Better Than Text Messages & Free – WhatsApp For Android Reviewed

Erez Zukerman 18-12-2012

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, 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.

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 The Best Android Apps on the Google Play Store for 2019 Looking for the best Android apps for your phone or tablet? Here's our comprehensive list of the best apps for Android. Read More page.

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

Related topics: Chat Client, Instant Messaging, Online Chat, SMS, WhatsApp.

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  1. Asim Ali
    February 13, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    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 ...

  2. Rajaa Chowdhury
    December 22, 2012 at 4:49 am
    • Poena
      December 25, 2012 at 9:00 am

      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
        December 26, 2012 at 5:44 am


        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
          December 26, 2012 at 5:47 am

          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
        December 26, 2012 at 5:57 am

        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).

  3. Rajaa Chowdhury
    December 22, 2012 at 4:48 am

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

  4. Shaan
    December 19, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    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.

  5. Fik-of-borg
    December 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    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

  6. Anonymous
    December 19, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    I'm waiting for my smartphone to use this!!

  7. Douglas Mutay
    December 19, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Very very good apps. It has almost replace my normal sms because almost everyone of my friend has it. I have it on my blackberry for 3 years now and never been prompted to pay, while some of my friend couldn't use it after even less than 6 months without upgdrading to the paid version. Really wonder what might be the reason. But I know this day is coming from me and when it does I will likely accept to pay no matter the price because it really worth the price!!!

  8. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    December 19, 2012 at 6:26 am

    It's the most used app in my school, dubbed (not by me) the most elegant replacement from Blackberry Messenger, and not tied to a single brand like BBM. However, the confusing business model has chased away some users. Some are prompted to buy while some aren't. High school students I know aren't too keen to paid apps so some has already migrating to another service.

  9. An
    December 19, 2012 at 5:20 am

    "Watsapp Reviewed " as if the app was released a week ago..! The app was very famous from Symbian, I read MakeuseOf articles to explore new apps like these,
    Not to get reviewed about Previous AD apps like angry Birds, Ninjump, Numbuzz :)

    • Erez Zukerman
      December 19, 2012 at 11:34 am

      Fair enough; one point to consider: The endless chase after the new new new stuff isn't necessarily the best way to get tech that works very well. Sometimes it's good to pay attention to what we already have.

      • An
        December 19, 2012 at 1:11 pm

        Fair enough

    • Gordon
      December 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm

      Who cares that the app wasn't released last week...There are millions of people who don't know that Watsapp exists (like me), and who will find Erez's article awesome.

      • An
        December 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm

        You didnt knew about watsapp??? SALUTE and btw i neva questioned about his articles i know and they'll allways be as awesome as they are.

  10. Ter Shija
    December 19, 2012 at 4:20 am

    It's nice but VIBER is way better.

    • Dhruv Sangvikar
      December 19, 2012 at 8:56 am

      I would say viber is better for calling.. not messaging.. Whatsapp is the winner here.

  11. Ian H.
    December 19, 2012 at 3:37 am

    Just a slight correction - the first year of use of What's App is free for Android users. After a year, you are prompted to pay $1, which appears to be a subscription fee (in that it will be charged every year following).

    • Erez Zukerman
      December 19, 2012 at 11:32 am

      I've used WhatsApp for several years now with the same number, and was never charged.

      • Spr1nt3R
        December 19, 2012 at 8:54 pm

        if you're on iPhone... you won't have to pay for 10 years. After that only $1 per year. That's a good deal :)

  12. Sarah Lam
    December 19, 2012 at 3:02 am

    What's not to like about Whatsapp?

  13. Dude
    December 18, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    This review is 3 years late, what's the point of it?

    • Achraf Almouloudi
      December 18, 2012 at 10:49 pm

      It is more popular now.

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      December 19, 2012 at 6:28 am

      Yeah, it's late, but it's still relevant since WhatsApp is still widely used and supported.

    • Erez Zukerman
      December 19, 2012 at 11:31 am

      Sometimes the best stuff is what already works. I didn't claim it's new -- just that it's very good, and established.

    • m van loenen
      April 5, 2013 at 8:09 pm

      very much the point, i am only starting to have an interest as from today

  14. Dvir
    December 18, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    It's unavailable for tablets and mini tablets

    • Félix S. De Jesús
      December 18, 2012 at 10:24 pm

      Because the program use your phone number and contacts, to make sure they have the app already, so you can speak.