WhatsApp is a very successful cross-platform mobile phone messaging app with over 400 million active monthly users. It was designed by a 2 person team who are engineers at heart and their passion is evident in a sleek, stable, simple to use App that makes communication with any smart phone anywhere possible at an affordable cost. It uses your phone number, there are no usernames, passwords and no need to log in or log out and it lets you send unlimited messages, images, video or sound clips to any other WhatsApp user whose phone number you know. It is a mobile phone only app, you need a mobile phone number to use it.
WhatsApp has simplified their business model recently “so that all users on all platforms will enjoy their first year of WhatsApp service for free, and only pay $.99 per year after that.” On iOS a one off payment used to the norm and “the good news for all current iPhone users is that WhatsApp will be free of charge for the rest of your life.”
Messages are free to send and receive, including multi-media messages. It uses your phone’s data plan and wi-fi when possible to send and receive data and so you are not charged for using the service. If you break a limited data plan you may incur additional charges.
The call feature is not free. Calls use your regular data plan and before placing a call, a message does pop up warning you that you will incur the usual charges for a voice call.
The company has a strict No Ads policy and does not make use of advertising anywhere at all.
- Text-based Chat: Instant messaging that provide an alternative to SMS messaging. Text messages are free because WhatsApp uses your data plan
- Sharing photos and video: Unlimited photos and videos shared through your data plan
- Voice Messaging: Record a voice message and instantly send it to anyone on your contact list
- Group Chats: Create a group of friends or family so that everyone can share in the conversation.
- Broadcasting: If you would like to send the same message to multiple users, you can by using the broadcasting feature.
WhatsApp has an easy to use interface with very little visual extravagance. It is designed for functionality and has its own beauty in simplicity. It is possible to make it prettier or more accessible by changing the wallpaper and font size in the Settings. Select no background for a clean and crisp black text on white background, but font colour cannot be changed so white text on a black background is not possible. The font size does not change in the menu, only in the chat box.
For sight impaired users, audio can be used to replace and enhance text. It works well with TalkBack on Android and VoiceOver on iOS (the built-in accessibility features of the operating systems) and notifications can be set to be distinct for a particular person or group.
The text and instant messaging features are accessible if you have a hearing impairment. The latest feature added to WhatsApp is voice messaging. The sound quality depends on the microphone and speakers used, but most phones have adequate microphones. There are no transcripts or subtitles for voice messages, so if audio messages is a problem, the sender has to send a separate text message. If someone chooses to broadcast with audio rather than text, you’re stuck.
WhatsApp is navigated mostly through taps. A voice messaging is recorded by holding the mic button whilst talking and the slide gesture to cancel sending a message. The menu at the top is quite small and so it does require some precision to hit the right spot on the screen. It it easy to use with one hand, does not favour either left or right hand users particularly and no multi-button presses are used. If you are able to use a touch screen with simple gestures and some precision, it should be easy to navigate this app.
Ease of Use
The menu is intuitive, the design easy to use and digest and with the prominent use of images next to text to identify contacts, it is possible to use (if using multi-media messages) without being able to read. It it easy to install and set-up, particularly if you allow access to your phone address book. It has a strict no ads policy as well that removes the risk of younger and vulnerable users navigating somewhere else with a tap.
I am a regular user of WhatsApp. Its versatility allows me to keep in touch through free messages, images and voice messages with friends and family that across the world. It is also a convenient notification system we used inside the house. My three year old uses it to send messages to herself from one phone to another whilst the grown ups are in different rooms.
I wish it had the ability to customize notifications for individual users. At the moment it has limited flexibility. If I turn audio notifications on it keeps beeping for every single message, including group chats that I am not directly participating in at the time. If I mute all, I also miss time sensitive notifications. Nevertheless, it is small flaw in what is otherwise one of the best messaging apps available and with 400 million users, it has reached the point where most people are available through it, a crucial point when looking for a good communication app.
I would highly recommend this application to anyone who uses a smart phone.
Product: WhatsApp | Platform: Android, iOS,Blackberry OS, Asha, Symbian, Windows Phone| Version: Europe | Updated: December 2013