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May 12, 2011

Whatsapp? You want to chat?

PORTLAND, OR, United States – One argument for going with a particular mobile device is app selection in that company’s app store. Whether you want an app to check into a location based application, interface with you friends on your favorite social network or message your friends regardless of what device they happen to carry, apps and app selection rule these days.

How do you message on your phone? Most likely you use SMS on your mobile phones and this is a very good way to communicate. SMS is ubiquitous and it’s drop dead easy to use. Also, with SMS being the most used (and profitable!) data service that the mobile industry has, it’s very likely that whomever you send an SMS message to is going to be able to read it and reply.

However, SMS can be costly for consumers, especially here in the United States. I’ve long thought that it would be great to use an application that would utilize the data channel to route messages over, rather than paying in upwards of 20 cents per message (without a text messaging plan).

Group messaging apps and enhanced messaging utilities are making waves these days. An application that is innovating in this space is WhatsApp Messenger (get it on Ovi Store here). WhatsApp blends easily into your native messaging routine by integrating with your on-board contact list.  This is important because the application doesn’t force you to open a separate app just for your friends who happen to be signed up with WhatsApp.

When you send a message out in WhatsApp Messenger, If the person also happens to be in WhatsApp, the message will route over the application. If not, an SMS will be sent to the recipient, all happening invisibly to you on your handset.

You can also utilize group chat, meaning up to 5 people can be on a chat at the same time. Adding to the utility, you can add multimedia to your chats, including audio and video.

If you happen to be offline when a message is sent to you, you’ll get it when you turn your phone on next, as guaranteed by the service. Also, say you’re at a coffee house that you want to share with your friend so he can join you: with WhatsApp, you can shoot him your location and he can pull it up easily using Ovi Maps.

WhatsApp is a terrific application for those who have friends and family abroad. Now, rather than paying long distance SMS fees, you can send a message over WhatsApp for free. Also, using the group chat feature, you can ensure no one is left out of a conversation (as long as you have 5 or less folks your communicating with).

WhatsApp adds a much needed layer to simple SMS messages. Yes SMS is easy and virtually everyone uses it who happens to have a mobile, but WhatsApp give us more to love than just sending text back and forth. By embracing audio, video, or an audio note, WhatsApp makes messaging fun again. Also, the fact that WhatsApp is cross-platform is makes the service even more useful to me.

(Thanks to Jeb Brilliant for being cooperative in the screencap on this post).