December 10, 2013, 7:28 PM — Twitter has made its direct messaging service easier to use and added the ability to send photos, in an update to the Twitter app for Android and iOS released Tuesday.
The messaging service is now displayed prominently in the navigation bar at the bottom of the home screen, so it's only one tap away. Previously, users had to navigate to the "Me" screen and from there open the messaging service.
Twitter has also added the ability to send and view photos in direct messages. Those photos can also be viewed in messages on the desktop at twitter.com.
Mobile-to-mobile messaging is a hot area right now. Facebook recently updated its own Messenger service to let people message each other even if they're not Facebook friends. Other services like SnapChat, WhatsApp and WeChat are also attracting users.
The changes to Twitter could make it more widely used for messaging and reduce the time people spend using those other apps. It doesn't yet offer some of the extra features, though, like SnapChat's vanishing photos.
Overseas, Twitter has identified South Korea's Kakao, a messaging service, and Line, a calling and messaging app popular in Japan, as among its biggest competitors. So Twitter's expanded messaging features could help it compete better there too.
The update also lets users swipe between different screens in Twitter. From the Home screen, you can now swipe to the Discover page to see trending topics and popular tweets, and the Activity page to see tweets and accounts that are popular among the people you follow.
There are also new features specific to different platforms. In the iOS app, in-app notifications now alert people when they receive a direct message or a tweet gets favorited or replied to. And on Android, people can turn on notifications for specific users.