Messengers Compared: FB Messenger vs WhatsApp vs Hangouts vs Skype vs Viber vs Telegram vs LINE
Quite a few mainstream messaging apps have released some game changing updates within the past few weeks, so we decided to take their new (and old) features for a comparison face-off.
Registration. You need a Facebook account to use Messenger, and you can get a Facebook account if you have an e-mail.
Cross platform support. While the mobile platforms are covered, you can only run the Messenger from your browser on your desktop computers. There is, however, an unofficial desktop client you can try at your own risk.
Price. App to app calls are free when you are on WiFi; otherwise standard data charges apply.
Privacy, encryption. Privacy and Facebook are two extremes, like matter and anti-matter, so when they collide – a big bang will happen and we might see the birth of a new universe.
Emoticon packs. Yes, Messenger must be the most perk-loaded app there is thanks to its recent introduction of third-party app support. So, not only emoticon extensions are available in Messenger these days, but entire apps for stickers, GIFs, memes and what not. It's really the entertainment and social kind of messenger. Check out this quick overview of apps you might like with your Messenger.
File transfer support. Images, videos, GIFs, files.
Groups. Yes, group chats for up to 250 users.
Sending location. Yes.
Audio calls. Yes.
Video calls. Yes, free, but since the feature is new, it is currently available in select regions for iOS and Android platforms - Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Laos, Lithuania, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, the UK, the US and Uruguay. More regions are on the way.
Performance. So-so, it's got bugs and it drains the battery and clogs your bandwidth. It can cut your video file, or hang up the video call. It's always ON, and it may skip sending you a Notification at the same time. The reason Facebook has made this app mandatory is known to Facebook alone, because you used to be able to use Messenger from within the Facebook app. There are users who appreciate the standalone app, but making it mandatory for the other half is beyond explicable. Hence, your impressions of its performance is individual.
- You can message people who are not in your Facebook contact list, but are simply in your phone's address book
- You can message up to 150 people at once
- Keep the conversation going while you use other apps
- Voice messages
- Know when your recipient has seen your message
- Message forwarding
- Search for groups or contacts in the app if you have many and have trouble finding one right away
- Create conversation shortcuts
- See other users' availability in Messenger and Facebook
- Turn off/on Notifications whenever you see fit
- Always logged in, which might be good, or bad, because if the app drains your battery – you're in for a frown, and judging by the reviews on Google Play – that's what is happening
Why use it. Because everyone is using it.
WhatsApp Messenger must be one of the most popular messengers, although it also depends on where you live and who you hang out with. This is how it works with messengers – often times you install not the one you choose, but the one the group you wish to join uses. WhatsApp started off as a startup, then got quickly very popular and that's when Facebook acquired it, so bear no illusions – whatever Snowden said about Facebook holds true about WhatsApp now. Now, let's see about the features, if you haven't tried the app for yourself, yet.
Registration. You need a phone number to register, and as is the case with every other phone number-based service, the system will send you a code and a link to confirm your registration.
Cross-platform support. Alas, for some reason WhatsApp lags behind other messengers that offer exhaustive cross-platform support. It has mobile apps, alright, but then you might face a nag when you discover you can't install it on your tablet or your desktop. It has a web version, so you can open it in your browser. Nonetheless, your phone with the app running should stay connected to the Internet in order for you to receive the messages in your web browser. It's a bit clunky, yes.
There are some workaround methods that let you run WhatsApp on tablets and desktop computers, so you can head over here and read our comprehensive guide. Bear in mind you would still need a phone number, and you can have only one instance of WhatsApp active. Say, if you have it on your smartphone, you can open a web version, but you can not have the same account open on your tablet. Neither can you have different accounts of WhatsApp on a single device using the same phone number. Overall, if you are determined to run WhatsApp on your desktop without the web version, get ready to invest some time in the set-up process, and bear in mind it's all unofficial.
Price. WhatsApp taps into your WiFi connection or mobile plan (4G/3G/2G/EDGE) to send and receive data. Hence, if you're on WiFi, you don't spend a cent whereas if you are using the mobile data, you will be charged. It still costs significantly less than sending SMS and MMS when you're on a mobile plan, and costs nothing when on WiFi.
Here is the catch, though. WhatsApp is free during the first year, and then it will charge you $0.99 a year, not much considering your monthly phone bills, right? However, that little detail gets regularly exploited by spammer sending out messages WhatsApp changed its colors and would start charging $0.39 per message starting tomorrow, and if you wish to keep using your free account, you should send out this message to all your contacts. Don't buy it.
