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I will level with you. There is no best messaging app. Unless you need one or two specific features, the best text messaging app will be the one that the people you want to message also use. Depending on where you are in the world, it could be iMessage, WhatsApp, Viber, LINE or even SMS.
Best Apps For Group Messaging
But if, for whatever reason, you have a choice about which messaging app to use—or can convince the people you want to message to switch—here are five of the best messaging apps to choose from. There are apps.
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As a child of the 90s, I’ve been texting for as long as affordable cell phones have been widespread (and, if I’m being honest, a year or two earlier). I also used text messaging apps for professional reasons—to communicate with my remote colleagues and to review apps.
I still believe that the best messaging apps will generally get people to respond to you. If it’s an SMS or a smoke signal, you have my full permission to use it. So when it came to compiling this list, it freed me from some pretty strict inclusion requirements. Neither iMessage, SMS, nor Android Messages made it to this list. Nor what Google calls its latest foray into messaging. A big reason why you use any of those apps is because your friends do.
However, if you’re starting a group of friends, a desert island colony, or a fan club from scratch and you’re choosing the tools you use, here’s what you should be looking for in messaging apps:
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Messaging applications use an Internet connection to send and receive messages. This is different from SMS, which uses your carrier’s own protocol to send and receive messages anywhere with a cellular connection (even a weak one, with no data). While text messages cost money — either on a per-message basis or included in your cell phone plan — messages sent through data-only apps will be free (even if the app itself isn’t).
To compile this list, I tested over 30 different apps. Many failed because they didn’t meet the above criteria or because they were uncomfortable to use. I spent time testing and messaging any app that looked like a candidate for inclusion — plus, as I said before, this is a category I have a lot of experience with, so I’ve already spent a lot of time with each of these apps in of the past.
WhatsApp is the undisputed ruler of free mobile messaging in most parts of the world. Launched in 2009 as a way to send messages over a data connection instead of SMS, WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014. Since then, the service has grown in both its feature set and user base. As of 2022, it’s expected to have nearly two billion daily users, and it’s easy to see why: it’s a shockingly decent service.
The app is a full-featured messaging client that supports text chat as well as sending photos, short videos, and voice messages. There is a Status feature that allows you to share Instagram-like stories with your contacts. You can also send files (up to 2GB in size) to other users on WhatsApp. Chats take the form of one-on-one conversations with other WhatsApp users or group chats of up to 512 participants.
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Despite being the most popular messaging service in the world and owned by Facebook’s parent company Meta, WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption enabled for all conversations. Everything you send, including file transfers, is fully encrypted. Encrypted messages are also deleted from WhatsApp servers once delivered.
WhatsApp has a distinctive look and feel. A double tick with a signature next to each message indicates that the message has been sent (one tick) and delivered (two ticks). When the two ticks turn blue, you know the recipient has read your message as well. You can further customize your experience by changing the chat background, renaming groups, and setting custom alerts based on chats in the app’s settings.
WhatsApp users can make free voice and video calls to other users of the service. Group calls can be made with up to 32 people, and all communications are protected by the same end-to-end encryption. You can also download the WhatsApp desktop app for Windows and Mac or access the service through a browser at web.vhatsapp.com, although in all cases your smartphone must still be turned on.
Viber is another great all-in-one entry in the messaging space with millions of users worldwide. The app combines text and media messaging with free voice and video calling.
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Chat with individuals or create a group chat with up to 250 participants, where you can share instant voice and video messages without calling. It’s perfect for those times when you’re too busy to talk and too lazy to type. While many other apps include voice messaging (like WhatsApp, above), Viber makes it easy to send video messages for a more personal touch. Plus, GIFs and stickers are built into your chats to help liven up your conversations.
End-to-end encryption is standard in all Viber one-on-one and group chats. However, channels and communities are not end-to-end encrypted (as it would then be impossible for new members to see chat history). It’s a small security sacrifice in the name of providing a better service. In addition to free voice and video calls to other Viber users, a service called Viber Out lets you call any mobile or landline in the world for just $5.99 a month. It’s like Skype, except with better security practices and a nicer smartphone app.
Viber uses an understated, minimalist design with an optional dark mode available in the app’s Appearance menu. Chats and calls are assigned separate tabs, and Viber’s non-essential features (such as the sticker market) are placed on a separate third tab. If the chat gets too noisy, you can swipe left and choose to mute or snooze it. If you have an important conversation that you want to keep, you can pin it.
Viber also offers communities—essentially large group chats with strangers that you can join or start. These public chats can have an unlimited number of members and have powerful controls for admins to moderate their chats: manage who is in the group and who can post or create a new background and group Can change the look and feel of the community with details . You can search for communities based on things like location, hobbies, and favorite teams. Think Reddit, but as a group chat.
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Where Viber falls a little short is in engaging the entire app. With a sticker store, chats of all kinds, and even the occasional ad, it’s a less satisfying experience than WhatsApp — especially if you don’t use its unique features like Viber Out.
Telegram was one of the original messaging apps that emphasized the importance of security, although it takes a slightly different approach to end-to-end encryption as it stores your conversations on its own servers. This allows you to sign in from multiple devices, which you can’t do with WhatsApp or Viber. Although both of these services offer a desktop app, they send and receive all of your messages through your phone. If it’s closed or doesn’t exist, you can’t log in, while with Telegram you can.
You can use Telegram to make voice and video calls and send text messages, photos, videos and files to other Telegram users. You can even create group chats with up to 200,000 participants or channels with unlimited subscribers.
If you want end-to-end encryption, you can enable it using Telegram’s Secret Chats feature: Start a new message, then select New