Messaging apps are becoming more and more popular as many offer more than the ability to just send a message to a contact. Using your data connection, they allow you to send images, videos and files, along with make video or voice calls, essentially making the minutes and texts element of monthly contracts redundant.
WhatsApp is the latest messaging app to introduce voice calling to its selection of features, albeit only on Android at the moment, and the new feature puts the Facebook-owned app in-line with the Skypes and Vibers of this world.
Whether it is seeing when someone was last online or being able to see their face for free, here we have rounded up five great messaging apps to show you what each one will offer you over the next. All five of these gems have free messages and voice calling over the internet so if you're stumped on which monthly contract to get for the HTC One M9 or Samsung Galaxy S6, download one of these and look for the contract with best value data package.
WhatsApp Messenger allows you to send and receive unlimited messages, along with pictures, audio notes and video messages. For Android users, this app has recently become even more exciting as it now offers voice calling over the internet and guess what? It's crystal clear. The feature will be coming to iOS users soon.
WhatsApp uses your Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G connection so without data, you're pretty stuffed. You won't be able to send or receive messages and Android users will need to use their minutes allowance for calling, which you currently still have to do if you have an iPhone but if you have a good data allowance, you're laughing. It's a brilliant app when it comes to roaming as once you are on Wi-Fi, you can message as much as you want or send your holiday snaps to everyone in your address book without having to worry about your phone bill.
WhatsApp allows you to have group message chats or one-on-one message chats, automatically using your address book to connect you with your contacts. You will be able to see when someone was last online and it shows you when your message has read a message by turning the delivered ticks to blue so you'll know if you're being ignored.
Skype has over 250 million users and it allows you to talk to your friends and family with an instant message, video or voice call for free, as long as they are also on Skype and you have a data connection.
You can use Skype to share pictures or videos, plus you can start group conversations and hold conference calls with everyone in the group so if you all want to catch up together, it is nice and simple. It isn't just limited to mobile either, you can use tablets, PCs, Macs and even TVs if you want to.
Skype also allows you to call mobiles and landlines by adding credit to your account so you can still talk to people across the world that don't have a Skype account without it costing a fortune, but we'd suggest you just tell them to download it if they can. Like WhatsApp, Skype is great when roaming or if you have family and friends that live a little further away, but the mobile app does drain your battery a little more than WhatsApp does so that's worth bearing in mind.
Viber is very similar to Skype and allows you to text, call and send video and photo messages worldwide over Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G. Like Microsoft's offering, it also allows you to make calls to non-Viber mobile and landline numbers at reduced rates.
Your phone number acts as your ID and just like WhatsApp, the app syncs with your contact list and automatically detects who has Viber, allowing you to contact the ones who do for free as long as you have a connection. It also offers HD-quality phone calls like WhatsApp for Android does.
Viber has over 500 million users and while it does much the same as Skype, including allowing you to send emoticons, you can also follow Public Chats and play games with Viber characters, giving you a couple of bonus features.
ICQ Messenger, like the others on this list, allows you to send messages, share photos, files and videos, as well as video chat or voice call any of your contacts, so long as you have a data connection and they have this app too.
Video calling means you can see family or friends who aren't just round the corner for free, and voice calling means unlimited free calls to ICQ Messenger users around the world. This app also offers group messaging with an unlimited number of participants, while some of the others, including Viber, have a set number.
Just like Skype and Viber, ICQ Messenger also allows you to send smileys and emoji and unlike some of its competitors, you can set ICQ Messenger to require a PIN when opened to hide the name of the contact and the text in notifications.
LINE is the messaging app used by LG for its Home Chat service that allows users to text their LG-compatible smart appliances, but it also offers video and voice calling, as well as free messages.
You can use your smartphone or your PC for voice and video calling and the messages feature enables you to send pictures, videos and GPS coordinates, as well as start a group chat.
LINE also has a sticker shop if you want to express yourself in more than just words, but perhaps more interestingly, it has a social networking service that lets you post your activities on your timeline and comment on what your friends are doing too.