Review: WhatsApp Messenger for iPhone

Recently my wife started to use an iPhone and I wanted to find a way to cut down on our messaging plan. Over the last two years, like many people when an app is available for a free, I tend to download it.  This has finally served me well, because I have accumulated just about every messaging app available in the App Store.  So I tested them all out over a two week span and my winning pick is WhatsApp Messenger.

Getting Started

When I downloaded the app it required minor set up which didn’t take long.  You do have to provide your cell phone number during the set up.  Here is a selection from WhatsApp’s website regarding privacy:

We ask for your phone number because that is how WhatsApp routes chat messages between you and your contacts, similar to how the regular SMS system would. We value your privacy and we have not, do not and will not ever sell your personal information to anyone. If you would like to learn more about our Privacy Policy, please take a look at our Privacy Notice.


During the set up process, WhatsApp will automatically add your contacts and add anyone already using the app.  I noticed this when a few friends started to use it and they were instantly added.  You can also delete the person if you wish.  Now with the set up out of the way, let’s get to those features.

Features

WhatsApp packs a ton of features and eliminates the stock messaging app for me.  There are five menu tabs located at the bottom: Favorites, Status, Contacts, Chats, and Settings. The first, Favorites is essentially a quick list of the people you interact with the most.  It is very easy to add and edit favorites, and the list shows you contact names and current status.  If you tap on the bottom of the list you can easily invite your friends to download WhatsApp via SMS or e-mail.

As I mentioned earlier you can display your current status to friends and family which will show up in the Favorites list.  When you download the app there are several default status options: Busy, Available, Battery about to die… I think you get the point and you can easily edit and add a custom status.  There is an option at the bottom of the screen to link your status update to Facebook with another option to clear your status.

The Chats tab is where all your current messaging sessions are located.  All of the messages are sorted by name and you can preview the first line of each message without having to open it.  If you have pictures assigned to your contacts, they  will show up in the list as well.  When you want to create a message, just tap on the icon located on the upper right.  You will then be prompted to select the recipient.  The keyboard will pop-up and you can now type out your message.

If you tap the options icon located on the left you can attach: Photos, Video, Audio Notes, Contacts, and even Share your current Location.  When you’re in a chat session with someone their name is displayed at the top, and it also indicates when the other person is typing.  Next to each message sent, you will notice a time stamp with green check marks: one check confirms the message was sent, two confirms it was read.  You will also notice during a chat session you’re given the option to call the person or view their contact information.  One more feature, when located on the main screen of the Chat tab, pull down the list.  An option, Broadcast Message, will drop down and it allows you to send a message to multiple contacts.

Under the Settings tab, if you tap on Usage, you can view the total number of messages sent and received in addition to the amount of data.  Chat Settings is important, you can change the name your friends will see displayed when they receive a push notification.  You can change the chat wallpaper using the Camera Roll or default wallpaper library.  There is an option to change the new message alert when you receive a push notification.  You can also toggle on or off: vibrate alert, the sound played when new message arrives while the app is running, show text preview in push notification, message stamp, and automatically save incoming & outgoing media.  There is also an option to block contacts, e-mail chat history, and clear chat history.

Why I chose WhatsApp?

What I was really looking for in a messaging app was something as close to the actual stock Messages app as   I could get.  Most of the other apps were lacking in one area or other.  Here are some of the factors that led me to choose WhatsApp.  The entire app works in landscape mode which is a big factor for me.  I love how similar it is to the stock Messages app and you’re given all of the same features: I can send photos, video, audio, contacts, and even location.

WhatsApp is super fast!  I receive messages quicker and uploading to send a picture is definitely quicker than using the stock Messages app.  I like that you can record and send an audible message right in the app, and I’m glad Emoji characters still work.  The push notifications work great and when you tap on the pop-up it will immediately open WhatsApp.  I like the level of customization, ability to change alerts, and wallpapers.  WhatsApp also automatically saves incoming media, which is useful, since I often forget to save a picture before deleting the message.

What really got me was how easily I got Blackberry users to download the app.  When I started using it, I sent my sister a text message to download the app in the Blackberry App Store.  Literally within five minutes she sent me a message via WhatsApp letting me know she downloaded it.  It works great from iPhone to Blackberry.  There are a few features that have not been enabled yet.  I sent her an audio message and she couldn’t play it so I’m not sure if it’s a Blackberry or WhatsApp issue.  Everything else seems to be working great.  I did read on the developer’s blog there are plans to bring the app to the Android Market as well.  Overall I am looking forward to my messaging plan to decrease in price and I owe it all to this app.

WhatsApp is available in the App Store for $.99.

