Today, we’re taking a closer look at the leading messaging applications available for smartphones to see how they stack up against each other.
While messaging apps for smartphones have been around for a while now; with its idea of linking phone numbers to user accounts coupled with the multitudes of functionality that it offers, WhatsApp really kick-started the mass-adoption of Internet-based messengers for smartphones. WhatsApp has been around for some time now and has grabbed a significant chunk of the messaging market share for smartphones, Apple iMessage, however, is a relatively newer entry into a market where it’s extremely hard to break into, since it’s not easy to get consumers to leave their current messaging app of choice as it’s likely most of their friends are on it too. As a solution to this, instead of offering the iMessage as a separately downloadable app, Apple pre-installed it into all the iOS devices following the release of iOS 7.
Although WhatsApp is available on almost every popular platform, iMessage is limited only to Apple devices. Today, we’ll take a closer look at the current messaging king, WhatsApp and the Apple exclusive iMessage app to see which one comes out on top.
While it has no direct effect on the functionality, design is a crucial part of any application. If you’re going to be spending hours using an application, the interface better be pleasing to eyes at least. In this department, WhatsApp has to compete against the behemoth Apple, which is regarded as one of the best in the industry in terms of design. Still after the release of the revamped new design, WhatsApp has not only managed to hold its own, but it even surpassed Apple’s offering by a longshot. WhatsApp’s new design has been kept very clean and minimal, but the company didn’t just go in a single design direction. As WhatsApp mostly caters to young people, the company managed to create the perfect balance between a clean and funky interface. It has beautiful colors and plenty of fun elements in the design.
Apple, on the other hand, has decided to keep the interface of iMessage very plain and simple, ignoring the need for funky or fun elements, keeping in line with Apple’s general design direction. As soon as you open up the application, you’re presented with a list of your current and past conversations, a search bar, a new message compose button, and that’s the entirety of the main interface; there are no other tabs. Unlike WhatsApp, you don’t really see a lot of different colors in the interface. Normal text messages pop up in a green bubble, whilst the ones sent via the data connection to other iMessage users show up in blue bubble and those are the only two vibrant colors, you’ll find across the entire interface. Still, from a general perspective, the interface is solemn and minimal and the only complaint with it could be that it’s not youth-centric, which isn’t really a requirement for a messaging app.
What good is a messaging application if it’s not possible for your friends to sign up for it with their current device? This is one department where Apple is severely lacking and WhatsApp exceeds by a large margin. iMessage is an iOS only application, meaning only people with Apple devices can be contacted via the iMessage service. Apple has employed the same strategy as Blackberry used with the Blackberry Messenger initially. This makes creating messaging groups very hard, as most groups have people who own smartphones working on different platforms.
Comparatively, WhatsApp is very easily available across a wide variety of platforms, including iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, and even the long forgotten Symbian OS. Due to the ease of access provided to users of all platforms, it makes communication via the platform possible for virtually all smartphone owners. The only minor downside is that users of the iPod Touch and iPad cannot install Whatsapp on their devices due to lack of a SIM card, however, the app can be installed if a person jailbreaks their device.
As far as sending media goes, both apps are more or less at par with each other. Both applications allow you to send photos and videos from your library, plus you can even capture images and videos from within the app to send to your friends. Both apps allow for location sharing as well as sending contacts. You can also record audio and send it via the service, however, WhatsApp allows sending of audio files stored on your device, which is something that iMessage doesn’t allow.
iMessage got knocked a peg further down in terms of communication features due to the lack of a calling function. A few months ago, WhatsApp rolled out the calling function for both iOS and Android, allowing users to make calls via their data connection; irrespective of the location of a recipient. The call quality provided by the service is pretty stellar and connection difficulties are scarce, plus attributing to an adaptive transmission rate, calls can even me made on the now archaic EDGE technology. iMessage, on the other hand, has no call function and messaging is as far as it will go.
Privacy And Security
Upon initial registration, WhatsApp ask for a user’s valid phone number for registration on the service, as the account is tied to your phone number. Once you’re in the network, the application goes through your contact list to find your friends who use WhatsApp and you can start messaging those friends without any sort of friend request system. However, this also means that people with your number can contact you on WhatsApp. WhatsApp offers the option to block this.
Additionally, others can see when you last opened the application with a “Last Seen” tag, but again, users are provided with the option to conceal this information. Upon sending the message, Whatsapp has a tick system in place to let users know the status of their message. A single tick means that the message has been received at the WhatsApp servers and will be sent to the recipient whenever he/she becomes available on the service. Two ticks mean that the message has been delivered and once those ticks turn blue, it means that the message has been read by the recipient.
Similarly, iMessage also links up your account with your phone number so that you can carry on using the same account even after changing smartphones; that only goes from iPhone to iPhone. In terms of privacy, Apple has implemented a much more robust and secure system of protecting your messages from interception. While all communication on WhatsApp is encrypted as well, the information can be decrypted by the company if a government asks for data by using a private key. With iMessage, however, Apple has instated end-to-end encryption across all devices. So, in effect Apple has even locked itself out from accessing the messages sent via the service and the company now won’t be able to comply with a wiretap order from a government even if it wanted to.
Backup & Restore
Message database backups on Whatsapp are performed on a daily basis. On Android, Symbian, and Windows Phone, the backup is generated and stored locally. So to transfer chat history between devices, all you need to do is copy the Whatsapp folder from one device to the other if the platform is the same. Now, when you fire up Whatsapp on the new device, it will automatically detect the chat backup and prompt you for confirmation before restoring the database. On iPhone, the process is even simpler. Since there is no general file system which can be accessed on the iPhone, cloud backup is the way to go. You can link your WhatsApp account to your iCloud and the backups will be stored on your iCloud, updated on a daily basis.
Instead of storing the iMessage backups locally, Apple bundles the backup with its regular iTunes backup, which is stored on a user’s computer. The backup can directly be restored on a new iPhone by simply connecting the device to a computer and restoring the entire backup. Additionally, iPhone backups can also be stored on iCloud, from which the restoring process becomes much more mobile. If you’ve opted to store you backups on the cloud, when migrating between devices all you will need is your iCloud ID and password for transferring data.
While both applications are pretty capable in their own regards, we need to pick a winner and WhatsApp clearly takes the cake in this comparison. While iMessage sports more or less the same feature set, the fact that it’s only available for Apple device users locks it down to a closed platform, meaning that not a lot of your friends will be available on iMessage, unless every single one of them is sporting an iPhone, which is highly unlikely. WhatsApp is available for a variety of platforms and that’s the single most important thing working in its favor. However, if you’re more concerned about keeping your communication secure, iMessage should definitely be your messenger of choice attributing to Apple’s end-to-end encryption.