App face-off: Apple iMessage vs. WhatsApp Messenger

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2016
When WhatsApp Messenger went free earlier this year it gave iOS device owners a viable solution to connect with friends and family who don't use Apple products, but the app comes with a few caveats.




As an established, preinstalled, cross-platform product, iMessage is one of the most used apps in across Apple's ecosystem. It lets iOS and Mac device owners send native text, emoticons, pictures, audio recordings, videos and more to each other without cutting into SMS allotments. And for the most part, iMessage is reliable.

When you and those around you are deeply invested in Apple products, it's sometimes easy to forget that people live outside the walled garden. In some cases, sending multimedia content to non-Apple users is a chore, but luckily you have options.

WhatsApp Messenger started life in 2009 as a standalone messaging app available for most platforms including iOS, Android, Blackberry and Symbian. The fact that it runs on so many platforms has made the app popular in areas where branded smartphones, and their included first-party apps, do not have a stronghold.

As of January 2016, the global WhatsApp user base numbered just shy of 1 billion people, a huge percentage of the world's population rivaled only by FaceBook, which purchased the messaging company in 2014 for a staggering $19 billion. Prior to this month, WhatsApp came with a $0.99 per year subscription, but thanks to an aggressive expansion strategy into lower tier markets, it's now available for free.

WhatsApp vs. iMessage



In many respects WhatsApp is a similar service to iMessage. You can send messages, pictures, video, voice recordings, emoticons and more to other WhatsApp users, either individually or as part of group messages. There are, however, shortcomings that might make it a hard sell for longtime iMessage users.

WhatsApp's greatest weakness is that the service is tied to a phone number, meaning you can only use it on one mobile device with no continuity. Unlike iMessage, there is no way seamlessly switch from an iPhone to Mac. WhatsApp offers Web interface that lets users log in by taking a photo of a QR code, but the process must be repeated once that session closes.




Security is also lacking in WhatsApp. End-to-end encryption exists for Android devices but not iPhone. Like other apps, WhatsApp requests access to a user's contacts list to connect with friends who also use, or one day start to use, the service. The convenience might not be worth the security concerns of uploading to WhatsApp's -- and Facebook's -- servers.

A built-in calling feature comparable to FaceTime Audio is also included, but the implementation is not what I would consider stable. Similar to iMessage, audio calls can be initiated from the contacts screen, while a "slide to answer" graphic pops up on the receiving end. When calling other iPhones, however, I have more than once encountered a bug that does not allow the recipient to answer when the phone is locked. Instead, I have to message them first, tell them to open the app and redial, hardly an ideal workaround. Unfortunately video calls are not yet supported.

WhatsApp does have a few redeeming features that would be nice to see implemented in iMessage. For example, the app offers easy tracking of the data you send and receive. A network usage screen shows number of messages sent and received, as well as a breakdown of bytes used to transfer media and messages. Though you can track cell usage of iMessage, the implementation in WhatsApp is much more granular.




The third-party app also supports a "broadcast" messaging feature akin to groups in iMessage. Unless everyone in a conversation is using iMessage, Apple's version is limited to ten recipients total. In WhatsApp you can send a broadcast message to 256 people at once as long as they have your contact info, regardless of their phone operating system. Further, broadcast messages can be assigned a separate alert tone from individual messages.

Preserving conversations in WhatsApp is more robust than iMessage. In iMessage conversations can be saved for 30 days, one year or forever, while WhatsApp is able to archive all conversations to iCloud, freeing up space on your phone. In the future, if for instance you purchase a larger capacity phone, you can pick and choose the past conversations and media to reinstall.

In the end, it comes down to compatibility and stability. Extra features are niceties, and while WhatsApp is certainly capable -- certainly worth trying out if you have friends or family on other devices -- iMessage is a more well-rounded, solid solution.

WhatsApp Messenger is a free download from the iOS App Store.
lolliver
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 45
    The fact that it is owned and data mined by Facebook makes it a little too creepy for my taste. 
    lostkiwiurbanleopardredgeminipairelandjbdragonabedossjohn.bmagman1979
  • Reply 2 of 45
    Apple could own the space if they'd just release a cross platform version.  And it would help entice switchers.  I don't particularly care for WhatsApp, but it's the easiest solution for group messaging (greater than 10) when you have a group of 15 iPhones, 8 Androids, and 1 Windows phone.  C'mon Apple...it would be easy.
    urbanleopardsingularitywilliamlondonbaluirelandjbdragonabedoss6Sgoldfish
  • Reply 3 of 45
    mdossmdoss Posts: 29member
    Er... once connectivity has been established with the web interface using the QR code, there is no need to keep re-scanning the QR code for every successive session. It's purely a one time thing.

    I am on an iPhone 5 with an iMac and run WhatsApp on both everyday. I only had to scan the QR code the first time I set up the web interface.

    Second point, audio calling on WhatsApp has not been unreliable as the article seems to suggest. Call quality has always been excellent with crystal clear audio and no lag or echo of any kind.

    Finally, for those of us concerned with Facebook's data mining, there's an equally good alternative - Telegram. Telegram tout security as their USP.