“This app was independently purchased by the post author in the iPhone App Store. For further information regarding our site ‘s review policies, please see our About page.”

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  • http://www.facebook.com/higa27 Wayne Higa

    Frank,

    Great review on Whatsapp Messenger. Like most iPhone users, the idea of paying $20 additional a month for texting is out of the question. We look toward other alternatives. For me, Beejive filled this void. However, this app was far from perfect as the constant sign in problems with AIM plagued this app. So I looked toward an app I downloaded previously called Ping. It does the basic so well and is so easy to use. Just give a person "with an iPhon" your Ping ID and that's it….plain and simple. But when I heard of Whatsapp….I decided to give it a try. Although the chat logs can get very busy with all the different contrast in colors (text field box, background, etc) it is so much more superior than Ping with regards to features. I wish there was a lite version for friends of mine to try cause I've gotten so many to jump on the Ping Lite version but for $.99 it's totally worth it. Another vote for Whatsapp! ;)

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/FrankCatalano FrankCatalano

      I totally agree. I tried Ping and it was a nice app but I wanted more features. I have yet to try Beejive because I had IM+ already and I wasn't happy with it. I would love for the devs to release a lite version bc it would definitely make things easier… Thanks for reading and I'm glad you enjoy the app. :)

  • DoubleAron

    WhatsApp has been one of my must have apps for a good while, very good piece of software.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/FrankCatalano FrankCatalano

      Agree. Thanks for reading :)

  • Bryan

    Question? Can I only use this app with others who have the app? Can I send texts to people without it?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Ragart Thomas

      I believe it's restricted to other WhatsApp users, based on when i checked the app out on my friend's device. Frank will know for sure, though.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/FrankCatalano FrankCatalano

      Sorry Bryan, that's correct. It will only work with others who have the app. I find getting people to use this one is much easier because is works with Blackberry and soon Android. Plus it delivers all the same features as the stock messages app.

  • Jay

    Pmessenger is free, has all the same features, uses your iphones ID like BBM and works on BB, Iphones, and android phones.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/kazemizuhi kazemizuhi

    Just wondering if this app has notifications even when closed, or do I have to keep the app open?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Ragart Thomas

      It definitely supports push notifications, so you don't have to keep it open.

      • tina

        I have Iphone 4 and when I am out of aplication i cant recive messages, it doesn ring, how can i fix that?!

  • Pippi

    Does anyone knows how to email my chat history or download it to a file? Thanks

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/FrankCatalano FrankCatalano

      Yes, if you have the app open go to settings. Then tap Chat settings. If you scroll all the way to the bottom, there is an option to email chat history. Hope that helps.

  • jojo

    Just wondering if this app has notifications even when closed, or do I have to keep the app open? if so how to i get it set up to do this. Cheers

  • Moonlight

    Can a blocked contact see that I'm online if he is in a previously saved chat history?

  • mike

    Can you type the message with the landscape keyboard format (i.e,. turn your iPhone horizontal and type?)

  • Chanelle

    I added someone under the wrong name ! how do i change it?? i deleted them off my contacts list by accident

  • Zack

    So the big question is can and how does this app save you money? It's only $1, so that's not a lot, but say only 5 of your friends have it, are you only getting free messaging with them? And because the app still requires data usage, does that cost offset the money saved by not paying for a messaging plan?

    I'm interested in it, I just want to make sure it's really a money saver and not just smartly advertised as one. If every text message I send is over the 3g network (using the app I mean) then that means my data usage will go up and potentially cost as much as a normal text plan.

    Thanks.

    • http://blog.hippiemoo.com JTM

      I guess it really depends what kind of plan you have to begin with. My mother, for example, may have a depressingly limited SMS plan. If I send her a few full-res photos, or maybe a little audio memo, I risk maxing out her SMS allowance and costing her more money. By using the app with me, she'd be saving money and I'd feel less guilty.

      I'm actually using it for the ability to send/receive SMS to/from a friend in another country. A lot of SMS plans are "unlimited" domestically, but can end up costing you (or your friend) money if the messages are being sent internationally. (Much in the same way "unlimited long-distance" usually only applies within your own country.) Those charges can end up biting you in the ass pretty fast. So if you have friends in other countries and you'd like to frequently text back and forth, it's pretty easy for you (and the friend) to justify spending 99¢ to avoid spending more in overage fees.

  • meredith

    My settings are just like my friends for the 3gs, but still im not having this pop-up thing, how is that possilbe? Ive downloaded whatsapp for 3 times now… can n e 1 help plz?

  • guy

    Can we chat with more than one friend all at the same time…meaning that when someone answer me back the others see the answer???

  • Lisa

    Can you use it a broad for free or will you end up with it as roaming charges????

