One of the most important uses for a mobile phone is messaging. Whether you’re thinking of SMS text messaging, email or online instant messaging networks, being able to communicate with others by typing rather than speaking has been an essential feature since the 1990s.
Windows Phone has several instant messaging options available, from the native Facebook and Windows Live Messenger to third party apps for accessing Yahoo Messenger and even the long-anticipated Skype app.
After all, with a great keyboard that is fast and easy to use, instant messaging can be a fun experience with Windows Phone.
Facebook has made a big dent in the fortunes of other instant messaging solutions, to such an extent that Fim Chat was the first instant messenger app available for Windows Phone following its release in 2010. Now enhanced (if you are using Windows Phone 7.5) with the addition of Google Talk support, Fim Chat supports photo attachments and push notifications (updates to the Start screen).
Note that if you don’t use Google Talk then Fim Chat can be considered as largely redundant thanks to the addition of native Facebook messaging under Windows Phone Mango. However if no update is available in your territory then Fim is a good alternative.
Access Yahoo Messenger
One chat network that doesn’t seem to get as much attention these days is Yahoo! The once-ubiquitous instant messenger is rarely seen on computers thanks to the emergence of Skype, but if you still want to use the network you can thanks to the Yahoo! Messenger app for Windows Phone.
Offering text-based chat and photo attachments, this app also provides notification updates to the home screen, allowing you to run the app in the background without missing any incoming messages.
A Yahoo! account is required to use this app, which usefully displays conversations in a threaded view.
Probably the most popular chat network currently in use (ignoring Facebook for one moment) is Skype, the text, voice and video chat system that utilizes voice over IP (voIP) technology to allow users to communicate on computers and other mobile platforms.
Following Microsoft’s purchase of Skype, it was only a matter of time before the software finally emerged on Windows Phone (Android and iPhone users have successfully used Skype on their phones for some time now). Available for devices running Windows Phone 7.5, Skype provides text chat and with a subscription can help you to keep call costs down.
There is also the advantage of video chat, available on all Windows Phone handsets but much more useful with a front facing camera.
Although each of the messaging applications above can allow you to communicate with friends on those networks, there can be problems with this. The main issue is having the same app on different mobile phone platforms – you might want to use Skype while your best friend uses Yahoo!, for instance.
The obvious way around this would be to send a standard SMS text message, but depending on the package your mobile network offers, these eventually cost money. One way around this is the cross-platform messaging offered by Kik Messenger, a free app that allows users to quickly and easily communicate by text regardless of which mobile phone platform they are using.
With versions for Android, iPhone, BlackBerry and Symbian, Windows Phone users can happily send messages and attachments from one phone to another of friends and contacts.
If you’re not interested in any of the above apps but still want the option of having some instant messaging options, then you don’t even need to hit the Windows Phone Marketplace.
From Windows Phone 7.5 (“Mango”) onwards the Messaging hub enables you to communicate with contacts using SMS, Windows Live Messenger and Facebook Instant Messenger.
These features are available natively, support voice messaging (meaning that you can dictate your message and as long as your phone is connected to the web it will be converted to text and sent) and you can even switch between multiple networks while retaining the thread of the conversation.
For instance, you might send an SMS text message to your boss, but as he’s just arrived home, opts to reply to you via his PC on Windows Live Messenger. Rather than have a fractured conversation on different platforms, your phone will combine the different exchanges, just as long as you have the instant messaging details for your contacts.
Pretty much all major chat networks are covered with these 5 options, allowing any Windows Phone user to communicate by instant messenger with friends and contacts anywhere. Although Kik Messenger is a tool that cannot be missed and Skype is ideal for me personally (and will be for anyone who regularly collaborates online), even if you don’t opt for any of these apps – which are of course all free – then as long as you are on a Windows Phone with the Mango update you still have the native messaging option.
Let us know which app you prefer in the comments below.