Privacy, encryption. You don't talk about privacy when you deal with Zuckerberg brand. However, your consolation may be the fact that WhatsApp does not store your messages and transferred files anywhere in the cloud, or at least that's how it was before the acquisition. So, the messages you have are on your device only. You can do the back-ups, you can delete them, but you won't recover them. Bear in mind your recipients will still have the messages and the files you sent them.
You can hide your “Last Seen” information from stalkers, but you won't be able to see other users' last log in, either. You can also choose who sees your image, status and if you can be found by your nickname.
Emoticon packs. WhatsApp has a huge load of emoticons, and you can install any kind of wallpaper to be the background of your WhatsApp app and chats. The app also has a standalone download of additional WhatsApp wallpapers.
File transfer support. WhatsApp supports transferring images and videos, and you can take and record them right within the app. You can send contact cards, audio, video and image files.
Groups. Up to 100 users.
Sending location. Yes.
Audio calls. Yes, the feature was introduced recently and works pretty good.
Video calls. Not for now, but since Facebook Messenger rolled out the feature, we might expect it in WhatsApp sooner or later.
Quality. Ok, not perfect and it has its issues, like the missing Notifications, but voice calls seem to work good. Also, if you have data switch toggled ON, you may experience a bug that won't connect WhatsApp while it's on data, while WiFi seems to work just fine. You can't send large files, and WhatsApp does not support sending files other than media. You can't move it to SD card, either, so if your phone's internal storage is scarce, you may have issues.
- Availability in the web browser
- A large user base, so chances are your co-workers, friends and neighbors use the app
- No PINs or passwords – whoever has your phone, has your WhatsApp
- WhatsApp is always logged in to keep you up-to-date with your messages. However, it doesn't always work that way. More often than not, I receive the messages when I specifically open the app. Also, the users who have the switch data toggle on report having trouble receiving messages when on mobile, and needing to connect to WiFi to re-establish the service
- Customize wallpapers and notification sounds
- Email chat history
- The messages sent to you while your phone was powered off will still get to you when you turn it back on
- Recently, WhatsApp rolled out a new, elegant Material Design-like look for Android
Why use it. Because your friends or colleagues are using it.
Registration. You only need an email to register a Skype account and you are good to go. And yes, you can share the same account on multiple devices.
Cross platform support. Skype is a veteran on the market, so it has one of the most versatile systems and an exhaustive cross-platform support. The data gets synced between your devices, and believe it or not, it is tricky, if not impossible to delete something from Skype's cloud storage.
Price. Skype to Skype was and is free, no matter what device you are using. At the same time, Skype, unlike other apps here, lets you call mobile numbers, land lines, domestically and internationally. Those calls have fees, and Skype offers quite a lot of payment plans for individuals and businesses. Business accounts can add numerous users to its account and have their bills directed to the manager of the business account. Overall, the fees are more affordable than those of the mobile operators.
Privacy, encryption. No, and bear with me for a little explanation. First of all, Skype is Microsoft's child and it's one of the companies involved in mass surveillance, so consider your Skype n*des safely stored on NSA's servers. Edward Snowden said it more than once, and I suggest we take it as a default notion that no mainstream service is private.
Another idea you should bear in mind about any mainstream service is it is easy to hack. Not because Microsoft does a poor job of protecting Skype's users, but because the more popular a product is, the more targeted it becomes among the hackers. Read this interview with Bitdefender's Senior E-Threat Analyst Bogdan Botezatu, if you don't believe me. In other words, if you are after privacy and security, get a crypto app without Skype's bells and whistles.
Emoticon packs. Skype has a set of emoticons of its own.
File transfer support. Pretty much any file can be transferred via Skype.
Groups. You can have up to 300 users in a group chat and up to 25 users in a Skype call.
Sending location. Yes, and send contact details.
Audio calls. Yes, one on one and group.
Video calls. Yes, one on one and group.
- Being Microsoft's product, Skype is deeply integrated with a lot of MS and non-MS products. Send a message from Skype to Facebook – check; dial a number with one click of a button in your browser – check; send text messages to mobile numbers – check (paid feature); have your Skype account funded on a monthly basis automatically from whatever card or PayPal you have – check. Besides, pretty much everyone has a Skype account
- Skype lets you share images, videos and even your screen, including with a group of users
- You can have a Skype number your friends can call
- You can have a caller ID
- Call forwarding from Skype to phone
- Click to call from any browser
- GroupMe lets you share photos, videos and location from mobile
Why use it. Because it's deeply integrated with emails, browsers, and many businesses offer a nifty click-to-call button in their websites, and you can call landlines at cheaper rates. And because everyone is using it.
