Market for instant messaging apps has exploded into life
Where Skype led, others have willingly followed, with WhatsApp, Kik and Viber all jostling for a share of the market
A viber text message typically takes about 838 bytes out of your data allowance, which is quite small. If you choose to send photos, this will rise; likewise if you send videos. For a call, the bandwidth rate is about 240 KB per minute or 14MB per hour, in line with other services of this type.
The call quality can be better than your regular voice call over a mobile network, but you’ll need to have a good data network at both ends to avoid the call dropping, quality deteriorating and general lag.
The old reliable, Skype allows you to make calls and send messages not only to users signed up to the service, but also to regular landline and mobile numbers, once you buy credit. While the Skype to Skype contact is free, the Skype Out services – to a mobile, for example – incur a fee, but are typically lower than the average traditional telecoms charge.
Costing the princely sum of nothing to download for the first year, WhatsApp allows you to send messages, including video, photo and voice notes, to others using the service.
It’s linked to your mobile number, so you don’t need to remember a username of login; likewise, it also prevents people from changing user names on accounts to create false accounts.
After the first 12 months, you’ll have to stump up to keep using it – less than €1 for the year. That brings the iPhone into line with the other phone platforms, which always charged this way; originally, iPhone users paid a small fee to download the app and had it for free thereafter. Those who already paid to download WhatsApp from the iTunes store won’t be charged the subscription fee.
One of the newer kids on the block Snapchat is mainly aimed at sending video and pictures with captions to your contacts. It allows you to set an expiry for your messages, so users can only see it for a few seconds.
Of course, there is nothing to stop someone from taking a screenshot of your message. And a quick look in the app stores reveal a number of apps that claim to allow you to save your received photos and videos. So beware what you send . . .
Kik is another service that relies on logins rather than mobile phone numbers, requiring you to sign up with an email address. It’s free to download but it makes money by trying to sell you sticker packs. Not only can you send text messages, but you can also share videos, make and send sketches, share photos that delete themselves after a few minutes or play games with friends.
In 2011, Facebook stole a march on Apple and launched its own instant messaging application that allowed people to chat to other Facebook users. It’s a standalone application that will give you instant access to your Facebook friends, send photos and record voice notes.
Some of the Irish mobile networks offer Facebook messenger for free to customers, meaning it won’t eat into your data allowance.