There’s nothing wrong with your standard iPhone text app. It’s reliable, convenient, and probably even affordable. However, it is not the best optional available.
In recent years, a wave of third-party messaging apps has inspired people to think beyond iMessage. While these services started small, the industry has grown considerably since then. The most popular messaging services in the words can boast over a billion users. In fact, there’s currently a bit of a rat race at the moment to see who can boast the biggest user base.
Why is everyone seeking out third-party messaging apps? Well, some people like their wide-range of features. These services allow people to do more with messages than just exchange text. They support custom videos, gifs, and other fun features that experience users seek. Others like the security they offer. At a time when privacy comes at a premium, these services dare to promise protection against prying eyes. Of course, some people just like not having to pay to use them.
It doesn’t matter why you decide to use a messaging app. What matters is that you try one in order to see how much more you could be getting out of your conversations. To help you out, we took a look at some of the most popular messaging apps out there in order to find the one that is right for you and maybe the absolute best of them all.
+ Very large user base
+ Versatile “Moments” feature
+ Top of the line privacy options
– Many of those users are in China
– Boring interface
– Concerns about policies
WeChat is often referred to as the world’s fastest growing messaging service. There are quite a few numbers available that back-up that claim. Of course, the one number you need to know is 1.379 billion; the rough population of China.
Yes, WeChat really blew up in China where it is slowly becoming the go-to messaging option. The exact number of Chinese WeChat users is unknown, but it’s believed to be significant. WeChat’s popularity can be attributed to its free call options and wide-range of features. The Moments feature, for instance, allows you to essentially create and share your own news feed of personal and global information.
That’s all well and good, but the elephant in the room is WeChat’s relative lack of popularity outside of China. While WeChat is a neat little service, it doesn’t really offer anything out of the ordinary. There’s also the dodgy matter of supposed government attempts to encrypt user data.
WeChat offers some highly-rated protection against said intrusions, but the fact is that it’s hard to justify downloading this app when you compare it to its competition.
+ Uses very few resources
+ Unlimited free voice and video calls
+ “Damage Control” delete options
– Dodgy call quality
– Sometimes buggy interface
– Doesn’t ensure private connections
Viber was once one of the fastest growing messenger services in the world. At one point, their user base was approaching one billion users.
Part of the reason Viber is so beloved is that it doesn’t require you to create an account or identify yourself in a formal way. Instead, it uses your existing phone number as the only means of identification. That anonymity is bolstered by features like the ability to delete sent messages even before they arrive.
The problem is that Viber doesn’t offer the same level of security when you’re making calls. It doesn’t promise to provide encrypted communications, meaning that it is theoretically vulnerable to outside eyes. Even if you’re not paranoid, you may be deterred by its unimpressive cal quality and uninspiring interface options.
Long story short, Viber has had problems ensuring that its features and quality have kept up with its growth. It’s a somewhat outdated service in a bold new world.
+ Syncs well with your existing Google accounts.
+ Easy to use
+ Great Google Maps integration
– Iffy mobile interface
– Bare bones features compared to other services
– Not very fun to use
Google Hangouts has grown considerably in the last few years. What began as Google’s simple Gmail messaging program has grown into something far more ambitious. Recent updates to the service include Gif incorporation, better group functionality, and offline messaging options.
That’s all great, but Google Hangout’s greatest attribute is how convenient it is. It’s something that you turn to when you’re already logged into your Google account. That’s not a knock against the service. Many people spend a lot of time in their Google accounts, and Hangouts is a great way to chat with others while you’re there.
The problem is that Google Hangouts doesn’t have much to offer beyond convenience. It’s primary functions – video calls and text exchanges – are nothing more than “good.” Being able to drop a Google Maps location in the middle of a chat is great, but Hangouts is not a very fun messaging service to use.
If you’re tied to your Google account for any reason, Hangouts is a fine option. It’s just hard to recommend beyond that.
+ Free calls between users
+ Built-in social network
+ Easy to use and growing in popularity
– Doesn’t support video calling
– Lacking in encryption features
– Not great for business conversations
Line is another app that’s particularly popular in Asian countries. Certain policies in that region regarding the features of phone plans and international conversations make third-party messaging apps particularly popular.
It’s not all about convenience, though. Along with the usual niceties like text message stickers, Line offers expanded features like a built-in user-to-user payment system. It even includes a custom social network that allows for expanded communication between users.
The problem with Line is that it’s somewhat limited in comparison to its competition. Its lack of a real video call service is its most glaring weakness, but it’s also a bit frustrating that Line is primarily designed to work between users. That means that out of service communications may be subject to fees.
Line is going to remain incredibly popular in certain regions, but it does lag behind in several areas that might matter most to you.
+ Fantastic for workplace chate
+ Surprisingly fun features
+ Built for group chats
– Primarily intended for businesses
– Suffers from lack of location services
– Video calling isn’t the best
Any employees who have relied on an official messaging service in the last few years probably know about Slack. It’s become the go-to source for inter-office communication.
