Facebook has released a standalone mobile app called 'Messenger' available for iPhone and Android devices for sending messages and photos to friends and small groups.

Messenger is "a faster way to message friends and small groups" directly integrated with the messaging function on Facebook. The new group messaging app allows users to share messages, photos and locations with groups of friends or one-on-one in real time.

"The Messenger app is an extension of Facebook messages, so all your conversations are in one place, including your texts, chats, emails and messages. Whether you're on your phone or on the web, you can see the full history of all your messages," said Facebook engineer Lucy Zhang on Facebook's blog.

Using existing Facebook log in information, users can chat and share photos and location with contacts from Facebook along with contacts stored in their phones while on the go.

Facebook friends will receive messages on both the Messenger app and in messages on the regular Facebook app. If a recipient is stored in contacts on the mobile device, they will receive the message as a text. When messages are sent while a Facebook friend is away, they will automatically receive the message on their phone.

Location services were added as an easier way "to meet up on the go," showing real time location on a map. Location mapping, along with texting, can be easily disabled.

Photos can also be sent between users through Messenger. Users can organize groups and conversation threads by name and photos.

Designed to be an extension of the main Facebook app, this standalone app marks the first expansion since Facebook acquired Beluga.

The app, free of cost, will be available in the Android Market and Apple App store on Tuesday.