WhatsApp is a very popular app for smartphones that allows users to replace their expensive SMS service with free texting locally and worldwide. It is owned by Facebook, but runs independently. It offers no possibility for voice calls or video calls, as the app focuses on sharing text and multimedia messages. It works on all major smartphone models with different platforms – iPhone, Android phones, BlackBerry, Nokia and Windows Phone. It uses Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G networks.
- It uses your mobile number to identify you, so no need to register.
- Free SMS and MMS to other WhatsApp users.
- Group text messaging.
- Works on most smartphone models.
- No voice calls allowed.
- Free only for the first year.
- You need a 3G or 4G data plan to use it on the move.
WhatsApp is a simple and light app that installs without hassles on your smartphone. I tried on my Android device and it worked fine, showing no greed for resources, with an installation file of 6.4 MB. I gathered that the process of setting up and getting it running is more or less the same for all models of smartphones that it supports.
Once installed, you are presented with a greeting screen, asking you to continue. Then you enter your mobile phone number, which is the handle through which the service identifies you. This saves you from having to log in each time with a username and password, and from even registering for the first time. You are sent an access code through SMS which you have enter as proof that you are the rightful owner and user of the phone number you entered. Then the app integrates your contact list and sorts out whom among your contacts are already WhatsApp users.
Now why does it do that? You will like that it does it, because the contacts that have already installed WhatApp on their smartphones are the only ones to whom you can send free SMS to, as the app can’t send free messages to non-WhatsApp users. So it helps to know right from the beginning who you will be contacting using your new app and who using your paid GSM texting.
The service is basically allowing free SMS and MMS messages to and from other WhatsApp users, locally and worldwide. So, if you want to save money on messaging, get your buddies to download and use WhatsApp too. There is no possibility of making voice and video calls, so you are way behind Skype and other VoIP apps there, but you know, Skype is not always the best option for quick communication, especially given the imposing bulk it inflicts on your machine and the bandwidth it consumes. But WhatsApp doesn’t compare very favorably to other services of the type that allow free voice calls too, like Viber and KakaoTalk.
Speaking of bandwidth, text messaging consumes very little of it, unless you have the habit of swapping big image and video files, which is possible with WhatsApp. Using your Wi-Fi gets you everything free, but if you need real mobility, then you need a data plan. This app supports 3G and 4G networks. If you have one, then WhatsApp is really bound to make you save money on texting. The only inconvenient then would be to need to have all your contacts using WhatsApp.
Is the service all free? Yes it is, but only for the first year. To carry on using it for the second year, you pay $2. Well, that’s not much paying and it is definitely worth it for the amount of money it allows you to save.
An interesting feature of WhatsApp is group chatting, where a group of people can share text messages. When one person in the group sends a message, everyone else in it receives it. Other features include the ability to email an entire chat conversation to contacts, the ability to have message pop up boxes, and emoticons. One feature worth noting here is the ability to take photos and record videos using your smartphone and send them directly as MMS using WhatsApp. You can also send location information and maps with the app. You could for example send your current location or that of a good pizzeria you know in the vicinity.
Push notifications are allowed. These are messages you get in pop ups when messages arrive. This means that the app runs silently in the background without hindering your normal phone usage.
WhatsApp works on many smartphone models including the iPhone, Android models, BlackBerry phones, Windows Phone and even Nokia phones, the latter being often left behind by other free SMS apps. To see whether your device is supported, check there. You can download the app from there.