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It was a strange day when text messages took over phone calls as the primary way to communicate with personal contacts. For those of us without unlimited texting plans, it can be a pain to keep up with friends and family. Need a free way to send messages with your phone? Check out these apps.

Disclaimer: The “free text messages” in these apps is not the same as SMS messages. None of these apps can send SMS or MMS for free. If that’s what you want, you may be more interested in how to send a free SMS online The Best Ways To Send A Free SMS Online The Best Ways To Send A Free SMS Online In an era where smartphone ownership is becoming the majority, it’s hard to imagine someone who can’t (or won’t) send out text messages. When was the last time you knew someone who didn’t have a... Read More instead.

Facebook Messenger

android-messaging-apps-facebook-messenger

Not so long ago, we compared Facebook Messenger with Google Hangouts, looking to determine which of the two reigns supreme. Facebook came out on top (not unlike the actual social networks themselves), beating out Google in every way except in quality of audio/video calls. Today, Facebook Messenger remains a strong contender in the messaging arena.

What’s good?

The best “feature” of Facebook is its massive userbase. Even if the recipient doesn’t use Facebook Messenger itself, you can still send free messages to them. You can also make calls for free to other Messenger users over WiFi and data (though data charges still apply). The Chat Heads feature, which causes messages to pop up even when you’re using another app, allows you to continue conversations no matter what you’re doing.

What’s not?

No capability for video calling, which could be a huge bummer for those of you who want something similar to Apple’s FaceTime. Not being integrated with the official Facebook app is a bit of an annoyance. In fact, the app being associated with Facebook (not the most privacy-sensitive company The (Very) Unofficial Facebook Privacy Guide The (Very) Unofficial Facebook Privacy Guide Time to lock your Facebook settings and private profile information. Facebook doesn't make this easy, however; features are constantly added and the default for each new one seems to favor transparency instead of privacy. Read More out there) is probably this app’s greatest drawback. Requires a Facebook account to log in.

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Path Talk

android-messaging-apps-path-talk

Path Talk is one of the newer messengers to hit the scene, but already it’s making a big splash throughout the community. It claims to be good enough to replace the need for SMS and Facebook altogether, but does it have enough features to back up that claim?

What’s good?

Messaging is free. Path Talk can keep your friends updated on your status, such as whether you’re in transit or low on battery. The interface is familiar and sleek, which is important for day-to-day comfort and ease of use. In addition to text messages, you can send simple voice messages.

But most importantly, Path Talk cares about your privacy. Every message sent with Path Talk is stored on their servers for a maximum of 24 hours before they’re automatically deleted. Worried about text messages being logged? Here’s one answer to that.

What’s not?

Path actually started out as a social network and Talk was its communication feature. Path Talk is the result of Path splitting their Talk functionality away from the social network and putting it out there on its own. For Path users, this is an unnecessary redundancy. Requires a Path account to log in.

LINE Messenger

android-messaging-apps-line

LINE is a very well-known messaging app that deserves its reputation. With over 480 million users spanning over 230 countries, it really is international, worldwide, and global in every sense of those words. It’s so good that it’s been labeled “the most downloaded app” in over 50 of those countries.

What’s good?

LINE’s killer feature is the ability to make free calls and send free messages at any time in any place. Calls include voice and video and they’re free both domestically and internationally. There are a few other features of lesser importance, such as the “Timeline” that tracks what you and your contacts have been doing lately as well as the ability to use Emoji. There’s also a LINE Call feature LINE Call For Android Launches In 8 Countries With Cheap International Calls LINE Call For Android Launches In 8 Countries With Cheap International Calls LINE Call allows users to make calls to non-Line numbers in eight different countries. Currently, the service is only available on Android, but they have said that an iPhone version should be coming soon. Read More for reaching non-LINE users at a low rate.

What’s not?

LINE messages can only be sent between LINE users, which means you’re out of luck if your social group doesn’t use it. Despite being used all over the world, LINE’s popularity is mostly concentrated in Asian countries. Requires a LINE account to log in.

WeChat

android-messaging-apps-wechat

WeChat is an all-in-one communication app that doesn’t have many distinguishing features to set it apart from its competition, yet has built up a massive community of users regardless. It’s not as popular as LINE, but it still blows many other messengers out of the water.

What’s good?

Completely free for sending text messages, multimedia messages, voice calls, and video calls. Group chats can fit up to 100 participants. There’s also the ability to share “moments” with your friends, which is essentially a stream of your photos. Localized to support over 20 languages and certified by TRUSTe to ensure user privacy.

What’s not?

The interface feels a little crowded at times. Requires a WeChat account to log in.

