There are a vast number of messaging solutions available today. I use many different services to send messages to people. The one that has risen to the top to become my messenger of choice is WhatsApp. Before I tell you what I like about it, let me give a rundown on what I don’t like about some of the other solutions.
Traditional SMS text messaging is an unnecessarily costly money making scam. I also think it’s grown a little stale with its outdated 160 character limitation. Sure you can run over 160 and your message will be sent as two messages, but that gets on peoples nerves.
Most of my contacts use standard text, so to get around the cost issue of purchasing an unlimited text plan, I use my Google Voice number with everyone and text via the GV app (or via the GV website) for free. Google Voice doesn’t support MMS, so there is no photo sharing available (which I have complained about endlessly.)
What bothers me the most about the Google Voice is its iOS app. It is old and clunky. There are some people who like to write three texts back-to-back to convey a single thought. You probably know someone like that. That degree of hammering reveals just how terrible the GV app is. It is terrible! It can’t handle that kind of deluge. In addition, when I’m looking at the current conversation thread and I receive a new message, I have to exit the thread, go back to the conversations area, wait for it to refresh, then tap to go back into the thread to read the new text message. Ridiculous. I grew tired of waiting for Google Voice to step it up with better features, so I started looking elsewhere.
Instant messenger clients are a good solution. AIM, Yahoo, Gchat, and others are all fine systems. Gchat is my favorite in this category because it automatically saves chat archives. Gchat is also the most popular in my circles thanks to it’s tie-in with Gmail. I don’t really have any complaints to make about using IM as a solution over texting. It is better for sure. But not that many people use it or sign in on a regular basis.
Apple’s iMessage is great, but it only works on iOS devices, so a lot of people in my contact list cannot make use of it. That makes it a deal-breaker for the best overall messaging solution. Also, in my experience, iMessage doesn’t insert timestamps into the message thread often enough. I can’t tell when an individual message was sent or often times when an entire conversation was started.
Facebook Messenger is popular these days. It looks good and it works great. My problem with it is that the notifications are spotty. Countless times I’ve fired up the real Facebook app and seen a little red 1 or 2 on the messages icon. No notification had been received from the Messenger app about those mysterious messages. I don’t know the percentage of failure. Perhaps 1 in 10 or 20? It’s often enough that I don’t trust FB Messenger to alert me about every incoming message so I don’t feel like I can rely on it.
WhatsApp does everything that I want. It’s cross-platform, meaning it is on every mobile OS in use today. It’s customizable. I like the font-size options, wallpaper options, and the ability to choose my own notification sound. I like the timestamp attached to every message (unlike iMessage where I simply cannot tell when a message was sent.) I like the little green checkmarks that show each message was 1) Delivered and 2) Read. I like that it shows when the other person is typing and when they were last active. I like that I can set my status upfront, such as “Available” or “Sleeping” or what have you. I like that I can send any kind of media through it and that media can be automatically saved to your camera roll or local storage on your phone. I also like that I can send voice memos to someone on the fly. Group chat is an option as well.
Compared to SMS (which is expensive and limited to 160 characters), GV (which is clunky, also limited to 160 characters, and lacks MMS support), iMessage (not universal), and Facebook Messenger (somewhat unreliable), I think WhatsApp does everything I need and then some. I’ve been using it exclusively with a few friends and it works great. I’m going to try to get more people on board.
One potential downside with WhatsApp is that you are limited to the phone app only. There does not exist a true web-based WhatsApp solution. It’s good to break away from my phone once in a while and message people from my computer where I can write faster with a keyboard. I’d like to see a computer-based option for sending and receiving messages on WhatsApp. Besides that one omission, I think WhatsApp is better than the competition at this point in time.
WhatsApp is 99¢ in the App Store. It is well worth that for a money saving ad-free texting solution. Even better, the app is free at the time of this writing for the 2012 holiday season. Go get it!