While traditional voice calls and SMS are on the defensive, WhatsApp seems to be taking over.
Each day, WhatsApp‘s 1.2 billion users send tens of billions of messages to each other. The numbers are staggering. Staggering enough, in fact, to make you think that WhatsApp holds all the cards when it comes to instant messaging apps. But it doesn’t.
With over 800 million users, Viber is WhatsApp’s closest competitor, and it too has a steadily growing user base. Yet somehow, you’ll barely hear Viber mentioned in the U.S. and the U.K.
This is largely because WhatsApp managed to capture a greater number of users early on. This caused a network effect that essentially trapped users into needing to use WhatsApp. Their friends were all using it, after all.
But with Viber’s feature list being far more impressive than WhatsApp’s, the game is far from over. As more people learn about Viber, more people will likely see the benefits of switching messaging services. Allow me to explain.
But first, please note, Viber did not pay me to write this article. I just like their service a hell of a lot more than WhatsApp’s.
There Are Similarities, But They’re Limited
Given that WhatsApp and Viber are both messaging apps, there’s a good deal of overlap in the features that each app offers. For instance, both:
- Are free to download.
- Provide end-to-end encryption.
- Work over 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi.
- Work on Android, iOS, and Windows smartphones.
- Have Windows and Mac desktop apps.
- Offer instant messaging.
- Offer voice and video calls to other users.
- Allow you to send photos, audio, and video clips.
- Offer private group chats.
- Work with Google Now and Siri.
In other words, both are very respectable messaging apps. They do what you expect. And they do it pretty well. But on top of the IM basics we’ve all come to expect, Viber piles on a host of other features that leave WhatsApp in the dust.
Take a look at these and let us know in the comments which you think would be most useful to you.
1. VoIP Features
Both WhatsApp and Viber users can call and message anyone they’re connected to within the app completely free of charge. But this is as far as WhatsApp goes. If you want to call someone who doesn’t use WhatsApp, tough. You can’t.
This isn’t the case with Viber, however.
Viber includes Viber Out, a fully-fledged VoIP feature that allows worldwide calls to mobile and landline numbers for a surprisingly low rate. You just have to load up your account with some credit via credit card or PayPal, and you can call anyone you like. Even if they don’t use Viber.
This essentially means Viber is a decent replacement for Skype or any other app you use to make international calls.
2. Desktop Access
Yes, WhatsApp has Mac and Windows desktop apps, but these only offer instant messaging features. If you want to make a voice call, you’ll have to use WhatsApp’s mobile apps.
Viber’s desktop apps, on the other hand, are far more impressive.
With these apps, you have access to all the usual IM features. But you can also make voice and video calls to other Viber users. And you can make audio calls to landline and mobile numbers using Viber Out, too. Oh, Viber also has a Linux app!
3. Public Accounts and Chats
Viber claims to be “the world’s most comprehensive communication experience.” And to live up to this claim, they also host public accounts. You can access these via the Public button at the bottom of the app.
These accounts are usually set up by brands or celebrities so they can update or interact with an audience on Viber. There are also other groups related to special interests, such as photography and politics.
The interaction you can have with public accounts depends on the settings chosen by the account admins. Usually these are just streams of updates, rather like a Twitter feed. Sometimes they are public chats between the writers of a publication.
Often the only interaction you can have with these accounts is to “like” the updates. Some accounts also allow you to send private messages.
4. Hidden Chats
If you’re having a chat that you want to hide from prying eyes, Viber makes this pretty easy.
All you have to do is click on the name of the person or group you’re chatting with. Click Chat info, then Hide this chat. You’ll be asked to set a PIN, which acts as a password, so only people with the PIN can access the chat.
This is a quick and easy way to keep sensitive information private, and is a feature that WhatsApp doesn’t offer.
If you’re into smartphone gaming, Viber has a little something for you. It’s not much, but it’s another feature it has that WhatsApp doesn’t.
Within the Viber app, you can find a list of games that allow you to play with your Viber contacts.
These are not games within the app, but are games created by Viber that can connect to your account so you can challenge your friends. You can play these games even if you’re not a Viber user, though.
These games include:
- Candy Mania [No Longer Available]
- World Poker Club (Android / iOS) [No Longer Available]
- Defenders (iOS [No Longer Available])
- Diamond Rush (Android / iOS)
Is It Time to Switch?
On their own, these features are unlikely to convince you to drop WhatsApp in favor of Viber. In fact, you’ll probably just stick to whichever platform most of your friends and family use.
But perhaps you’ll be tempted to give Viber a try. Maybe see if it’s a viable alternative to Skype. Or you might just start using Viber alongside WhatsApp.
Either way, it’s important to know that WhatsApp isn’t the only popular messaging app out there right now. Viber is just one of many alternatives. And in my view, it’s the best.
If you decide to stick with WhatsApp for now, be sure to update the WhatsApp app regularly to stay safe from security breaches.