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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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]
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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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