Registration. You register with your phone number as your ID and you can use one account on multiple devices.
Cross platform support. It's availability is excellent, with Nokia, BlackBerry and desktop systems covered, including Linux, not to mention the Android, iOS and WP platforms.
Price. Viber to Viber communication is free, provided you're on WiFi, while when on mobile data, operator charges apply. The service also offers Viber Out, a feature that lets you call non-Viber users and land lines at affordable rates. You can add funds to your account and use them as the need arises. No ads.
Privacy, encryption. Not that the developers stress that out too much, except that they value your privacy.
Emoticon packs. Viber is a place to have fun – it has a standalone marketplace, where you can download sticker packs and emoticons. That's some serious dedication to let users express their emotions without words. Some stickers are paid, mind you.
File transfer support. Photos, video messages, voice messages, locations, stickers and emoticons.
Sending location. Yes.
Audio calls. Yes, HD sound quality.
Video calls. Yes.
Groups. Yes, up to 100 participants.
Performance. Android users have been reporting issues lately, and they are numerous, but pretty discarded and have to do with the Lollipop update, stickers marketplace, money, device compatibility, disconnecting issues and the like. Nonetheless, the community is large and growing in millions, so not everybody is unhappy there.
- Public Chats, if you want to take part in chats where celebs hang out with their fans
- Viber Out to make relatively cheap calls to non-Viber users, also available internationally
- Viber also has in-app games that let you earn some in-app currency
- Integrates with your native contact list
- Works with tablets, so it's not as painful as installing a WhatsApp on a tablet
Why use it. For fun, to follow celebs Public Chats, use loads of stickers and free audio and video calls to other Viber users. That is, if that's where your friends hang out.
Registration. Line registers your phone number; you can also add an email for recovery.
Cross platform support. Mobile and desktop clients; you can share the same account on multiple devices.
Price. Free for Line to Line users. Line Premium Call available for international calls to non-Line users and land lines. Unlike the other services offering this feature, Line's approach is somewhat different. Instead of monthly subscriptions and connection charges, it charges flat rates by region you are calling – seems easier.
Privacy, encryption. Last year, Line introduced a Hidden Chat feature – encrypted and disappearing messages. When in a chat with a person, you can find the option by tapping on the username. To have the hidden chat, both users should be using the latest Line app version. The messages in hidden chats also have a timer feature and you can set when they would self-destruct.
Emoticon packs. Loads of stickers.
File transfer support. Pictures, videos, voice messages.
Sending location. Yes.
Audio calls. Yes.
Video calls. Yes.
Groups. Yes, group chats.
Performance. The latest reviews on Google Play don't look good specifically due to performance issues.
- Chat search
- A full-featured social networking service with timeline, comments and likes for the self-documenting aficionados
- Sticker shop
- Line official accounts – some you choose, some are mandatory
- Availability of third party apps in entertainment and lifestyle promoted by LINE
Why use it. Because your friends are using it. Line is more of a social network Facebook-style, with games, timeline, comments, stickers and a large number of third-party content promoted to users. Line is the kind of app you choose irrespective of your preferences, but simply because it's what others in your social circle are using. Official accounts that are respawnable (because they pop up after you delete them, like Line Events), promos, IAPs and such end up in clogged up Notifications.
Registration. You need a G+ account to use Hangouts, and you can share the same account on multiple devices.
Cross platform support. It's a browser-based service, so you can use it basically on any device, but Android and iOS have standalone apps.
Price. Free when on WiFi, standard charges may apply if used on mobile data plan. Calls to Hangouts users are free, but other calls might be charged.
Privacy, encryption. Hangouts by Google is for the group and public conversations, and it's by Google. It's more of a social network messenger, just like the Facebook Messenger rather than a messenger as such. It comes with quite an extensive list of perks, but privacy is not on it.
Emoticon packs. Yes, native and third-party emoticons and stickers.
File transfer support. Photos, SMS, MMS, GIFs.
Sending location. Yes.
Audio calls. Yes.
Video calls. Yes.
Groups. Yes, 10 users limit per group call; 100 users per group chat, any participant can invite others to join.
Performance. Mostly excellent, but no integration with iOS contacts – Google uploads your contacts instead. Also, no way to add users who don't have a G+ account. And you can't send videos and other file types.
