Messaging apps are incredibly popular. In fact, WhatsApp, Skype, Messenger and the like have been downloaded billions of times. This success is due in part to our desire to communicate instantly—and at no cost—without having to actually place a call.
Even though these apps generally have the same basic features, each has its own unique characteristics, strengths and weaknesses, which mean they aren’t necessarily interchangeable.
So how do you get your bearings navigating the selection? Which one should you choose? Here’s an overview.
Good old text messaging Text messaging aka texting or SMS (short message system): This is the most well-known messaging app. It’s included in practically all smartphones and doesn’t require an Internet connection because communication goes directly from one mobile phone to another.
Pros: This application is very easy to use and Internet is not required (unless you want to send an attachment).
Cons: You need to know the mobile phone number of the person you wish to reach. You can’t send heavy files (heavy videos, large documents, etc.).
The ever-handy email
Emails are well-known and as effective as ever, but they’re also associated with the 1990s emergence of the Internet. Even though email may no longer be the choice means of communication for social connections, it’s still first for business. And it continues to be a great choice for long messages.
Pros: Privacy, as there is no personal information linked to the application. Plus, emails can be accessed via several platforms with no need to install a special program.
Cons: Email isn’t as instantaneous as other applications. You also need to know the email address of the person you want to contact. There may be size limits on outgoing files, depending on the server that’s used.
Messenger: The other face of Facebook
Messenger is Facebook’s private messaging service. In addition to supporting written texts, Messenger allows you to make calls, with or without video, or to send voice messages directly via the app.
Pros: This app is really comprehensive and gives you a lot of options, including group conversations. Cons: Messenger follows the same privacy rules as Facebook, so depending on the settings you choose, the people you contact may be able to see your profile in whole or in part.
WhatsApp and Viber: Two comparable competitors
These applications aren’t quite twins, but with many things in common, you might call them kissing cousins. WhatsApp and Viber are a lot like Messenger, but one major difference is you need someone’s mobile phone number in order to reach them.
Pros: Both have numerous features, are easy to use and offer a wide range of emojis, which is a real advantage in today’s communications! And one of their biggest strengths is that you can send large files such as videos. Cons: Since you need to know the cell number of the person you want to contact, WhatsApp and Viber aren’t ideal when it comes to privacy.
Skype: More than just calling
Skype has become extremely popular by offering free worldwide calling—but it’s much more than just a telephone app. With features similar to those on WhatsApp and Viber, Skype has the distinct advantage of working on any device, including computers, tablets, smartphones, etc.
Pros: Privacy is a big one, as the people you contact can only see your email address and city/country. Skype allows VoIP (voice over IP) calls, meaning that for a small sum you can call a telephone directly, even if the recipient of your call doesn’t use Skype. Cons: Since this app is often used for overseas calls, the sound quality is always dependent on the quality of the Internet connection.
Snapchat: The king of instant
Snapchat is a leader for instant video sharing. Represented by a cute ghost icon, this easy-to-use app allows you to text friends in a snap or send them photos or brief videos, all of which disappear shortly thereafter.
Pros: Your contacts only have access to your profile name. Snapchat lets you text your friends and offers all kinds of augmented reality options for maximum personalization. Cons: This app has more limited usage options. It’s essentially used for sending short-lived photos and videos to your followers.
And the winner is... If you want to know which app(s) are best for your needs and lifestyle, the best thing is to try them out for yourself. This will give you the chance to check out their interfaces and features, and to see how many of your contacts are already using the app.
Last but not least, I’d like to throw in a good word for a new app that I really like called “Kik.” It simplifies group conversations, includes tons of emojis and, as the cherry on top, it lets you make your own animated GIFs.