I take a look at the very popular cross platform messaging service, WhatsApp.
Google, Apple, and Microsoft like you to be in their ecosystem, and while it works well, sometimes it can exclude those not on your platform. If you don’t have an iPhone or a Blackberry, you could find yourself being excluded from messaging from some of your friends.
I am an iPhone user, and one thing that I love is iMessage – the ability to send text, images, and videos to any iPhone user anywhere in the world without paying a fortune for it. But what do I do when I want to send a picture to someone who doesn’t have an iPhone?
I could use MMS, the extension of text messaging that allows pictures and videos to be sent. However even in 2015 this is an expensive thing to do, costing 40p to send a picture to another UK network – and it has always been a fairly unreliable service.
I could use Facebook or Facebook Messenger. It allows you to message and call anyone with a Facebook account and send text, pictures, and videos. However, not everyone wants to join the social media giant just to get free messaging.
Another option is WhatsApp – a messaging app. It links to your phone number, so you can swap handsets and platforms and take it with you, and conversations can be backed up so you can take them with you too.
It is available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry 10. Surprisingly, it is also available for Symbian, Nokia S40, Tizen, and unofficially for MeeGo and Maemo. This makes it truly cross platform, with just about every avenue covered.
It is free to download, free for the first year, and then less than £1/$1 a year after this. The reason for the payment is to keep it ad free. I can live with that. So I thought I would check out WhatsApp, and I suddenly realised a lot of other people use it too.
Once installed, WhatsApp gains access to the contacts list on your phone when you first set it up and determines which of them has WhatsApp installed. Then it is as simple as using your built-in message app.
It features threaded conversations, delivery and read reports, as well as the option to upload images and videos or take a picture directly from your camera.
In 2014, WhatsApp was bought out by Facebook and shortly after gained the ability to do voice calls to other WhatsApp users – this puts WhatsApp in the realms of iMessage, making it more than just a free messaging service.
I recently had the option to try this out. In my local supermarket, I have no cellular signal, but they offer free WiFi, so I can use it to iMessage and FaceTime my wife, but I cannot contact any non-Apple users.
Last week I was with my wife in our local supermarket, and I needed to contact our oldest son. I couldnt text or call him via the usual means, so I decided to WhatsApp call him using the supermarket WiFi.
Below are some screen grabs from iOS, Windows Phone, and Android, showing conversations and calls across different mobile platforms.
Screen grabs: iOS lock screen notification, messaging and calling.
Screen grabs: Windows Phone messaging – Windows Phone call – Android messaging
And now there is WhatsApp Web – which runs in a browser. This means you can access your WhatsApp conversations from your computer, similar to what Apple did with Messages for OS X.
Screen grab: WhatsApp Web
WhatsApp is a great solution to cross platform communications. What started off as just a way to chat without paying per text or per message costs, has turned in to an all round messaging and calling facility.
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