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 instead.
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.
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.
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 out there) is probably this app’s greatest drawback. Requires a Facebook account to log in.
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?
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.
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 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.
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 for reaching non-LINE users at a low rate.
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 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.
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.
The interface feels a little crowded at times. Requires a WeChat account to log in.
Last year, we noted that Viber on iOS is pretty good. As it turns out, Viber on Android is pretty darn good too. Not too long ago, they released the “Viber Out” feature 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?
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.
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.
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!