The Giant List of Text Messaging Replacement Apps – OTT Messaging

Depending on where you are and who your mobile service provider is, text messaging is either so cheap that you don’t worry about it or so expensive that you barely use it. Texting is still one of the most popular methods of communication though , which means someone somewhere is always on it. Of course, sending texts across continents and countries is still expensive.

There are ways around that though, if you’re willing to use your data connection of course. The benefits? Lower cost (especially if it’s an international message) and added features like pictures, videos and more. Of course, that requires an Internet service, and a mobile device that has the app available on it. Oh, and you need to have other people that use that app.

So here’s a list of quite a few of the so called OTT (over the top) text messaging replacement services, with the pros and cons of each.It isn’t a review of the app or service though, and it isn’t a complete list by any stretch. Let us know what we missed and we’ll get around to adding them to this list.

Whatsapp

Whatsapp is one of the oldest ones out there, and as such it’s got a wide base that it works on.

Pros – multi platform (available on everything except Bada. Oh, and Symbian UIQ). Yes, it supports S40 too (and they aren’t smartphones). Media transfer (photos, videos, contact info, Location Data). Group Messaging (upto 20 users per group). Simple setup and use (linked to your phone number, no other login needed).

Cons – Photos are down scaled. Videos have to be under 12MB. There is no confirmation of Message Read status (One green tick-mark is for sent, two is for delivered). Group messaging needs more features/controls (Quiet time for the really talkative groups, Better management of users in that group).

[button style=”5″ caption=”Whatsapp” link=”http://www.whatsapp.com/”][/button]

Kik

Kik was the app whose service supposedly pulled blocked by RIM and then got back onto the Blackberry Platform. It’s simple to use, it’s fast, it’s almost like BBM. And now it’s available on most major smartphone platforms.

Pros – Fast. Really Fast. Login with user created account, so the same account can be used simultaneously on multiple devices. Sent, Delivered and Read status (for those who want to track that). Available on iOS, Android, Symbian, Blackberry and Windows Phone. Has plugins (like sketchee) for more functionality.

Cons – User Created account (now that’s another thing you have to remember). Group Messaging controls. The Symbian app is quite limited at the moment, and there is no S40 app.

[button style=”5″ caption=”Kik” link=”http://kik.com/”][/button]

Ebuddy XMS

Ebuddy has been around for a while as a web and mobile based IM client. XMS is their take on the OTT messaging service.

Pros – Multi Platform (Windows Phone, Symbian, iOS, Android, Blackberry & J2ME). Group Messaging. Media Sharing. Facebook Login to setup the account and pull in contacts. Web version available.

Cons – Broadcast option is missing.

[button style=”5″ caption=”Ebuddy XMS” link=”http://www.ebuddy.com/”][/button]

PingMe

 PingMe is another messaging service that seems to focus more on interaction (Media Content) and on meeting new people.

Pros – Neat interface that brings Media content up front and centre. Group Messaging. Registration with just your phone number.

Cons – iOS and Android only (they dropped Blackberry and Windows Phone support a little while ago).

[button style=”5″ caption=”PingMe” link=”http://pingme.net/”][/button]

Hookt

Hookt has been around for a couple of years now, has a few common features present in the other platforms (Group Chat, Stickers, Emojis), but it has two “features” that kind of set it apart. A) It syncs across platforms (send a message on one device, platform, it’ll be there on all the others that have your account). B) Desktop and Mobile Web Support (handy for platforms that aren’t supported)

Pros – Unique ID. Syncs across Platforms (Supports iOS, Android and Blackberry (Not BB10), desktop and mobile web.

Cons – No Windows Phone Support.

[button style=”5″ caption=”Hookt” link=”http://www.hookt.com/”][/button]

ChatON

ChatON is Samsung’s own cross platform messaging service, that has a lot of the features that other services have, including cross platform sync. It also has the ability to create an animated message or picture. It seems to have a little bit more detailed profile management, kind of like a Social Network (no it isn’t one)

Pros – Unique ID. Syncs across Platforms (Supports iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Certain Samsung Non-Smartphones, and desktop. Animated Messages.

Cons – No ability to actually manage notification tones (I could not find a way to turn off the tone!). Clunky interface (there are a lot of features, you just have to find them).

