Look at your phone’s apps and count how many messaging services like whatsapp or kakao talk you have. I bet there are more than two or three. On my phone, I have whatsapp, Line, Facebook messenger, Path/Talk, Skype, Telegram, Kakao Talk, Snapchat, Twitter, BBM, and probably more. It’s ridiculous. The problem is that none of these clients talk to each other, so if the person you want to contact uses a specific client, you have no choice and have to install that particular client.
In the recent weeks, I had to switch between phones due to travel. This action rears its ugly head when you try to keep these messaging services in sync, keeping your current account and chat history. It gets annoying real fast. I’m going to share my 2 cents on some of them.
First, whatsapp. If you have been following my tweets, I don’t like whatsapp. It is clunky and not keeping up with modern tech trends, yet you will be forced to have one since many people are on it for some reason. I mean there’s a reason Facebook was willing to buy them with a boatload of money.
So where do I start. One thing about whatsapp is its low barrier of entry. All you need is your smartphone’s phone number for verification. If you only have and use whatsapp on one phone, you are good to go. Thing is, we have more than one smart devices now. More and more people have more than one phone, in addition to tablets. Well, you cannot use whatsapp on multiple phones at once, and you cannot even install it on non-phone devices. You are pretty much stuck with your single phone. Now are you seeing why I think whatsapp sucks?
How about switching the SIM of the phone? No problem here. As long as you are using the same phone, whatsapp will still work, albeit it is linked to your older SIM number. Luckily whatsapp makes it easy to change your number if you want to. Note that if you register a new account with the new SIM, it will be a separate account. I have seen people that travels having multiple whatsapp entries since they don’t know any better.
What if you want to use a different phone? This is where the fun starts. I would be referring to Android from now on as iPhones have the ability to do full backups via iTunes or iCloud. You can simply reinstall and reverify the new phone with the same SIM, but you will lose your chat history and media as they are local to your old phone. So how do you retain them? This is where the process is broken. Basically, he app is actually keeping backups on your local phone, but getting them to a new phone is hardly something a lay person would be able to figure out on his/her own. Basically you have to connect your phone to your computer, copy the whatsapp folder to your computer, and transplant that to your new phone. Luckily his is fairly easy on Android, plus there are many apps that allow you to copy files via wifi. After the transplant on the new phone, simple install and verify the app and it will ask to restore a previous backup. Not easy, but doable. Now, one thing I found is that sometimes whatsapp simply refuses to do backups on the new phone for some reason. This can prevent future transplants to other phones as you won’t have the latest chat history. One way is to do a clan transplant. If there’ san existing whatsapp folder on the new phone, delete it first before transplanting the folder from your old phone. Also check immediately on the new phone if the app is able to back things up.
Now, let’s get to the usage itself. Whatsapp is very basic, and most people can figure it out. You can create groups, etc. You can auto-sync your friends as long as you have their phone numbers that they registered with whatsapp. But functionality is fairly barebone. You can attach pictures and multimedia, but there are no stickers nor VoIP. It feels like the yesterday’s messaging app. It’s less personal. Add on to that the inability to install the client on non-phone devices and lack of clients for PC, it just doesn’t feel like a service that fits the modern days of IM. It feels like the ICQ of mobile IM.
Second client I want to talk about is Facebook messenger, the IM solution from the company that bought Whatsapp. Like it or not, in terms of usability, Facebook messenger is probably one that is at the top. First, it is platform independent. You can install the client on phones and tablets, and you can use them all simultaneously. Furthermore, it’s Facebook so you can always access your chat on the web on any computer. Considering that most people are on Facebook already, it is likely that you can contact your friends this way. Furthermore, it is cloud based, meaning you don’t have to do backups and whatnot. All your chat history are stored on Facebook’s server, so whenever you access the service, they are all there. And since the client is linked to your Facebook account, it can be independent of your SIM/phone number.
Big problem is, it’s Facebook. Some people just don’t want to deal with Facebook (even though it also owns whatsapp). Second, people associates Facebook with the website, not the messenger client. Plenty of people I know are not even aware of the client, and some still think of it as part of the bigger Facebook instead of just as an IM service. So it’s unfortunate that even though Facebook has a superior client than whatsapp, most people still use he latter.
Usability is there. You can attach your standard multimedia stuff. You can even do VoIP. But the stickers are piss poor, less personal that I would like.
Next, I want to touch a bit on Skype. Skype is pretty much the de facto standard for free video conferencing, but obviously one can also use it for messaging. Personally though, I feel the client is too heavy for a simple messaging need, and no great stickers. Furthermore, there’s barrier of entry in creating yet another account with Skype/Microsoft. Other than that, it is platform independent, and cloud based.
Fourth one is Telegram. It is touted as a secure solution for the privacy conscious. It is actually a great platform/service. It is open source, and platform independent. You can have it running on your phone, tablet, computer all simultaneously. Yeah, whatsapp starts to look clunky right? In Telegram, all chat history is cloud based, so no need to worry about backups and transferring stuff. Verification needs a phone number, but it can even be a Google Voice number, freeing you from the traditional phone number. Alas, no stickers, and so far I have only one friend using it…
Last but not least, Line. I have a personal bias on Line, mainly because of the stickers. Yes, I am a sucker for stickers of things that I like. For example, no other services offer stickers of Attack on Titan and Sword Art Online. To me, Line is very personal due to the stickers.
Usability wise, it is in between. Unlike whatsapp, it has a PC client so you can keep on chatting in your computer (Windows and Mac). However, just like whatsapp, the mobile client can only be installed on phones only, and you can only use one phone at any time.
If you are switching SIM on your current phone, it’s straight forward like whatsapp. If you want to switch to a new phone, things get more complicated. Unlike whatsapp, you can link your line account to an email or Facebook so you are not tied to a single phone number (which is ironic that you cannot install it on a non-phone mobile devices). This allows easier log-ins on new devices. The problem is the chat history. The platform has some sort of cloud-based storage, but it’s not comprehensive and reliable as the client forces you to delete the current content if it detects a duplicate log-in. Furthermore, you starts fresh on any new device you want to use, forcing you to re download stickers and having no chat history unless you manually restore conversations. Backup feature is available, although it is also clunky. Unlike Whatsapp, you can email your chat history and restore it on another device by simply downloading the email attachment and having the app restores it. Problem is, it is per conversation so it can be tedious if you have many conversations going. Also, it doesn’t backup media.
My personal bias is towards Line. It is not flexible and it’s a hassle when moving to different devices, but it is still more personal to me than whatsapp. A PC client is also a bonus. If Line allowed installation and usage simultaneously on multiple mobile devices, it would be perfect. What won me over are the stickers.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I still end up with a slew of clients on my smartphone. A social messaging service relies heavily on what your friends are using. If they are more comfortable using a certain platform, you end up having to use that platform. Whatsapp is a clunky and dated platform, but most of my contacts uses it. Annoying, yes, but it’s the unfortunate side effect of the preference of the masses.