While SMS messages work fine for some people, most of us use Instant Messaging (IM) applications on top of them. This dates back from the old IRC days and has not changed at all today. In fact, people have easier access to the Internet than ever before so using an IM app on your Android phone is a very reasonable course of action. Today we are going to be looking at some of the best free messaging apps out there with detailed descriptions for them all.
Note: To clarify before we start this, I am not including WhatsApp simply because it is not free. It indeed has one of the longest trials ever and is a fantastic application with an insanely large user base but the fact of the matter remains: this post is not about subscription-based apps.
We are going to start our post with what might be the most controversial of the listed apps and for one good reason. Facebook is insanely popular and you just cannot look over that fact. The company’s messaging application lets you connect with anyone using Facebook’s chat from any platform without them having to install Messenger. Facebook has been actively trying to separate this app from the main Facebook platform but the User Interface (UI) and flexibility of the app are amazing.
Apart from the large user base, Facebook Messenger’s next best feature is chat heads. You can configure this tiny widget to notify you whenever you get an IM even when you are not actually using the app. A tiny icon with the profile picture of the person who is sending you the message pops up and you can just reply to it on the spot without having to stop whatever else you were doing for more than a few seconds. Of course, the fact that the app is tied to Facebook means it will be a deal-breaker for some people but that is to be expected.
With over 200 million registered users, a lot of people you know might be using Tango. This is reinforced by the fact that Tango has a lot of social elements to it, including a function that allows you to search and add people that you might know as well as nearby people that have opted for this feature.
The interface is quite elegant and you will find every IM feature that is standard nowadays. Apart from standard messaging though you will find so many more elements like playing and sharing Spotify songs, playing games with your friends and browsing a variety of channels for your entertainment. I would really recommend giving it a go if you have friends in there or if you have some free time on your hands to spend while messaging people.
WeChat boasts that it will always stay free and that it is the only messaging app to be certified by TRUSTe, a company known for its “online privacy seals”. Apart from that though, the fluid UI and host of other messaging features have attracted users from around the world.
You will not find many fancy features here that are unrelated to messaging and video calling but these two utilities are very polished and that is obviously enough for a lot of users. Just as an example, group chats can accommodate up to 100 participants, a staggering number for a mobile messaging app. It is quite an old app though so you might have trouble convincing your friends to use it.
Depending on where you are from, Viber might be the most popular offering on this list. There are over 200 million registered users and for good reason. Viber has an amazing interface, a clean design and features that almost always work.
There are not a lot of fancy features here but you will find text, photo and video messaging capabilities that work great. Group chat also supports up to 100 participants which is awesome. Some concerns about privacy are raised because of the app collects names and phone numbers for texting and calling purposes but they are pretty transparent about that.
For the final app of this post, I thought we would do something different. Trillian is an IM app that lets you use accounts from a variety of services like Facebook, MSN, Skype, Google, Yahoo, Aim and others. You can have all of your accounts enclosed within this app so you do not have to use anything else for your messaging needs. Of course, messages can also be sent to people who only use Trillian.
This ad-supported, cross-platform app provides standard messaging features, including support for photos but you will not find anything fancier than that here. Its main focus is keeping everything tidy and secure as evidenced by the fact that it uses TLS to protect your chats from prying eyes.