[button style=”5″ caption=”ChatON” link=”https://web.samsungchaton.com/”][/button]

Wechat

WeChat is one of the newer entrants. It’s developed by Tencent. The service has grown massively of late, mostly in China and South East Asia.. It has apps on most platforms (No BB10 yet) and a couple of things that it has over the others are Video Chat and what it calls “Drift Bottle” – you literally throw your message out there and wait for someone to pick it up. It’s also one of the fastest growing services, in Asia at least.

Pros – Sign in using phone number of Facebook Connect. Find Friends from FB. Symbian, Android, Blackberry (no BB10 yet), iOS, Windows Phone and Web clients.

Cons – No timestamps, delivery notifications & read reports.

[button style=”5″ caption=”Wechat” link=”http://www.wechat.com/en/”][/button]

Line

Line is a service by Japanese company Naver and it’s got everything but the kitchen sink! It’s available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry (No BB10 yet), for the Mac, Windows and Windows 8. Apart from the usual messaging, it has other services available (some as in-app purchases), like audio calling, video and audio messages, social gaming, stickers and more. In Japan, it has more active users than facebook!

Pros – Sign in using phone number or email. Android, Blackberry (no BB10 yet), iOS, Windows Phone, Mac, Windows/Windows 8 clients, Sync’chats across clients. Free calling, Audio and Video messages, Stickers, games

Cons – Only one smartphone can be used for a registered user (you can use it on one device and on a Mac/Windows computer).

[button style=”5″ caption=”Line” link=”http://line.naver.jp/en/”][/button]

Kakaotalk

Kakotalk is like a Korean version of Line, and it’s been around for a long time now. Just like Line, in Korea, it has more active users than Facebook. It has clients for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry (No BB10 Yet) and Bada. It also has other add on services like Kakaopoll, Kakaolink, etc, adding even more modes of interaction. It does not have a desktop client however.

Pros – Sign in using email. Android, Blackberry (no BB10 yet), iOS, Windows Phone, Bada clients. Free calling, Audio and Video messages, Stickers. Pin lock for chats.

Cons – No Desktop Client. Only one mobile number per account.

TU Me

TU Me is an example of a service created by an operator (Telefonica) to catch up with the rest of the OTT service (which operators supposedly hate because of the loss of revenue from text messaging). And on first glance, they’ve done a good job of it. It looks good, has quite a few features and most importantly, you do not have to be a Telefonica customer to use it. It’s iOS and Android only for now, but hopefully it’ll soon get on other platforms. They let you store your chats for a year, after which you have to pay to keep your chat history.

Pros – Sign in using phone number. Audio Calls, Voice and Video messages.

Cons – Android and iOS only. Pay for storage and usage after a limtied period.

Viber

Viber isn’t specifically a messaging service; it started off as a VOIP service which you use to call other Viber users over WiFi or your devices’ data network (kinda like skype). It has had messaging for a while now though, and it doesn’t have much (Group chat for instance), but it does work well with what it’s got. It has clients for iOS, Android, Bada, Windows Phone, Blackberry (no BB10), Symbian and even s40 (like whatsapp).

Pros – Sign in with phone number. Free calling to viber users, messaging & stickers.  iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Bada, Symbian and s40 clients.

Cons – No Group Messaging

Moped

Moped is a startup from Berlin thats aims to rethink instant messaging from the ground up. Moped lets you send IM’s over phone as well as your computer. Available on both Android and iOS platforms, Moped allows you to share messages and pictures privately or in a group in a very twitter-y fashion. You’ll need a twitter account to sign up and and can incorporate #tags, and @’s in your messages. Users can receive messages on their mobile devices, desktops or by e-mail. Moped also comes built in with a very instagram type  functionality –  a series of photo filters for for enhancing photo sharing. With dropbox integration and a chrome extension, Moped is trying very hard to cover all bases between mobile and the desktop.

Pros – Access IM’s over mobile, desktop & email, hashtag and @(mention) integration, Chrome extension to share content with Moped contacts.

Cons – only twitter login, no WP client

Jongla

Jongla is different from the others for one main reason: the target audience. It’s targeted at kids. Well, 15-20 year olds. It’s got most of the “fun” features from the other apps; stickers, etc.

