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Internet 101: Which Messaging App is Right for You?

Internet 101: Which Messaging App is Right for You?

Communication has certainly changed dramatically over the years. When email entered our lives, it changed the way we could communicate. When SMS (‘Short Message Service’) texting, the form of texting we all know and love, became more accessible and cost-friendly, its popularity exploded. Since then, we’ve used many different ways to communicate. Email may not be the most popular way to communicate these days, though it’s of course common in the business world. Texting is obviously still popular, but there are far more options. Over the years, more and more messaging options have come onto the scene. Since there are so many different apps to choose from, it might seem difficult to decide which one you actually want to stick with. If you’re not sure which one you want to use, or if you’re not sure what people are talking about when they say ‘kik,’ this article might just help you figure out which app you’ll enjoy the most—or if you even want to use a messaging app.

What are the pros?

There are a lot of reasons to download a messaging app. Here are just a few reasons to consider:

  • Messaging apps can have special features that are better than typical SMS text platforms
  • Many messaging apps also include video chat and calling, which can streamline your communication
  • Most apps have fun things like extra (or different) emojis and stickers
  • You don’t have to exchange phone numbers with someone to keep in contact
  • You can feel freer to casually message people, because you know they chose to connect with you

What are the cons?

Here are a few reasons you might not want to go with an app:

  • Downloading another app takes up more space on your device
  • Your contacts might all be using different apps, because there are so many apps to choose from
  • Apps might glitch or start crashing, while the typical SMS text platform is generally fairly steady
  • Messaging apps use some of your data, while standard SMS texts don’t (as long as you have SMS texting in your phone plan)

What should you consider?

If you weigh the pros and cons and want to use a messaging app, or if you have one now but aren’t sure if it’s the right one for you, here are a few questions you could ask:

What purpose do you have?

Do you want a messaging app for business? School? Family? Friends? Some mix of these groups? Your purpose might change which app you go with. If you want a messaging app to keep up with co-workers and communicate in the workplace, you might need less bells and whistles, and it might need to be more practical (unless you have a really cool workplace). If you’re looking for an app so you can work with your classmates, you’ll probably need an app that lets you clearly define groups. If you just want a messaging app for your friends and family, you’ll likely want more of the fun features that can keep you all entertained and is pretty informal.

Is it easy to use?

When you’re choosing a messaging app, you should definitely look for one that you can easily use. Depending on your experience with smartphones, different apps, and messaging in general, you might need something different from everyone else. You’ll want to make sure it’s intuitive (you don’t have to go searching all over the place to find basic features). You can also consider whether it’s similar to other things you’ve used in the past.

What kind of messages do you want to be able to send?

If you want to just send text-based messages, most of the following apps will work great for that. If you want to focus on communicating through photos, other apps will do the job better. If you want video capabilities, many apps offer this option, but some are better than others. Make sure to see whether your app offers all the kinds of messaging you want to use.

Is the app safe and secure?

Most of the chat apps you’ve heard about are considered safe, but be careful not to add a random app that just looks cool without looking into it first. Scam apps could steal your data or do worse. Also, some apps are built entirely on the premise of being more secure than SMS texting and other apps out there. One app, called Signal, is based entirely on this idea. It’s slightly different from other messaging apps, though, in that you still send texts to peoples’ phone numbers. If you want to be extra careful with your messages, keep in mind that some apps offer more protection than others, though they might not work the same way as the typical messaging app.

Is it convenient?

Some messaging apps might be more convenient for you than others. If space is an issue, some take up less space, so take that into consideration. Also, some apps are connected with other social media platforms you might already be on, so that can be an added layer of convenience.

What are your options?

Here are just 7 of the messaging apps you might want to choose from. There are many, many more out there, so consider asking around to learn what your friends and family prefer. These are just some of the apps that are widely discussed and used!

Facebook Messenger
Offers texts, photos, videos (including video calling), and voice calling
Facebook Messenger is, obviously, Facebook’s connected messaging app. Messenger is separate from the Facebook app, so you do have to download another additional app to use it. Messenger has a lot of different options, like making group messages with fun group names, sending photos with face filters and other decorations, and using Facebook’s stickers. Facebook Messenger is interesting because there are so many things you can do with it. One thing people may not be as aware of is the ability to play games through the app, like Word Streak with Friends. There are other games, too, built into the Messenger app. It seems like you can do just about everything with the app, even send money and share your location. You and most of your connections are probably on Facebook already, so you’ll know you can contact just about everyone here. If you want to send just about any kind of message and you have Facebook, try this app out. Facebook Messenger is free to download—check out their website to get started!

