Better Than Text Messages & Free – WhatsApp For Android Reviewed

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android whatsappA moment of introspection, please: What do you do more often – call people using your phone, or text them? I would bet it’s the latter. For many people, texting is more convenient than calling. It’s discrete, so you can do it on the bus (unless you happen to be the driver); it’s asynchronous, so the other person doesn’t have to be immediately available; it’s efficient, because it’s easy to skip the chitchat and get to the point. And one of the very best ways to text is using a true classic, WhatsApp for Android (also available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Nokia, and Windows Phone.

So, let’s look at what makes the Android WhatsApp app so good.

WhatsApp’s Single Greatest Feature

android whatsapp

This here is my own WhatsApp contact list, full of real people whose names have been blurred out to protect the innocent. Did I painstakingly add all those people there? Nope; in fact, I didn’t even have to link WhatsApp with any of my “social” accounts (something I strongly dislike). I just had to install it on my phone. As soon as I did, WhatsApp automatically created a user for me, linked to my phone account. It then searched its online database for users whose numbers are stored in my contacts – meaning, it took my phone’s address book, and found all the WhatsApp users in it.

Some people would call this an invasion of privacy; to me, it’s the single greatest feature WhatsApp has. It means effortless contact lists: You just install the app, and all of your friends and colleagues who also use WhatsApp are already there. And WhatsApp isn’t spammy, so it doesn’t urge you send invites to friends who don’t use WhatsApp. You just see who’s there, and you can easily talk to them.

Texts: Not Just For Text Anymore

whatsapp for android

Emoticons are an important part of the texting experience, and with WhatsApp, you don’t have to stick to the old-fashioned variety. The app ships with a large collection of tiny, cute drawings. Since there are so many of them, they’re divided into five categories, plus a “recently used” category (which is what you see above).

If you look hard enough, you can find an emoticon for just about anything, from high-heeled shoes to a syringe dripping with blood (yes, really). There are literally hundreds of them, and I’ve had some conversations that consisted of nothing but emoticons – they’re that expressive.

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Attaching External Data

whatsapp for android

Emoticons are fun and all, but sometimes you might want to send along some actual data you created: A photo perhaps, or a quick snippet of audio, or your location. WhatsApp for Android makes this sort of operation trivial, requiring just a couple of taps. The most common use, for me, is definitely sending images:

android whatsapp

That’s Ivan, my highly photogenic cat, as shown in WhatsApp’s internal image viewer. Being able to just snap something you’re looking at and send it along is invaluable: I know someone who used it across continents to buy a gift for a loved one. You can show the other person the exact shoe you’re looking at and ask for their opinion – it’s perfect.

Group Chats

One other feature I personally don’t use is group chats: WhatsApp lets you create semi-permanent “forums” (my word, not theirs), which are groups of people who can all message each other. Every message you send to the group reaches everyone, and it’s easy to see who wrote what. I call these “semi-permanent” because they don’t expire when the chat is over. You can have a forum open for days, or weeks.

I know people who use this at work in lieu of tiresome meetings, and groups of friends who use it to just hang out (kind of like an IRC channel, but better).

A Little Known Fact: It’s Not Free

Take a careful look through the screenshots above, and tell me what’s missing. I’ll tell you – ads. That’s right – WhatsApp has no advertisements of any kind. That’s not an accident, but a conscious decision by its developers. Based on their years of experience working at Yahoo, WhatsApp’s founders decided they don’t want to sell ads.

This means that users need to pay for using the app – what a novel concept! iPhone users have to pay a buck for the app, but their Android brethren get to download it for free. But no matter what’s your operating system of choice, after one year of using WhatsApp you may be prompted to start paying up.

I say you “may be” prompted because I’ve been using the Android WhatsApp app for at least two years now, and haven’t been prompted once yet. I haven’t changed my phone number during this time, so they know I’m still me. I haven’t heard of many other people who’ve been asked to pay, but this may eventually happen. Still, if it’s a reasonable sum (up to $5 or so), I’ll definitely pay for the sort of value I get from WhatsApp.

In Summary: A Solid, Simple, SMS Solution

As a mobile texting solution, WhatsApp is just about perfect. No ads, no spam, no contact lists to manually manage, effortless attachments, and a boatload of emoticons. What more could you want?

Well, I for one would love a desktop client. I don’t think that’s in the pipeline, though. Other than this one omission, I’d say WhatsApp is the perfect texting solution, which is why it found a comfy spot on our Best Android Apps page.

What do you say? Is there a better cross-platform texting solution? Let us know in the comments!

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Comments (30)
  • Asim Ali

    a very good app to be addicted with but for a 12 months free then you have to pay 1$ which is most reasonable for the period of another 12 months …

    I’m lov’in it …

    • Poena

      Do you work for FBI or some spy network, that requires data encryption ?

      Majority of Whatsapp users just quick chat and hang out for free – hardly any chit chat that requires data encryption

    • Rajaa Chowdhury

      Oh, also just forgot to mention, just imagine you are chatting with an acquaintance over whatapps and over conversation need to share a credit card ID or a Bank account details for some reason (believe me, it does happen, maybe not with you probably).

    • Rajaa Chowdhury

      Peona,

      You need not have to be a spy or work with FBI, to be concerned with the security flaws of software we use. In similar lines, let me ask you, will the majority of us feel very comfortable with Facebook if a 3rd. party can read the private messages between us and our friends, even they do not contain anything revealing. It is simply I highlighted the security flaw, I never hinted anyone to not use Whatapps, that is solely their own discretion to do or not. I simply just use a similar apps, which addresses the surity concern better than Whatapps as they are many similar free application available. I do not the point of getting worked up. Simply ignore my concern and continue using Whatapps and just ignore my statement. I guess it is as simple as that, isn’t it?

    • Rajaa Chowdhury

      In similar lines, why did the US government issue a warning to it’s citizens against using ZTE and Huawei products as these two companies maybe having snooping technology implanted in their products on behalf on the Chineses Government. Now, i guess not all US citizens are spies or FBI, are they?

  • Rajaa Chowdhury

    Was using it till security issue concerns and then uninstalled and never tried again. They do not properly encrypt the data.

    http://gryphn.co/2012/09/17/whatsapp-unsafe/

  • Shaan

    Facebook Messenger is an application where a facebook user as well as any user with their phone number can use it. It is Facebook Messenger already available and the service has been launched in some countries.

  • Fik-of-borg

    I use Whatsapp way more than regular sms and regular calls. I can’t imagine how could I be without it. But still, I have my wish list:
    – Off-phone (PC, tablet) client, linked to the regular pre-existing phone number and verified with some sort of code sent from whatsapp to the phone, or maybe with the phone’s IMEI. Chats (and picture, video and audio, perhaps for a premium) should be stored in the cloud, so one can start a conversation with one device and continue on another device (this is the main advantage of Google chat over Whatsapp).
    – Video chat (this is the main advantage of Skype/msn and Google hangouts over whatsapp).
    – File sharing, not only audio / image / video sharing, but any files (this is clunky in all platforms). Integrate with Dropbox / Google Drive / MS SkyDrive / Ubuntu One / Sugar / etc).
    – Custom emoticons. This should not be difficult, it would be like picture sharing but size limited and in-text.
    What am I missing… maybe a Star Trek teletransporter, I think

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.