently released application, ‘Messenger.’ If you’re someone who uses Facebook chat, and you hate to find yourself away from it at any point, then you know that there’s always been ways to get your chat fix satiated. That usually meant downloading an application like eBuddy or IM+, which feature plenty of different instant messaging platforms for you to access. This gave you access to Facebook chat while you were away from your computer, which is probably a win-win situation for most people.

However, Facebook has decided to release their own messaging application, which, theoretically, should work better than any of those third-party choices, considering it’s from Facebook themselves. The app is more than just a chat utilization tool, though, as it links you directly with Facebook’s Messages section, which you may have noticed finally got that overhaul Mark Zuckerberg announced oh so long ago. Chat and Messages are now far more connected, so their new Messaging app makes a lot of sense. Chat with someone when you can, or send a message to a group of people to get a party started. It’s easy enough, right from the app.

The focus for me, though, is the chat side of things. Why? Because we’re seeing companies begin to integrate Facebook chat right into their mobile OS, and I’m curious to see if that’s actually better, or if it’s just a hindrance. To be specific, when Microsoft updates Windows Phone with their Mango update later this year, it’s going to come with a major twist to messaging on their platform. The company is adding different elements to messaging in Windows Phone, which includes Facebook chat. When Mango was announced, the inclusion of Facebook chat right in the messaging platform for the OS was praised pretty loudly. Which makes sense, considering Facebook chat is pretty widely used.

But when you’re trying to get access to Facebook chat, would you rather use an application or the OS’ features’? For me, personally, I’ve never minded using an application to get something done. After all, that’s the whole reason they exist. They help us get something done, so launching an app to make that happen has never bothered me. However, if I have the option to see something without using an app, then I think that time-saving method is worthwhile in of itself. After all, if I can just open one part of the OS, without having to open an application which could potentially drain my battery faster, why would I use anything else?

Having the Facebook Messenger application available for Android and iOS is great, and I think it shows that Facebook knows they’ve still got to provide top-notch services for the other mobile platforms out there, even while Microsoft gobbles up all of the main attention (due to recent purchases, partnerships, and rumored future interconnectedness) behind the scenes. We know that Skype and Facebook are close, thanks to the recent Facebook video chat service that was announced and launched recently. And with Microsoft owning Skype, we shouldn’t be surprised to see any Facebook features integrated with Windows Phone in the future.

But where do you stand on using an application versus having the core elements available in your chosen phone’s OS? Which do you think serves your purposes better? And do you think we’ll see more OS integration in the future, or will applications remain the reigning champ? Let me know in the comments below.