  • Hayley

    How do I add a photo to my profile on Whatsapp? I can't find it anywhere!! Heeellp!!

  • Sue

    My status still show ONLINE wen i'm not..pls assist

  • Hotmustard

    Rude customer service. Complicated set up.

  • kookzaa

    Why i can’t sent photo and audio by whatsapp????
    Can anyone help me???

  • Hugo

    Hello, I have whatsapp in mi Nokia but none of the contacts that live abroad apear as favorites even though some of them I know have whatsapp. Can you please tell me if I have to do something to be able to chat with them.

    thank you

  • marco

    what is landscape mode?

  • sally

    is this only for the iphone 4 or can 3 and 3gs use it as well

    • http://isource.com/ Thomas

      It’s fine on basically any iOS device. It relies on wi-fi or wireless data, and not a cellphone plan (has nothing to do with text messages). Think of it like you would MSN/Yahoo/AIM, except it’s its own service.

  • katie

    So, if my hubby and I both have this, and we are in the US (not in Canada where we live/have our data plans) can we text eachother for free in the US? Do I need to be close to a free wifi to do this? thank you.

  • Tanya

    Hi,

    I have a contact that lives in Europe. They recently asked me to download this app. After downloading it I was told that my friend had sent me multiple messages on it, yet I haven’t recieved it. Also, I added there number in my address book(with the proper international thing ‘+’ etc) but they are not showing as having whatsapp which is not allowing me to message them. Please help me fix this. It is very important to me. I have an iPhone 3G if that helps

  • Clare

    I had this App when I had a Blackberry and it was great. Now I have an iPhone4 and have it and have a problem if anyone can help.

    I’m not getting notifications on my main screen (like with sms and facebook, you get a 1 or whatever when someone sends a message) I sometimes get a window with the contacts name, but not always. And I never get a sound notification so more times than not I’m having to go into the App to see if anyone has sent a message which is kind of annoying.

    Any tips? Or is it a glitch?

  • sam

    i have the whatsapp application on my iphone 3g and 3gS when i locked the
    phone , whatsapp go offline can someone help me to keep it online when the phone is locked thx

    • Juan

      Same problem here!! Any idea Anyone??

  • YBS

    How is it different from Gtalk ? Yahooo ? Msn ?

  • Oma

    i dont knw y i cant send pictures from my blackberry picture gallery to my whatsapp contacts. when i had a nokia, it was working excellently so i dnt knw the problem with the blackberry whatsapp. can anyone help? thanks….
    BTW, this app is d best chat app I have evr used. it is superfast, dosnt cost much, and its incredible.

  • http://just2us.com samwize

    It is good, but unfortunately it doesn’t work for iPod Touch!

    Unlike other similar apps that work for all, such as Hoiio Chat that is similar yet free.

  • Wladimir

    Lo quiero

  • CM

    This was a super helpful review and i am glad i am going to have an easier time communicating with my family overseas. Thank you for that. But…two spaces between sentences? Really? You didn’t use a typewriter to create this blog post. I understand that the MLA, APA, etc. official handbooks still sit on the fence about the issue, but seriously, get with the typographic times! One space. Between sentences.

  • Rob

    When i am sent audio via whatsapp to my iphone 4 it wont play. If i send audio to someone, they recieve it ok and it works. I can play my own audio that I have sent ok. How do I get sent audio to play on my iphone4?

  • Angel

    Ron I am having the same issue. I can hear my audios sent to others but I cant receive incoming audios anymore. I was able to then it just stopped. Anyone have any ideas? I have reinstalled the app but that didn’t help.

  • Satan

    I don’t like that others can see me online or when I was last signed in. Is there a setting to keep this private?

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  • Amed

    It doesnt work in my iPhone

  • Amani

    How can I broadcast a message to all contacts in one click on whatsapp instead of having to add the contacts names one at a time?

  • katherine

    I have had whats app for some time now and have found no problems. I was able to send and receive pictures all of the time but now I am unable too and when I try to send or download a red exclamation mark appears.

    Could you please help

    Thankyou

  • Sameer Arbee

    How do I know for sure when a person is online on whatsapp on Blackberry?

  • Vic

    Hi! I just installed whatsapp and can send audio notes… But when I try to listen to one… Nothing…. Any help? I am using an iPhone 4

  • romilly douglas

    hi, just wondering if i disable the push notification feature ( cos i don’t want it to appear on my screen that i have a message) what other options ( and if there are any, how) there are to show that you have a message. like on the blackberries you just get a icon appearing.

  • Tiffany

    I am having the same problem. I will receive an audio note but when I go to play it there is no sound. The volume on my phone is up and the message seems to be playing but there is no sound associated with it.

