There was a time when SMS was king, and there was a time when SMS was free too. But, with SMS boxes being flooded and operators unable to check spam volumes, I have stopped looking at my text messages, and quite a few people I know do the same. Mobile messengers are the cool, new alternatives and in a connected world, they are instant and limitless and some are free! We discuss the leading ones here.
Blackberry Messenger (BBM)
The fastest instant messenger allows you to share sound clips, pictures and text and all that in real-time too. Currently, to use this facility, you will need a Blackberry handset, and also a BBM service for which your provider may charge for at anywhere between Rs. 99 to Rs. 149 a month, in addition to your voice bill. However. upcoming versions will allow you to also make phone calls over BBM if you are in wi-fi hotspots. That would mean your phone calls to friends on BBM will become free, but you will need to wait for this version.
This multi-tasker does instant messaging as well as voice calls and video calls. Thought not as fast, Skype steals a march over BBM as it works on Android, iPad and iPhone platforms. Sadly, Skype for Blackberry is not available, though support for some Windows phones is there. Then again, if you are on Nokia’s Symbian, tough luck. The other great part is that it also works on a PC, so you could very well be overseas messaging your family back in India or making a voice-over-IP (VOIP) call. The delivery of messages sometimes goes in a loop though. While this rarely happens, at times your messages might only get delivered at the end of the conversation, thus causing some confusion. If you have a 3G-plan or a wi-fi connection, Skype works well – and its free!
Facebook Messenger is now available for mobiles. While it works on Blackberry, iPhone and Android, it does skip the Symbian and Windows phones. Messages work only with your Facebook friends, and if you want to message someone they need to be on your friend list. There is a problem if you are selective about who to have on your friend list. Messages are not instant, but work for free over wi-fi and 3G. Also, some cellular companies offer plans that have unlimited Facebook access thrown in.
The most famous alternative to BBM, you will often hear people commenting on how cool WhatsApp is and how, unlike BBM, it works on all platforms. Which is partly true as it does work on iPhone, Symbian, Blackberry, Android, and Windows phones. I can’t safely say that it’s better than BBM, but what is great is that when you send a message to your friends it looks up your entire phone book and automatically adds all your entries to its list. It also allows you to make groups, which BBM allows too, though it limits you to 10 people per group. The other problem is that if you are in a different country and change your SIM card, it has to be authorised again, which can be a pain. The good news is that with WhatsApp becoming increasingly popular, some providers provide WhatsApp plans. WhatsApp runs over wi-fi and 3G, and is free.
Similar to WhatsApp, eBuddy messenger is also platform-neutral. Again, as long as your friends are on eBuddy, it populates its list from your contact book. But, it packs one feature over WhatsApp — it lets you chat with your friends through your PC as well. You can use your Facebook account to log in.
Available for Windows, Symbian, Android and iOS, this messenger lets you share private moments like a photo or a video with your friends, and lets you select who you want to share this with. It also lets you do video and voice calls, has a web front end, and also offers a special feature called “shake.” When you shake your phone, it shows you who else on the We Chat network is doing the same, and then you can go ahead and chat with them. But remember, the other person could be a stalker!
Messages from Apple
Like BBM, Messages from Apple is a single platform solution. Available on iPads, iPhones and iPod touches, it transfers messages fast and also has a Mac OS client just in case you are on the PC. The feature I love is that the messages are stored on the Cloud. You can send pictures or videos too.
BBM is the fastest. WhatsApp is second but authorization is a pain. Skype is computer-friendly. eBuddy, We Chat and others like Yahoo, Google Chat and AOL messenger are part of the crowd. Messages from Apple is cool.