Viber

android-messaging-apps-viber

Last year, we noted that Viber on iOS is pretty good Viber: Call & Text Other Users For Free [iPhone] Viber: Call & Text Other Users For Free [iPhone] Free calling and texting for your iPhone. Yep. It's real. With Viber, that's exactly what you get since it works through whatever WiFi connection you happen to be using. This gives you one more reason... Read More . As it turns out, Viber on Android is pretty darn good too. Not too long ago, they released the “Viber Out” feature Make Low-Cost Phone Calls Worldwide With 'Viber Out' on Viber 4.1 Make Low-Cost Phone Calls Worldwide With 'Viber Out' on Viber 4.1 Viber Out has been launched, a new feature that allows Viber users to make low-cost calls anywhere in the world, to mobile or landline phones. Read More that lets you make low-cost calls around the world, making it a fantastic option for VOIP. But how does it fare for text messaging?

What’s good?

Not only can you make calls, but Viber is great for sending text, photo, and video messages for free over WiFi and data. Group chats are available for up to 100 participants. Quality is great, there are over 200 million Viber users, and the app has support for over 30 localized languages. Free without ads.

What’s not?

Viber collects names and phone numbers for functional reasons, which is understandable given the nature of the app, but it does raise some concerns regarding privacy and security. Messages can only be sent between Viber users. Requires a Viber account to log in.

Final Thoughts

So which is the best? In terms of raw features and performance, I think it’s a toss-up between Viber and LINE. Both are simple and clean with feature-complete messaging and cheap calling. However, if you care much about privacy, Path Talk‘s commitment to deleting messages from server after 24 hours is enticing.

However, which one is best for you? It really depends on your social circle. None of these can send SMS messages, so if you want to take advantage of free messaging, you should use the one that most of your friends and family use.

Do you use a messaging app rather than SMS text messages? Which one? Are they worth the hassle or have you reverted back to basics? Share your experience with us in the comments below!

  1. sheriemegan
    November 2, 2015 at 5:59 am

    It was last summer when the internet service went kaput for two full days. Lord what a time we had in communicating with each other! Just imagine the frenzy this outbreak caused, and all we could do was call the other person for communication.

    In such cases the humble SMS service came as a blessing and bridged the gap for two full days. Professional API creators such as Aadishesh (http://www.aadishesh.com/) and Smswaala (http://www.smswaala.com/) are great as backup when the internet goes defunct.

  2. Md. Nazrul Islam
    May 31, 2015 at 7:18 am

    You may expand the list by considering Tango, KakaoTalk (Path; which is now owned by Dhum Kakao), WhatsApp, SnapChat, KIK, Telegram Messenger as they are doing pretty good...

  3. James
    August 23, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    WeChat is monitored by Chinese intelligence, a fact now well known because of political arrests based on WeChat communications.

    If you or someone you know is in China then you have immediate cause for concern, especially if you belong, for example, to an occupied people such as Tibetans or Uyghurs.

    If you're outside of China, then you have to ask whether your really want to help China compromise your country's national security by helping them create databases of you and your contacts, map networks of acquaintances, track locations, etc. The popularity of WeChat in countries such as India is of particular concern.

  4. James
    August 23, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    WeChat is monitored by Chinese intelligence, a fact now well known because of political arrests based on WeChat communications.

    If you or someone you know is in China then you have immediate cause for concern, especially if you belong, for example, to an occupied people such as Tibetans or Uyghurs.

    If you're outside of China, then you have to ask whether your really want to help China compromise your country's national security by helping them create databases of you and your contacts, map networks of acquaintances, track locations, etc. The popularity of WeChat in countries such as India is of particular concern.

  5. Pranav
    August 8, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    Whatsapp and Hike are also great. I prefer hike for
    1. I can chose who can see my profile i. e. last seen and profile pic
    2. Twitter like status updates with timeline.
    3. SMS chats
    4. You can create a group with contacts on hike and SMS together.
    5. Free mobile recharges (monthly) in India

  6. Nate
    August 6, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    There's a few missing apps.

  7. Dan Stark
    August 6, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Another Great app: Business Messenger. bit.ly/1qVQWYq
    1) It's free to download and lets you send and receive texts using your existing office number. No new number to remember.
    2) You can send and receive texts with anyone - prospects, customers, vendors - they don't need the app.
    3) You can also send and receive texts with colleagues - and their names appear in your app's co-worker directory when they download the app.
    Check it out: bzm.gr

  8. Sienna Amelia
    August 6, 2014 at 6:53 am

    Hike is there!! Indian messenger app.
    Find more apps here https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=Contus&hl=en

  9. Carl
    August 4, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Where's BBM? very secure, does phone calls and will have video capability on all platforms soon! The original messaging service still going strong.