Pros – Stickers, Web Login.

Cons – iOS, Android and Web only. Beyond stickers, there’s no other “fun” content sharing options.

Hike

Hike is another example of a service created by an Operator (India’s Bharti Telecom and Japan’s Softbank telecom provider) to try and catch up with the rest of the crowd. A standard IM client with one extra feature, 100 Free SMS/user/month for those times when you have flaky internet connectivity.

Pros – All platform IM client(BB coming soon), 100 free SMS/month and other rewards and incentives for stuff like connecting with you Facebook and twitter accounts

Cons – very low user base

Relay

Relay is all about the GIFs. It lets you share animated content from your own gallery, or you can search the web and send animated content to your buddies. Unfortunately, it’s an iOS only app.

Pros – GIFs! Animated!

Cons – iOS only.

GroupMe

GroupMe has been around for a while now. It started off as a messaging app with the focus being on creating groups and staying in touch with them (set up a group when you’re out at an event or conference, with people you have as contacts and others). It recently got updated with some really neat features, including what they call “Split”. You can track the expenses in each group, or add expenses and have others chip in. It also lets you message people who do not have the app, say, someone without a smartphone. It just sends them a standard text message that they can reply to. GroupMe is meant to be a bit more serious, at least when you compare it to some of the other clients out there. It is owned by Skype after all. Which in turn, is owned by Microsoft.

Pros – Sign in online. Manage and edit groups from any device or from the web. iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry (no bb10) and Web clients. Texts sent to phones that do not have the client. Split – expense tracking and management per group.

Cons – Focus on Group messaging (can’t really be counted as a con though).

Yoke

Yoke is similar to most other messaging apps, with stickers, scribbles (drawings), etc. It also allows you to edit your message if it hasn’t been read yet, and you can edit it upto 5 minutes after it has been read.

Pros – Sign in with phone number. Edit your chat. Avatars, Scribbles.

Cons – iOS and Android only.

Cubie

Cubie is a new entrant to the social messaging field. It tries to focus on the “fun” aspects of messaging, with a lot of features seen in Line, such as stickers, animations, etc. It does have a few unique features though, enabling you to create your own content, of sorts. You can sketch, edit photos, etc.

Pros – Sign in with phone number. Stickers, Create your own sketches, animations, customize the look of your chat.

Cons – iOS and Android only. Account can be used only on one device. Tied to one phone number, you’ll need to create a new account for a new phone number.

Image credit: rido / 123RF Stock Photo

Mighty Text – Send and Receive SMS on your Desktop via an Android Phone


This is one of those convenience apps which you get hooked on to, and soon can’t live without. How would you like a Desktop interface for you to see your incoming Text messages and reply to them, without having to pull your phone out of your pocket?

Mighty Text is an app which gives you just that, and it’s very simple to setup. All I had to do is to download the app on my phone, open it up and link it to my Gmail account. Once I did that, I got an email account with details on how to setup the Desktop side of things.

I went and downloaded the Mighty Text Google Chome extension, and signed into my Gmail account there as well, and that’s all. As you can see from the screenshot below, Mighty Text imported the existing messages from the phone and had it ready on the web interface.

You can also reply to messages from this interface, using standard Text SMS or even MMS messages with attachments. Now with Mighty Text setup, I never hunt around for my phone when I get messages, I just launch the web interface and do my stuff.

In case you don’t use Chrome, they have instructions to get Mighty Text installed on most other browsers as well. Head out to this link for instructions.

Download Link

Download Mighty Text from Google Play.

GMail via SMS – So much for data limits

Smartphone usage has been growing globally (up by 42.5% as of Q1 2012 as compared to the same quarter in 2011) and pretty much everyone with a smartphone uses it to access their email. Mobile phone usage in various parts of the world has been growing too, but that doesn’t necessarily consist of smartphones. It’s the feature phones (the so called “Dumbphones”) that still rule. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to get your mail fill on the move though. It is a problem however, as mobile data isn’t really upto scratch just yet, everywhere. It might be spotty or expensive. Well, if you’re in Africa, Google’s got your back.

Before we move on, here’re some stats from InsightsAfrica about mobile phone usage:

Here’s how many people own a Mobile Phone:

Data as of 2010-2011. Chart Available here.

