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.
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:
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.
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.”