  10. Jess
    August 3, 2014 at 2:57 am

    What is your favorite for international communication?

  11. John T
    August 1, 2014 at 8:29 am

    Every time .. every single gosh dang damn time. I'll tell ya what, if I had a job where i wrote or submitted articles such as this.. I WOULDNT HAVE IT FOR LONG.. cuz I would tell so many of the responders WHERE they could.. well you know, sumthin of that nature.

    Thanks Joel, whom I believe to be the Author.. for the information and effort made. Perfect or not. To my particular liking or not.

    and for every responder to every post on every site on every day..

    damn you people just suk the potential postive out of everything.

    JT
    IMRGinc.
    ________________________
    ________________________

  12. Debs
    August 1, 2014 at 7:49 am

    In South Africa I think the most popular app is Whatsapp. I do have viber and FB messenger but stil prefer Whatsapp.

  13. Jaime Salcedo
    August 1, 2014 at 3:07 am

    You missed three very good apps: Telegram, Whatsapp and Tango. I would like you to review them.
    Jaime Salcedo

  14. Mary Withrow
    August 1, 2014 at 2:21 am

    Facebook would be my last resort, lol. I have been using google phone and text for free unlimited in the U.S. forever and even forward my calls with it. Phones or computers. Tango is another. There is tons of great apps that don't cost a penny.

  15. Mary Withrow
    August 1, 2014 at 2:17 am

    Facebook would be my last resort, lol. I have been using google phone and text for free unlimited in the U.S. forever and even forward my calls with it. Phones or computers. Tango is another. There is tons of great apps that don't cost a penny.

  16. Greg Rajewski
    July 31, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Web-based TextNow allows you to text folks with a mobile even if you don't have one. Now that I have a Windows phone, I have added the app.

  17. Alex
    July 31, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    Once you go WECHAT you ain't coming back no more. It's works really well. MMS, Video, Emoji...you name it.

    Bob is indeed your uncle.

  18. Dann A
    July 31, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    I have an issue with Facebook Messenger just because you're now required to use it. I'm annoyed by the fact that Facebook didn't keep messaging integrated into their own app. It is a fine app, though.

    My favorite is Telegram; encrypted, easy to use, free. It's not in wide use, but I'm still hoping that it takes off.

  19. Matthew H
    July 31, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    I know a lot of people who swear by BBM. Myself included. Ever used it?

  20. henry kale
    July 31, 2014 at 8:50 am

    Modulates.com has a full suite of tools to help you manage your Video Commerce.

  21. Cauchemar
    July 31, 2014 at 8:04 am

    Whatsapp isn't free... at least in theory :P

    But the omission of hangouts puzzles me

  22. Marek Lukáš
    July 31, 2014 at 6:30 am

    Where is WhatsApp?

  23. Zeon
    July 31, 2014 at 5:46 am

    HOW can you forget whatsapp??

    • Pradip S
      August 1, 2014 at 3:54 am

      Compared to Viber it really sucks. Viber is available on ALL desktops and ALL platforms except one particular version ob Blackberry OS. Installs to SD card natively. By default uses wifi and warns you if data connection is needed.

      If you have a Viber Out subscription you can call absolutely every one in the world. In my opinion it is right next to Hangout.

  24. Sahitya
    July 31, 2014 at 4:44 am

    I wonder why you haven't mentioned WhatsApp - the king of messaging apps !

  25. Nbgd
    July 31, 2014 at 3:03 am

    Ummm, why did you leave hangouts out of the list? It can do free messaging plus SMS and mms and video calls. Everyone who uses Android and has a Google account have it preinstalled so you don't have to convince someone to download it just to try it out. Also, you can use it from your Web browser. In my opinion hangouts has no competition

    • Pradip S
      August 1, 2014 at 3:49 am

      I concur. With hangout you have access to practically every one in the world with an Android device.

  26. Rudi Pittman
    July 30, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    @Brian Compared to what exactly? Not having text messaging at all? If MMS is critical for you here's a thought...don't use a free service. Pay for it.

  27. Rudi Pittman
    July 30, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    This seems to miss the point..you indicate text messages are the most used but then offer 5 alternatives that are NOT text messages rather than provide the simplest solution. Google Voice can be used to send/receive free text messages and if you add in cyanogen's Voice+ OR the xposed framework module xvoice+ (which works on any rom that xposed works on) then you can even send/receive using the normal text messaging apps everyone is used to and the system will still route them through google voice. Free. Unlimited. Solves the problem. The only thing it doesn't do is provide MMS.

    • Brian
      July 30, 2014 at 8:38 pm

      > The only thing it doesn't do is provide MMS.

      Well that's kind of a deal breaker...

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