- Connect your Google Voice account for phone number, SMS, and voicemail integration
- sync chats across all your devices
- see when your friends have read your messages
- see when they type back
- go live with Hangouts On Air for a global audience - Snowden did. You will then have this recording on your G+ and YouTube accounts
- you can also check the schedule of the upcoming Hangouts and sign up for the ones you're interested in
Why use it. Because nearly everyone has a Gmail account and a G+ one, so chances are you can connect to the world. Also because it's convenient, cross-platform, syncs your chats across your devices, and you can turn your Hangout into a live video call with up to 10 people. Calls to the US and Canada are free, even if you are calling non-Hangouts phones.
If security and encryption is on your check list when choosing a messaging app, check out Telegram. Mind you, we have only included the big name apps on this list, and if you are more into the secrecy, security and privacy, and don't mind using apps with less bells and whistles, we suggest you check out this list of Encryption-Enabled Messaging Apps for Mobile. Back to Telegram now.
Registration. Telegram needs your country and phone number for the registration process, and you can register via web. It has clients for mobile and desktop, as well as the web browser version. You can set up the pin code, the password and the recovery e-mail in case you lose the password.
Cross platform support. It's cross platform and offers clients for mobile, smartphones and tablets, and desktop.
Price, ads. It is free. There is no limit to the amount of messages and media files you can send for free. Moreover, it's built to consume as little traffic as possible, so if you are on a mobile plan rather than on a WiFi, Telegram must be one of the least consuming traffic apps. There a re neither ads, nor subscription fees.
In addition, when you delete your account, your messages and files will be flushed from the system, so if you create a new account with the same phone number, you will not get your history back. At the same time, groups you have created will still hold your messages if the users keep using the groups. If you do not log in during 6 months, you account gets deleted automatically, with all its messages and images and files. If you read the FAQs, I think you will be pretty satisfied with Telegram's approach to your privacy.
Speed. Telegram focuses on speed and security. Often times, I find my WhatsApp messages getting stuck somewhere on the way, and receive them later while the Notifications may never come, even though the device is connected to WiFi at all times. So, Telegram promises high speed delivery, and it's a good thing.
Sync. Telegram keeps your content in the cloud, so you can access it from all of your devices.
Emoticons. Telegram supports those emoji's you have in your phone, so whatever keyboard you are enabling via your Settings will do. However, being a serious app that it is, Telegram focuses more on privacy rather than emoticon packs.
File support. It supports a large number of files you can send – videos, images, .doc, .pdf, .zip and more, and supports sharing quite large files at a time – up to 1,5 GB. So, yes, you can record an audio or video message and send it to the group or one recipient.
Groups. Yes, Telegram lets you create groups with up to 200 users. Moreover, you can send broadcast messages to up to 100 users at a time (see additional features below for explanation). That's some serious group messaging approach.
Audio and video calls. Not for now, but according to Telegram's FAQs they are working on a technology to encrypt those, so the feature might be pushed in some future.
Send your location. Yes, plus send contact details.
Performance. Good, the connection is speedy.
- Telegram is a non-commercial project funded by The Digital Fortress fund, committed to providing a messenger app for people instead of building a user base and monetizing on it
- Secret Chats
- Self-destructing messages
- Two-step verification
- Log of sign-in instances
- You can be simultaneously signed in on several devices
- Cloud-based, fast
- Clean, intuitive UI
- You can set your “Last Seen” timer to one of the four options if you do not wish to share you log-in information with other users. However, if you hide yours, you won't be able to see log-in data of other users either
- Broadcast messages to up to 100 users simultaneously – unlike group chats, broadcast messages will arrive to them as ordinary messages and they will not know you have sent the same message to other users
Why use it. To enjoy encryption, cross-platform support, sending large files of many types and no fees.
If I personally were to choose a winner, I'd go with the Telegram for its features, cross-platform support, large files transfer, groups, sync and encryption. If you want to go hardcore with encryption, however, we suggest you read this encrypted chat apps compilation. Also, if privacy is so important to you, Facebook, Microsoft's Skype and Google Hangouts messengers would be the last place you'd be hanging out.
Finally, your choice depends on what you seek – a social network with new and old friends hanging out, lots of emoticons and stickers, games and video and audio calls. Facebooks apps tend to clog bandwidth and drain battery; Line is so pushy with IAPs, ads and promos; Hangouts is perfect for the socialites using other Google products to promote their brand, while Skype and Viber are great for calling internationally at lower rates. The bottom line is – most users just go with the flow and pick the one their friends or colleagues are using.