And here’s the SMS usage (Received SMS):

Data as of 2010-2011. Chart Available here.

 

Makes sense then that Google launched SMS based GMail services in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya.

From the Official Google Africa Blog:

 

Send and receive Gmail on your phone as SMS

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 | 2:23 PM

Email has become a part of everyday life. There’s so much you do with it: apply for a job, make an inquiry, get notifications from your social network, receive photos or an invitation that makes you smile, and just communicate back and forth with your friends.

The Gmail team at Google puts in a lot of effort to make sure messages are delivered as soon as you hit “send”. However, sometimes barriers arise between you and your email.  What if you’re not by a computer? Or your phone is not connected to the internet? Or the internet is down or too slow, so that emails just won’t load?
To help solve these issues, we’ve created Gmail SMS.  We’re excited to be making this new service available in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. You can now send and receive emails as SMS messages using your mobile phone, regardless of whether or not your phone has an internet connection, like Wifi or 3G. Gmail SMS works on any phone, even the most basic ones which only support voice and SMS.
Gmail SMS automatically forwards your emails as SMS text messages to your phone and you can respond by replying directly to the SMS. You can control the emails received by replying with commands such as MORE, PAUSE and RESUME. Additionally, compose a new email as an SMS and send to any email address recipient – who will find your message in the right email conversation thread!

 

Read on for more details, here.

 

Source: Google Africa Blog.

Tips for Usage of Google Calendar via Mobile SMS Alerts

Using web services and applications to ease your schedule orientation and plan your day, is an efficient use of the technology. Of the many options currently available for this situation, Google Calendar has been one of the most popular options. It is not difficult to understand the reason why most users prefer this application for their schedule planning around the year.

 

For one, it is a free program, Google is a top web brand, and the company constantly introduces new developments in the services and applications to make them even more efficient. However, one of the drawbacks, that most users face in this regards, is that they do not have the access to their schedule planned on Google calendar if they do not have an access to the Internet. While, the market is flooded with Smartphones, tablets and other portable devices that can help them get online on the go, these devices are not very cheap and do require a better awareness of technology to use them. Cell phones on the other hand, have the dynamics to be accepted widely and are quite common for most users in the world. There is a distinct advantage to linking your Google Calendar service to your cell phone. It solves the problem of portability of the days’ schedule and clears any conflict of technological and economic issues, which prevent you from adapting to the advanced time planning application.

Here is a detailed look at the way you can combine Google calendar service with your cell phone and access your schedule via regular sms alerts on your mobile.

Synchronize your Mobile with Google Calendar – You have to register your cell phone with Google calendar, in order for the service to recognize your number when you send in a request for notifications. To do this, just get in your Google calendar account and on the upper right corner of the page, click on “tool”. You will get an option list; pick the “calendar settings” to get the form for the cell phone set up. Fill in all the details in the form to align your cell phone with the Google calendar services. The procedure will include a number verification, where in you will be sent a validation code on your mobile and you have to confirm the code in the Google calendar program.

For each individual appointment notification, you can adjust the settings on each appointment slot, to send in automatic notification alerts to the verified number registered with the service. To do this, just go to the “Edit event” option in the particular appointment slot. In the “Reminders” section, arrange for the appointment notification to be sent in to your cell phone at the pre-scheduled hour.

Smart Tips for Better Efficiency – There are some essential tips that you should be aware of, to make use of the service smoothly. It is advisable to look in to an unlimited sms option for your cell phone to make sure that the calendar notifications do not cost you much. You can stop the sms alert any time by just going back to the calendar settings and changing your options in the mobile set up. When selecting your option in the appointment notifications set up, check on sms rather than pop-ups to avoid unnecessary notifications from flooding your inbox consistently. In addition, you can use the service to not just plan your day, but also set up alerts for monthly or even annual events.

The purpose of this service is to make sure you do not miss any important event or task in your life, orienting it with your cell phone ensures that you are kept updated, even when you are away from your computer.

Get rid of those SPAM sms's with smsBlocker

Tired of those endless SMS Spam flowing into your phone? smsBlocker  is the right application for you. Get it free if you download it till June 28th. The application is currently developed targeting Nokia phones and can be used on all Symbian S60 devices.

