Connect with family and friends and save on SMS charges with a mobile messaging app

Rodney Gedda


Mobile messaging apps offer a quick and easy way to keep in touch with people regardless of their location. In this month’s technology section, we take a look at five popular mobile messaging apps allowing you to choose which one best suits your device and network of connections. The appeal of so-called “over the top”, or OTT apps is immediate – by using the data network you don’t have to pay SMS charges – but messaging apps also offer surprising new ways to communicate.



1. WhatsApp


WhatsApp is one of the most popular mobile messaging apps and now claims more than 500 million regular users all around the world. WhatsApp Messenger is available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Android and Nokia.

WhatsApp does text and voice messaging and group chats and location sharing are also available. Earlier this year WhatsApp made big news when it was acquired by Facebook for a whopping $US19 billion. It’s worth noting that WhatsApp’s owner, Facebook, also has its own mobile messaging app simply called Facebook Messenger.


Cost: Free for first year then $US0.99/year


Platforms: Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Nokia



2. Google Hangouts


Google Hangouts was born out of the search giant’s ambition to unite its messaging efforts around its Android mobile platform and Google+ social network. Google previously used the “Google Talk”, or “Gtalk”, to refer to its messaging service, but this has been dropped in favour of Hangouts. Hangouts offers text and video communication and group conversations are supported. Google Hangouts is available for Android and iOS-based mobile devices, but it remains most popular among Google Android devotees.


Cost: Free


Platforms: Android, iOS



3. Kik


Kik is an independent, cross-platform messaging app that’s popular with younger people as you don’t need a mobile phone number to use the service. Kik users can text message and exchange videos, drawings and “stickers”. Group conversations is available and “Cards” containing different types of content can be developed to attract user engagement. This year Kik claimed to be the first messenger app to integrate a Web browser. It also recently passed the 150 million user mark.


Cost: Free


Platforms: Android, iOS and Windows Phone



4. Telegram


A more recent entrant into the mobile messaging space it Telegram which was born out of desire for a more secure, transparent communications service. Telegram supports text messaging with up to 200 participants and any type of file can be transferred over the network. The app developers are big on open source and many third-party clients have appeared that connect to the Telegram cloud service. Messages are encrypted and can self-destruct for even greater privacy.


Cost: Free


Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows Phone (unofficial)



5. Tango


Tango is a mobile messaging app that aims to bring together a social network and content channels for news and entertainment. Tango users can also play games among their contacts. These features make tango more of an overall mobile social network than a standalone messaging app. Group chat and voice and video communication are also features.


Cost: Free


Platforms: Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Amazon Kindle



What to look out for with mobile messaging


Compatibility: The most obvious catch with mobile messaging apps is your contacts need to have the app installed on their device to be able to communicate. Standard SMS, however, is pervasive across any type of device. That said, messaging apps can be more reliable than SMS, particularly for international communication.


Data charges: Messaging apps that don’t use the telco’s SMS network rely on the phone’s mobile data connection so it’s important to keep an eye on any excess data charges, particularly when sending photos and videos. They will also work over Wi-Fi if available.


Security: A messaging app will require another account on your device so make sure you keep a record of the username and password in case you lose your smartphone. Other security tips include message encryption and the ability to not keep message logs on the device or the provider’s servers.


Offers: While most messaging apps are “free” the providers will progressively look to monetise their large and fast-growing user-bases. This may involve advertising in conversation streams, accepting donations or marketplaces where users can purchase or trade products and services.