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Nowadays, more people communicate through text messages than actual phone calls. I know I do. The “fire and forget” nature of it is more convenient and the message history doubles as a reference in case you need to revisit something someone said.

But SMS messages are passé. Now that Wi-Fi is ubiquitous and cell data usage prevalent, there’s no reason to keep using the antiquated SMS protocol. Looking for a better messaging experience? Check out these nifty apps!

Note: If you actually do prefer to use SMS and MMS even in this day and age, then you’ll be better off reading this article on SMS messaging apps instead.

1. Signal

android-messaging-apps-signal

4.6 rating across 98,000+ reviews.

Online privacy is a hot topic that’s only going to get hotter with every passing year. Did you know that your phone can spy on you in many ways? And sometimes it’s not even about spying — it’s about the consequences of sharing too much information online.

That’s why Signal is such an important app to have. Endorsed by Edward Snowden himself, this encrypted messenger lets you communicate without any fear of eavesdropping or interception. It’s also open source in case you want to audit the code yourself.

Key features:

  • Signal-to-Signal phone calls are free (domestic and international).
  • Signal-to-Signal messages can include text, images, videos.
  • Signal-to-Signal messages can be sent to groups.
  • All messages are end-to-end encrypted.
  • SMS messages can be sent and received but are unencrypted.
  • Uses your existing phone number and address book.
  • Signal servers do not store any messages.
  • Available on Android and iOS.

Signal isn’t the only privacy-centric messaging app, of course — we’ve covered several encrypted alternatives in the past. That being said, Signal is one of the best. If you don’t like it, Telegram is the next best. And don’t forget these other tips for maintaining privacy on Android.

Download: Signal (Free)

2. WhatsApp

android-messaging-apps-whatsapp

4.4 rating across 48,000,000+ reviews.

WhatsApp is arguably the most popular messaging app in the world. With over 1 billion installs, you can be sure that at least one of your friends or family members uses it. Not to mention that it’s constantly being updated with new and exciting features.

WhatsApp truly is the standard by which all other messaging apps are measured. The only real downside used to be that WhatsApp lacked end-to-end encryption, but this feature was introduced in April 2016. Now there’s no reason not to use it.

Key features:

  • WhatsApp-to-WhatsApp phone calls are free (domestic and international).
  • WhatsApp-to-WhatsApp messages can include text, voice, images, videos, documents.
  • WhatsApp-to-WhatsApp messages can be sent to groups (256 limit).
  • All messages are end-to-end encrypted.
  • SMS messages can be sent and received but are unencrypted.
  • Uses your existing phone number and address book.
  • Available on Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and the web.

Download: WhatsApp (Free)

3. Viber

android-messaging-apps-viber

4.3 rating across 9,600,000+ reviews.

Viber is a cross-platform messaging app, and when they claim to be cross-platform, they mean it. It’s available on Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows, Mac, Linux, and more. If you have a smorgasbord of devices, this may be the one for you.

It’s a solid app that does everything well. That’s really what it comes down to with Viber; there’s nothing unique enough about it to warrant extra hype, but it delivers on what it promises to do, and you’ll enjoy it.

Key features:

  • Viber-to-Viber phone calls are free (domestic and international).
  • Viber-to-Viber messages can include text, voice, images, videos, documents, stickers.
  • Viber-to-Viber messages can be sent to groups (200 limit).
  • All messages are end-to-end encrypted.
  • Uses your existing phone number and address book.
  • Contact authentication prevents scams and impersonators.
  • Delete messages after the fact in case you change your mind.
  • Available on Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac.

Download: Viber (Free)

4. Tango

android-messaging-apps-tango

4.3 rating across 3,600,000+ reviews.

Tango’s main focus is video calling, but its text messaging features are more than adequate for most users. Like Viber, there isn’t much to distinguish this one from a powerhouse like WhatsApp, but it’s a formidable alternative if WhatsApp doesn’t fit well with your needs.

One thing to note is that Tango doesn’t appear to have any kind of encryption on messages, so if you have concerns about online privacy (which you should!) then you may want to forego Tango for one of the others.

Key features:

  • Tango-to-Tango phone calls are free (domestic and international).
  • Free non-Tango calls to U.S., Canada, India, and Mexico.
  • Tango-to-Tango messages can include text, voice, images, videos, documents, stickers.
  • Tango-to-Tango messages can be sent to groups.
  • Uses your existing phone number.
  • Requires Tango account creation.
  • Available on Android and iOS.

Download: Tango (Free)

5. KakaoTalk

android-messaging-apps-kakao

4.2 rating across 2,300,000+ reviews.

KakaoTalk is used by over 90 percent of smartphone owners in South Korea, but it’s also extremely popular in the U.S. among Korean-Americans.

It has started gaining traction outside of the Korean community over the past few years, partly due to its modern interface, fast performance, and robust feature set. Unfortunately, the lack of encryption is a bummer.

Key features:

  • Kakao-to-Kakao phone calls are free (domestic and international).
  • Kakao-to-Kakao messages can include text, voice, images, videos, stickers.
  • Kakao-to-Kakao messages can be sent to groups (unlimited).
  • Uses your existing phone number and address book.
  • Exclusive deals and coupons for popular brands.
  • Available on Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac.

Download: KakaoTalk (Free)

What’s Your Favorite Messaging App?

There’s one more alternative that didn’t make the list but deserves a mention: Google Hangouts. Not only does it handle SMS and MMS messages as well as group video calls, it lets you make phone calls using a Google-provided number (through Google Voice).

User experiences with Hangouts have been hit or miss over the years. Some love it, others hate it, while most simply prefer one of the other apps in this list for various reasons. Learn more about it in our overview of Google Hangouts for Android The Best All-In-One Messaging & Calling App For Android: Google Hangouts The Best All-In-One Messaging & Calling App For Android: Google Hangouts What if there was one app that could do it all? Meet Google Hangouts for Android. Read More .

What messaging app do you use? Which features do you consider as must-haves? Are there any good apps that we missed or overlooked? Share with us in the comments below!

Originally written by Joel Lee on July 30th, 2014.

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  1. M
    December 21, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Telegram is best

  2. Anonymous
    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.

  3. 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...

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

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

    There's a few missing apps.

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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.

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

    What is your favorite for international communication?

  12. 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.
    ________________________
    ________________________

  13. 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.

  14. 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

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    But the omission of hangouts puzzles me

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

    Where is WhatsApp?

  24. 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.

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

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

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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...