  • zack

    is there a way to find out if i have been blocked?

  • cathy

    is it possible to use this between two users in the same country(ie.China) both on iphone, both from the US?

  • boris123

    any idea how to alphabetically sort the list of favourites on iphone…was easy on my bb but cant seem to work it out on iphone?

  • GR

    Using What’sApp requires us to open up our Address Book databases. QUESTION: JUST HOW SAFE IS A ADDRESS BOOK DATABASE AND HOW MUCH OF IT IS AVAILABLE TO WHAT’SAPP EMPLOYEES, 3RD PARTY ASSOCIATES, AND OTHERS?

  • chapp

    when someone sent us pictures via whatsapp, can it be downloaded to the phone? I don’t think it can be downloaded but if anyone out there knows how to do it, please share it here..thanks

  • janis gidman

    so why is whatsapp charging me for photo mesages on my iphone when its suposed to be free????? ive only had the phone for 3 months!!!!! not happy and will be shouting from the roof tops if i cant get help to get a refund>????

  • Hovig

    Why can’t i receive push notifications when i close the application? this sucks!

  • http://WhatsAppprivate Richard

    I love WhatsApp. It saves so much money in terms of sending text messages. It is easy to use. However, I want to suggest to the designer to adjust the App so that it gives you an option to adjust the settings, so that when you are away from your Iphone and you receive a message, that it hides the contents on the locked screen, but just shows there is a message from a person. I saw my one colleague trying to read my messages, although my phone was locked, the person could still see a portion of a message from my gf. Just an idea. However, the App is brilliant!

  • Sameer

    A friend of mine uses whatsapp too but when i see him in whatsapp it shows me that he was last seen on 19/10/2011 at 7:05 PM but when i see his contact status it show that he updates his status 3h 42m ago. Now how is this possible? if he updated his status 3h 42m ago then why is it showing me that he was last seen on 19/10/2011 at 7:05?
    Is this some kind of bug in whatsapp?

  • Johnny

    Is it possible to hide my online/offine status?

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  • jvnkie

    I love the app, but it annoys me that it doesn’t have an ‘invisible’ or ‘appear offline’ mode.. Sometimes I just want to talk to ONE person without being spammed by several others who react to me being on-line. If such a setting will not be provided with the next update of WA, i’m considering to continue searching for an app that does have that particular feature and will be de-installing WA.

  • Daisy

    Thanks for a fantastic write up about whatsapp… I’ve only just recently heard about it and thanks to your write up, I now know how to change the background, send pics and voice clips… Well done and thanks again!!

  • Wisal

    I have an ipod and a samsung galaxy both have whatsapp and i can see on whatsapp the name i gave them but when i get notified i see the name they chose. How can i see the name they did themselves

  • Serene

    Why I can see the status of another person -> it shows blank. Not “offline”, “online” or “last seen” but the status of that person appear on my friend’s iphone ? all 3 of us are using Iphone.

  • reshma

    Hi ,
    can anyone help me i have updated the iphone so all my applications inculding whatsapp is also gone now when i am trying to find it and upload it but i cannot upload it now pls someone help me .i was really enjoying this application.pls pls pls

  • Hampig

    Why I didn’t find the “wathapp” on the appstore to download on my iPhone ?? :O please people tell me why ??

    • http://isource.com/ Thomas

      @Hampig

      it’s coming back soon, supposedly. They pulled it themselves due to an update, or so I heard on Twitter.

  • isaac

    I am worried I can’t send images on m whatssap. Pls help me

  • Ganesh

    Can anybody help me on how to sort the messages from a contact. By default the messages are sorted from oldest to newest. This creates a problem for large number of messages as I have to scroll it down to the last message everytime i get a new message. I have tried searching for it, but could not find anywhere. Help would be appreciated.

  • Anandita

    How do I save an audio note sent by my friend in the iTunes library?

  • dash

    Hey I was just wondering are pictures sent over what’s app private . Like can any of my other contacts see it and does this application save it anywhere else . If I delete the pictures from my phone is there a chance they can appear somewhere else ?? Please reply .

  • Asdf

    Whatsup store everything. Photos. Messages. All of them. I know this for sure

  • Deri

    How do I change my privacy settings on what’s app on an iPhone?

  • Meiying

    I’m using iphone 4S and it has upgraded to iOS 6.0 recently. Everything were going well after upgraded except Whatsapp. The whatsapp cannot upload any photo or audio but it is only able to forward those media send by other users. However, i’m still able to download media from the others. What is the problems exactly? Is that because of crashing of software or any setting need to reset?

  • Ire

    Why can`t i send photos on whatsapp using my iphone 4s since i updated to IOS6?