Text messaging, as we know it, is about to die. Say hello to a whole new world of mobile messaging apps that are rocking our world as we speak. Short Messaging Service or popularly known as SMS was introduced to make use of the spare telecom capabilities eventually turned in a major source of revenue for mobile service operators. All that is about to change.
Cross-platform mobile messaging apps are letting users do a lot more than just text messaging. Users can easily send multimedia content, share location and contacts, start group chats and so much more. All this using a simple data connection.
WhatsApp is one of the first cross-platform mobile messaging apps that eventually formed a real alternative to BlackBerry Messenger. It's really simple, real-time and it just works! WhatsApp is available on all major smartphone platforms and even some Symbian based devices. You can send free text messages*, multimedia content like images and videos and share your current location. All you need is a data connection.
One of the best things about using WhatsApp is that it works right out of the box. You can download the app, verify your phone number in a single step and start chatting right away with your contacts who are using WhatsApp. Another popular feature on WhatsApp is group chatting. You can talk to a number of people by simply creating a group chat room. You get notifications when your messages are delivered and in case the recipient is offline, the message is delivered when they get connected again. What users love about the app is that it doesn't eat a lot of battery and also uses much less bandwidth.
Price: Free on Android and BlackBerry, $0.99 on iOS
Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Symbian, BlackBerry
Viber is another cross-platform mobile messaging app that lets you make send text messages or make calls to other Viber users using 3G or Wi-Fi. The calls are free but you want to make sure you're on an unlimited data plan or instead use Wi-Fi. The call quality is pretty decent. What keeps users hooked to Viber is the easy to use user interface.
Viber uses your contact list to screen people who are also using Viber. Even though Viber is multi platform, it doesn't offer the same features on all devices. I think that somewhat defeats the purpose of a cross-platform messaging app - you either have all features on all platforms or none.
iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone
Samsung wants a piece of everything, it seems. In a perfect world ChatON wouldn't even be a part of such a list but wait till you hear about it. First, ChatON is available on all major smartphone operating systems and of course Samsung's own Bada OS.
The free messaging application lets users send text and multimedia messages, indulge in group chats and even create custom animated messages. With Samsung selling more Android phones than anyone else, it makes all the sense in the world to include ChatON as a stock app on every Samsung smartphone.Samsung is also putting the ChatON apps on some of its feature phones too.
Platforms: iOS, Android, Bada, Windows Phone, Blackberry
The sole reason people buy BlackBerry phones is, well of course, BlackBerry messenger. While the days of the once epic e-mail-phone are numbered, RIM is still trying to innovate with its core messaging app that has most users hooked on to their devices.
The BlackBerry messenger allows users to stay connected using text and multimedia content in real-time. Users can share files, links etc. using BBM Groups along with location and calendar sharing.
RIM has set high hopes for its BlackBerry 10. A few reports have leaked the next BBM updates which indicate a better design and a battery efficient app. Whatever keeps RIM on life-support.
Apple's iMessage was baked into iOS 5. The stock app lets users send messages to other devices using iMessage. Currently the app works on iPad, iPhone and the iPod Touch. iMessage is built into the Messages app and lets you send photos, videos, locations and contacts apart from text.
Other basic features include group messaging, delivery receipts and optional read receipts. Apple had released a beta version of the Messages app on Mac OS X Lion which would be available widely with the release of the next edition of Max OS X namely, Mountain Lion.
Platform: iOS, Mac OS X(coming soon)
Touch (formerly PingChat)
PingChat has recently rebranded itself as Touch. Touch is a free application available on all major mobile platforms. The messaging app offers all basic functionalities one would expect from such an app. Users can send text messages, share multimedia content and contacts.
One area where Touch stands out is its clean and crisp user interface. With all cross platform messaging apps trying to woo users, Touch will need I-can-walk-on-water capabilities to beat the likes of WhatsApp and Viber in the long run.
Platforms: iOS, Android, BlackBerry
Facebook continues its plans for world domination. The Facebook Messenger app is an extension of the existing messaging feature on the world's most popular social networking site. Using Facebook Messenger as a standalone app on mobile, Facebook is trying to bite into a slice of the growing mobile messaging market.
The Facebook Messenger lets users send text messages to other Facebook users. The sweet spot here is that the other user just needs to be hooked on to their Facebook account. They may not necessarily need to install the mobile app. Facebook has also recently released its Messenger app for Windows.
Given that Facebook already has a large number of users, and still growing, they can manage to pull it off provided they do it right.
iOS, Android, Windows (desktop)
LiveProfile is yet another messaging app trying to woo users with its simplistic user interface. The app boasts of 'no battery usage' as one of its key features. What keeps LiveProfile apart from the competition is the deep social integration with Facebook and Twitter. That's something you cannot find on most of the apps. Question is - how useful is it?
Trying out LiveProfile for a couple of weeks and you'll realize it does use very less battery power. Still incomparable to the WhatsApp advantage but it could get better in the near future.
Android, iOS, BlackBerry
GroupMe, acquired by Skype, lets users engage in group messaging. You can use people in your contacts list to broadcast messages. The company calls it 'a private chat room that works on any phone'. Well, so is every other cross platform mobile messaging app.
What users love about the app is the smooth interface, ability to share photos almost instantly and wide availability on almost all mobile platforms. In fact GroupMe can be used on any phone using basic text messaging too.
Windows Phone, iOS, Android, BlackBerry
The Kik Messenger app is one of the few truly multi-platform apps out there. It works best if you've got friends using various mobile platforms ranging from the iOS to Symbian. The app lets users send quick text messages and receive sent and received receipts.
Users can share photos and engage in group messaging. Kik Messenger is quite popular amongst the youth.
iOS, Windows Phone, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian