7 Communication Apps To Extend Your Messaging Capabilities


Cheaper, Better Ways To Communicate Using Your Smartphone

It can sometimes seem like there’s too many messaging and communication apps out there, all with unique features and an array of users who swear by their value. These apps often offer additional features to expand your messaging capabilities, and they can often save you money on SMS, MMS, or international call fees. However, many of these apps also require different internet speeds and connection types, and some eat up much more data and bandwidth than others. While regular messaging and calls may be enough for some, for smartphone users who want more functionality than just plain old texts, here’s a list of the top 7 communication and messaging apps to check out, with required connection type and data usage taken into consideration. SEE ALSO: Navigate The World With An iTouch And WiFi

 Skype, For Video And International Calls

  • Internet Demands: High
Skype is probably one of the first well-known alternative communication services, offering free Skype to Skype calls and instant messaging. The current iteration of the app supports video calls and even an option (paid)  to call a phone number from your Skype account, in case you’re ever stuck without cell service but have access to WiFi. Notably, Skype’s paid phone call feature provides an easy way to call international contacts without the need to buy minutes for your regular phone number. With Skype, it’s important to note that the internet-reliant video and voice calls can take up a hefty amount of data: their website cites that voice calling consumes 3mb of data per minute, and video calls clock in at 36mb of data per minute. Additionally, Skype lists a minimum internet speed required for video and voice calls.

Google Hangouts, For Video Calls And Instant Messaging

  • Internet Demands: High
Compared to Skype, Hangouts is a newer competitor in the communication app market. The app relies on a connection to your Gmail or Google+ account and presents a more streamlined version of Skype’s instant messaging and video call system. Because Hangouts connects easily to existing Google accounts, installation and startup is often easier and more convenient than Skype, though the two apps offer similar video call functionality. While the desktop version of Hangouts has several additional fun features, such as the option to doodle with friends in your call or watch a YouTube video together, the app notably excludes Skype's ability to make a call to a phone number. While some use Hangouts as a primarily instant-messaging focused app, as with Skype, the video and voice call feature could incur pretty high data charges if used extensively.

Google Voice, For Managing Voicemail, International Calls, And Free Texting

  • Internet Demands: Low
Google Voice allows you to register a new phone number for free and then use this number to connect, integrate, and manage your existing phone lines. The app can replace your standard voicemail service, allowing for customized greetings and a management system which lets you listen to, organize, and view transcripts of your voicemails on your computer or phone. Your voice number can also be used to make calls within the US and Canada, and international calls at Google’s (cheaper than the competition) established rate. The app also features the ability to send free text messages from your Voice number. Voice has also recently added MMS support, making the internet-based texting service a pretty comprehensive replacement for standard texting if the need arises. Because Google Voice collaborates with your existing phone number and cell plan, calls (even international calls) don’t use up any data at all, and the minimal data usage of the app comes from the free texting feature.

WhatsApp And Viber, For International Messaging

  • Internet Demands: Low to Medium
Viber and WhatsApp are the two most popular messaging apps, seeking to replace SMS as the standard form of smartphone communication. Both are great for international messaging, as they use WiFi and data instead of traditional phone lines. The apps offer emoticons, photo sharing, and convenient group messaging, placing them a step above the less efficient file transfer and group messaging systems of MMS. The biggest difference between the two apps is that Viber offers internet-reliant voice and video calls comparable to those offered by Skype or Hangouts, a feature which also makes Viber more likely to produce high data charges if used recklessly. SEE ALSO: Chatting Online: Know Your Options

KakaoTalk And Line, For Group And International Messaging

  • Internet Demands: Low to Medium
KakaoTalk and Line are both colorful, feature-filled messaging apps which allow you to instant message or call other users with the app installed. Both of the apps have useful features for group chats, including bulletin boards, polling options, and calendars that all members of the group can see. Both apps also come with a huge variety of stickers and emoticons, fancy custom themes, and the ability to easily send voice notes or other types of media. Though these apps are less popular than WhatsApp and Viber in the US, they offer quite a few different features which might make messaging more convenient and productive. Like Viber, though messaging itself incurs minimal data cost, transfers of large files or utilization of the call or walkie talkie features can result in larger data usage, so you should be cautious about using some of these features off WiFi. With the proliferation of Wifi hotspots and the constant improvement of cellular data, alternative communication apps can offer a better and larger variety of features than your phone’s standard texting and calling services. All it takes is trying out some of these apps to see which ones suit your messaging needs best.
Date of original publication:
Updated on: November 10, 2015

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