Quite frankly, it’s not hard to see why. Slack was designed to accommodate large groups of people. Its multi-channel system makes it easy to divide a large userbase into sub-sections. This helps ensure that you can manage who is “in the loop” rather easily.
In recent years, Slack has incorporated more “fun” features. For instance, users can add GIPHY to Slack and type in a number of commands that generate random animated Gifs. Naturally, it also supports a wide range of emojis.
The problem is that Slack isn’t the best person-to-person messaging service out there. It works best with a large user base. Its mobile interface also leaves a lot to be desired. All the features are there, but they’re not as easy to access as they are via the Slack desktop app. This is particularly notable with the service’s video call functionality which feels awkward to use on a phone.
Slack is still great for businesses, but groups of friends should look elsewhere.
+Largest user base of any mobile messenger service
+ Facebook integration features
+ Free Wi-Fi calls
– Mobile app is slow to update
– Inferior multi-channel support
– Questionable interface decisions
Facebook Messenger is one of the most popular apps in the world. It’s easy to understand why that is. Millions and millions of people already use Facebook, so it’s only natural that they’ll use the built-in messaging service.
Much like Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger’s biggest selling point is the fact that you’re probably already using Facebook and have plenty of contacts through that service. It just makes sense to message or call them through Facebook. Fortunately, this app makes it pretty easy to do that with free call and text options. It even sports the usual array of photo, gif, and messaging filter features.
Facebook Messenger starts to fall apart when you examine its competition. For instance, Facebook Messenger doesn’t offer the multi-channel support that something like Slack does. It’s also surprisingly hard to organize your contacts into groups. Of course, the root of these problems may be how slowly Facebook Messenger receives updates. It seems that Facebook is quite happy with the app’s absurdly large user base.
If you can manage to convince your friends to sign-up for another service, it is well-worth your time to do so.
+ Incredibly simple to use
+ Great person-to-person messaging options
+ Allows for large file transfers
– Its security has been called into question
– A bit lacking in specialized group chat features
– A bit too formal
Telegram made headlines not too long ago when it was revealed that the service’s data protection features may not be up to par. Along with general security concerns, some speculated that Telegram was already selling basic user data.
The validity of these charges has been called into question, but you should know that these concerns remain.
Having said that, Telegram has reportedly improved its privacy protection services since those allegations broke. That’s good news because the rest of the app’s services are top-notch. Telegram is an incredibly user-friendly messaging service that allows for convenient features such as the ability to share large files and unlimited storage space.
Telegram is far better than iOS’ built-in messaging service. Aside from security, its biggest drawback is its comparative lack of “fun” features such as a variety of text sticker options and expanded gif support.
+ Maybe the most secure messaging service
+ Crystal clear calls
+ Uses existing contact information
– Lacking in group chat features
– Not a very flashy service
– File sharing options are not best in class
In an age of increased worry over the privacy of your personal communications, it’s understandable that you may look for a messaging service that offers a little peace of mind.
Signal has plenty of peace of mind to offer. The service practically made its name off its state of the art end-to-end encryption options. Full technical breakdown aside, that basically means Signal makes it very hard to track the contents or context of your communications.
That’s great, but what’s even better is the fact that Signal can easily replace your built-in messaging service. It uses your existing contacts and doesn’t require any extra information.
The only problem there is that you should expect Signal to offer many more features than the ones you get with iMessage. That makes it a pretty dull option, but it’s an upgrade in service quality you can make immediately with almost no hassles
+ Arguably the most popular messaging service in the world
+ Very secure communications
+ Still loaded with “silly” features
– Not a great option for businesses
– Slow to update
In 2014, Facebook purchased WhatsApp for around $16 billion. The move came as a shock to many who had simply never heard of the service before. However, the truth is that WhatsApp was already being used by hundreds of millions of people across the globe.
WhatsApp basically allows you to drop your text messaging plan if you’d like to. In fact, it’s credited with many service providers offering unlimited text messaging in the first place. Still, WhatsApp offers unlimited international texts, generous calling options, and quite a few fun features.
On top of all that, WhatsApp doesn’t require you to create a separate account but will always keep track of your messages and information. Thankfully, it doesn’t share that information with any outside parties. Its voice messaging options and desktop support features are also top of the class.
WhatsApp is not going to be replacing Slack anytime soon as an option for businesses, but it is an exceptional personal messaging option. Even if it could stand some more regular updates, WhatsApp is still the best overall messaging service.
The best part about all of these text apps is that they are completely free. That means you shouldn’t hesitate to give them a shot. After all, the only thing you have to lose is a text app that you might not really like as much as you think.
Have you found the perfect messaging service for you? Know about a service that most people don’t? Be sure to share your knowledge with us in the comments below.