I’ve reviewed and used Apps in the past that allow you to send/receive messages between mobile devices that include text, photos, movies, sounds, etc. These Apps are designed to bypass your standard text/MMS messaging plans for those that don’t have or want to pay for unlimited text messaging. Even if you do have unlimited messaging on your plan, there are still costs involved for sending messages abroad. My dependency on these kinds of apps eased with the introduction of Google Voice and Apple’s own iMessage. However, with Google Voice your limited to text and I’m very annoyed by the fact that if someone attempts to send a photo to my Google Voice number, not only will I not get it, but there will be no indication to me that anyone even tried nor will the sender be alerted that it didn’t go through. iMessage is GREAT, but only works between Apple devices. While most of my friends and family have iPhones, iPads, iPod touch or Macs, there are some that don’t.
WhatsApp Messenger Sets Itself Apart
So with several of these kinds of Apps out on the market already and with iMessage itself being built-in to iOS and now Mac OS X 10.8, what does WhatsApp Messenger have to offer. Well first up it is cross platform with Apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Nokia S40, Symbian and Windows Phone. That should cover everyone you know. The next thing is that there is no need to create accounts, create user names, handles, buddy lists, etc. The problem with most of these apps is that even if your friends have them, they really don’t have a good way to know that you have it too. WhatsApp uses your actual mobile phone number to identify you and your Contact’s phone numbers to identify your friends that have the app too. Once I installed WhatsApp Messenger it requested permission to access my contacts and then it instantly created a “Favorites” list of all my friends that also had WhatsApp Messenger. At that point I could just start sending/receiving messages with text, images, media, etc. Since this data is going out via your 3G/4G or WiFi data connection it doesn’t impact your SMS messaging plan in any way. When you receive a new message you will get a push notification. It even supports group messaging.
Great, but it could even be better
When you set it up you enter your phone number. Since it doesn’t really use your phone number to send and receive, it would be great to be able to enter multiple phone numbers that people may have in their contacts for you. This would be similar to the way iMessage lets you enter multiple email addresses for yourself to be contacted on. Of course I’d also like to see a native iPad version. Your messages are encrypted before they are sent and you can include: photos, video, audio note, contacts and your location.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a cross platform way to send/receive text/multimedia messages, this is probably the “best solution” out there. The fact that it doesn’t require any special account or that you friends know a special user name to reach you is the key. If everyone I knew had this App I could save $30/month for the unlimited text messaging that AT&T offers.