Apart from the regular SMS blocking apps which work on a black list, this application is intelligent. The in-built heuristics detects spam  messages even if you haven’t added the number to the block list. Once detected, you can add the sender to the blocked list just by clicking on cancel like in the screen-shot above.

You can also manually edit the block list, and add senders to a Trusted List so that the application doesn’t block messages from legitimate contacts. You can choose contacts to add to either of these lists directly from your phone book, message inbox or manually enter the number. You can also review the application’s block history to make sure messages you want to read haven’t been blocked.

All the messages which are blocked automatically are sent to a Bin folder, where you can take a look at the messages if you wish to review them. smsBlocker also features a home screen indicator showing when it’s active, and you can set it to autostart when the phone starts up. You can get a more detailed feature list of smsBlocker on their site.

This application will retail for Rs. 99 ($2), but as a launch offer, you can download it for FREE for a limited time till June 28th. The count down clock is ticking – so hurry up and download it. Let us know your feedback about this application after you take it for a spin.

More Screenshots from smsBlocker:

Nokia N900: Initial Setup, Contacts & Communication

Desktop
Desktop

As we had mentioned earlier, we received the N900 to test out from WOM World Nokia. Having used it for a little while now, we thought we’d give you an introduction to setting up and running the phone. We will be going through an initial time setup, basic contacts and calender setup, email, Nokia Messaging and IM setup, etc.

Basic Setup:

Once you boot up the phone for the first time, you’ll come to the initial settings page – language, region, date, time.  You would think that this would be a hard phone/device to get used to, but it is actually pretty intuitive. To do the simple stuff at least. Setting up the time just involves moving the hands of the clock, setting up the date involves scrolling through the date tabs.  To choose the time zone, you can just scroll through the world map to the place you are at, or you can enter text and search. You can add upto 4 home screens, and fill them with application shortcuts, widgets, bookmarks or even add contacts.

Time, Region & Date Settings;Desktop Settings
Time, Region & Date Settings;Desktop Settings

Contacts Transfer/Setup, IM and Email Setup:

You can transfer contacts from your old s60 phone through the Settings -> Transfer & Sync tab. You can also transfer contacts, calender and Notes through PC Suite.Editing and adding contacts can be done through the contacts application itself.

You can set up various VoIP and IM accounts from Settings ->VoIP and IM accounts. The phone currently supports Ovi, GTalk, Skype, Jabber and other SIP accounts. You can add MSN support through a plug-in, but more on that in the next set of reviews.Once you enter your username and password, the phone downloads your contacts from each IM service. Do note that once you set up Skype, you can enable calling contacts through Skype from the settings tab.  You can check your balance and add credit through the device itself!

To add an email account, all you have to do is go to the Email icon, and add new account. Once you select the region you’re in, it will give you a list of services that are available. This includes Nokia Messaging (Note: I had to pop in an Airtel Sim to get Nokia Messaging up. Have no idea why that happened, is Nokia Messaging service operator specific?). Enter your username and password and you’re set!

Of course, since there are going to be a whole bunch of contacts, with your phone numbers, mail IDs and IM contacts, it might be a bit of a pain scrolling through your contacts list. You can merge contacts though – just open the settings tab for the contact, select Merge Contact, and select all the other contacts you want to merge this with.

Contacts, IM and Email Setup
Contacts, IM and Email Setup

Messaging:

Once you set up all your accounts, its very simple to use the device. IM and Text messages are aggregated under one simple application. The messages and IM are threaded, so you have your whole chat history. The good think (in my opinion) is that each IM account and texts show up under the same contact name, but are separate. They are arranged by whichever one was used latest, but you can search by typing out the contact name, or by selecting the “new IM” or “new SMS” icon. In case that contact has any chat history, the last thread will show up. You can select and delete individual texts too.

Conversations Menu, IM & On-Screen Keyboard
Conversations Menu, IM & On-Screen Keyboard

That’s it for this portion of the review. We will be back soon with a lot more of the N900. Look through the gallery for more screen shots. There’s a lot to talk about, and we thought we’d show it a bit at a time. Meanwhile, keep following us here. We’re also on twitter, @myportableworld!