Social media has moved away from the bulky desktop website and into our mobile devices for the past few years. We may not have noticed it, but smartphones and other portables have quietly become the new social media centers of our interconnected world. Sleek, streamlined, and sophisticated alternatives to your smartphone’s native messaging app have been flooding the market hoping to be the “Facebook” of messaging, and earn billions of users and advertising revenue.
One reason for this is because these applications are free and widely available across all operating systems. And whether iOS, Android, Blackberry or Windows, your phone’s messaging app requires a data network connection. These alternatives don’t require a data connection.
Messaging App Alternatives
Instead your messages can be sent over the Wi-Fi powered interwebs, which is especially appealing if you happen to be either a citizen of a country with less telecommunications infrastructure, or on a limited budget.
Actually, Facebook has a pretty decent messaging app, which may seem redundant if you’re a frequent flier on the social media site. Facebook Messaging moves the IM function from its web site and shrinks it down for your smartphone.
- Pros: Easy to privately reach anyone already on your friends list. Can message groups of friends simultaneously, whether they’re using the app or the chat function on Facebook – even if they’re not friends with each other. You can also (supposedly) text anyone in your phone’s address book.
- Cons: Pretty bare bones. If you’ve already go the Facebook app on your phone, you probably don’t need this too.
WhatsApp may be the best alternative to your native messaging app out there. Developed by former Yahoo! techs, WhatsApp mimics your native texting application almost perfectly and comes in all flavors — everything from iPhone to Blackberry. You can send pictures, videos and audio just like you would over SMS, but because this app uses Internet protocols, it doesn’t use up your data. While it costs a nominal download fee of $0.99, the founders refuse to allow advertising to gum up their carefully crafted works, although, they recently sold to Facebook.
Emu is the newest and most sophisticated member of the lineup. Still in beta,this is one of those messaging app alternatives that aims to rival iOS’s Siri for dominion over the digital assistant realm. Emu had poked its head out of development last year with an eye for Android, but that relationship ended early when the bulky open source OS couldn’t keep up with Emu’s needs. Now, revamped and all dolled up in iPhone finery, Emu will help you plan your social life by butting into your conversations and calling your friends behind your back.
Seriously, though, the concept of Emu is to provide a more proactive user interface that allows you to stay in a single app without having to swap over to something else mid-conversation. While Siri is a decent voice-activated user interface, its seek-and-suggest functions are pretty limited. Emu intends to do all the research for you, as you’re making your plans; whether it’s what time a particular movie is playing, or where you are at this exact moment so your friend knows how long she has to get ready, Emu handles all the details.
One con is that, at least for now, the app is only available for iPhone. The other is that the more complex an app, the more opportunity for things to go wrong. Still, one of the founder/developers of Emu is also the brain behind Siri. So, there is a possiblity that iPhone will incorporate Emu into the native iOS in the future.