GroupMe
Offers texts, photos, and videos
GroupMe lets you connect with groups of people to keep in touch for whatever purpose. It’s certainly popular in the college world and in the workplace. You can create as many different groups as you want. It has its own set of emojis, which are pretty cute and keep things a little interesting. GroupMe has a nice gallery view, so if you’re in a group that sends a lot of media, it’s easy to flip through what’s been sent. It also easily lets you send your location, quickly inviting group members to join you where you are. GroupMe really relies on its usefulness in communicating with groups, particularly if you don’t want to share your number (though users without the app can still receive GroupMe messages, which is convenient). If you want to be able to message groups easily (like for a group project or work event), this is a great app for it. GroupMe is free to download—check out their website to get started!

Instagram Direct
Offers texts, photos, and videos
Instagram Direct is Instagram’s answer to a messaging service. Instead of just posting your Instas and liking your friends’ photos, you can also message people directly through the app. Like Snapchat, your photos and videos will automatically disappear after a while (though not all of your messages disappear—just your photos and videos). You can send all sorts of media through Instagram Direct. Also similar to Snapchat, you can add face filters to your photos, and you can add cool effects to your videos. Boomerang is an especially popular video feature; you can make a short video clip loop back and forth. If you already have Instagram, you already have Instagram Direct, which makes it more convenient than some other messaging apps might seem. Of course, if you want to connect with people who aren’t on Instagram, this isn’t the app for you. If most of your friends and family are connected with you on Insta, though, this app might be just perfect. Instagram is free to download—check out their website to get started!

Kik
Offers texts, photos, and videos (including video calling)
Kik is a pretty popular messaging app that people often use if they don’t yet feel comfortable giving their phone number to someone (though this isn’t its only use, of course). You can’t make regular voice calls, but you can do pretty much everything else, so it’s a good option no matter what kind of messages you’d like to send. You can send all sorts of GIFs and stickers, and you can create group chats. Kik also has a pretty nice, clean interface, so it’s not really confusing. Kik also has some interesting special features. For one thing, you can interact with Kik bots to kill time if you’re not sure who to talk to. Also, you have a Kik code that others can scan in order to connect with you, which is convenient. Quite a few people are on Kik, so it might be a good option for you. Kik is free to download—check out their website to get started!

Snapchat
Offers texts, photos, and videos
Snapchat is the popular photo- and video-sharing app that makes your messages impermanent. Messages disappear after a short amount of time, and even the photos and videos in your personal story disappear after a short while. Snapchat centers specifically around photos and videos, though you can, of course, send text-based messages. You can use Snapchat filters to do things like weirdly distort your face and voice, give yourself cat ears, or put someone else’s face on your own. You can take short videos with these filters, too, and you can do other cool effects. You can also easily add text on top of your photos, communicating through your photos. If you want to message primarily through photos and videos, this is the app for you. Snapchat is free to download—check out their website to get started!

WeChat
Offers texts, photos, videos (including video calling), and voice calling
WeChat is a messaging app that offers all the kinds of things you might expect. It lets you message in all kinds of different ways, but WeChat also has an interesting feel to it. The main page is very basic, sort of like your typical SMS chat setup, but once you’re in a chat, it can get as complicated as you’d like it to, with voice messages, the ability to match your step count with your friends (if you each have it enabled), group chats, and interestingly, broadcasted messages that go to numerous people but don’t share who all the people are. WeChat is also a nice choice if you have friends in China (as I’ve recently learned from experience). Some messaging apps are blocked in China, but WeChat is still available there. It also has a very strange bunch of animated stickers you can download, which keeps it very interesting. If you’re looking for an app that is slightly different from the rest, this one will do the trick. WeChat is free to download—check out their website to get started!

WhatsApp
Offers texts, photos, videos (including video calling), and voice calling
WhatsApp is a hugely popular messaging app that has a lot of great features. You can send all different types of messages, you can create groups, and you can easily access it everywhere, including on your computer. It also has its own cute versions of the emojis you’re used to. The app is pretty clear and easy to use; it’s not really bulky or confusing at all. Honestly, it’s really a simple and straightforward way to message people. WhatsApp is an alluring choice, partly because it has so many nice features and partly because so many other people are already on it. It’s also nice because it’s easy to send files through the app. You can do pretty much all the things you’d expect with it. If you want a messaging app that a lot of people are on and that does all of the basics, this app might be your best option. WhatsApp is free to download—check out their website to get started!