    Unfortunately, as crofford said, until Apple decides to make iMessage cross-platform, WhatsApp is the way to go. The whole world uses WhatsApp.

    The author makes a claim at the very end about iMessage being the more well-rounded robust solution. I am afraid my experience has been quite the opposite. It's WhatsApp that I believe is more well-rounded, sheerly in terms of ubiquity and working on practically every device out there; and more solid in terms of reliability. Again, that is just my experience. YMMV.

    Cheers
    edited January 2016 williamlondoncnocbuibaluthepixeldoc6Sgoldfish
  • Reply 4 of 45
    I had WhatsApp for quite a while but ditched it as soon as the Zuck took over.
    Those jokers at Facebook are even creepier than Google... and that takes talent.
    redgeminipajbdragonjohn.bmagman1979
  • Reply 5 of 45
    I think you missed this in the article and left the impression that Apple Messages is a Apple to Apple solution only. Apple Messages connects to non-Apple users through SMS and you can add Facebook, Google Talk, AIM, MSN messengers as well. For me its a multi-messenger window.
    ai46toysandmejohn.bmagman1979damn_its_hot
  • Reply 6 of 45
    My main problem despite Whatsapp does not allow me using this app on two devices (I also have a "toy" Fire Phone - webapp-use not possible) is LOOKS. Whatsapp is really ugly. By default it uses a wallpaper which was designed by people with no taste. The choice is to change it to some other wallpaper which looks less bad. But it is not only the wallpaper of course. Everything else also looks very dated. You also can´t change the notification sound to something good. Whatsapp only let you use their own, they all suck. So I just use "none". Cross platform is a great thing, but if anybody writes me a Whatsapp message, from who I know he or she has an iPhone, I just answer in iMessage. :)
  • Reply 7 of 45
    citpekscitpeks Posts: 151member
    To truly appreciate WhatsApp (or iMessage, for that matter) one needs to use an app like LINE.

    Not only is LINE poorly designed, and harder to use, the hard sell of stickers, minigames, official accounts, and an unending stream of other useless notifications/promotions makes it a nuisance as well.  Whatever data Facebook may or may not be collecting, it doesn't include any of those frills, doesn't try to sell you anything, or make superfluous stuff part of the conversations and app.  WA is clean, simple, and functional in comparison.

    But why use it?  Or anything besides iMessage?  In the real world, not everyone owns an iPhone, or uses SMS/MMS to text.  You have to go where the social circle goes, even if that includes some horrible apps.


    edited January 2016 balu
  • Reply 8 of 45
    If WhatsApp accounts were associated with an email address not a phone number it would get my vote over iMessage. As it is, juggling separate accounts on two phones is a pain.

    And why do WhatsApp users change their avatar every day? Have they nothing better to do?
    toysandme
  • Reply 9 of 45
    irelandireland Posts: 17,751member
    iMessage is better software. I just wish it were cross-platform.
    williamlondonbalujbdragontoysandmechia
  • Reply 10 of 45
    I was reluctant to install WhatsApp, didn't really need another messaging app (don't spend a lot of time in my day staring at my phone like the rest of the world) and really hate that Facebook owns the app, but work required it so I did, and it surprised me how much I like it and how much more I use it than iMessage (which is actually my preferred platform). iMessage is simply limited by being Apple only and loads of my colleagues and friends don't enjoy Apple products like I do. I realise it's something to do with patents that it's not cross-platform, but Apple really needs to fix this issue regardless.
    balu
  • Reply 11 of 45
    spielbrot said:
    I think you missed this in the article and left the impression that Apple Messages is a Apple to Apple solution only. Apple Messages connects to non-Apple users through SMS and you can add Facebook, Google Talk, AIM, MSN messengers as well. For me its a multi-messenger window.
    If you're referring to Messages for Mac, Facebook removed compatibility with Jabber. You can no longer use Facebook Messenger via Messages on a Mac, and you never could via iMessage.
  • Reply 12 of 45
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    crofford said:
    Apple could own the space if they'd just release a cross platform version.  And it would help entice switchers.  I don't particularly care for WhatsApp, but it's the easiest solution for group messaging (greater than 10) when you have a group of 15 iPhones, 8 Androids, and 1 Windows phone.  C'mon Apple...it would be easy.
    what's the value for Apple in giving android users iMessage? iMessage and other offerings are fringe benefits for Apple hardware owners. why would android users buy the cow if they have the milk for free?
    bestkeptsecret
  • Reply 13 of 45
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    crofford said:
    Apple could own the space if they'd just release a cross platform version.  And it would help entice switchers.  I don't particularly care for WhatsApp, but it's the easiest solution for group messaging (greater than 10) when you have a group of 15 iPhones, 8 Androids, and 1 Windows phone.  C'mon Apple...it would be easy.
    what's the value for Apple in giving android users iMessage? iMessage and other offerings are fringe benefits for Apple hardware owners. why would android users buy the cow if they have the milk for free?
    The point isn't about providing benefit to Android users, but providing benefit to Apple users so they don't have to lower themselves by having to use an inferior solution when they want or need to communicate with people on the other side of the barbed wire.
    irelandmacky the mackygatorguyjbdragontoysandme
  • Reply 14 of 45
    I receive a lot of "Whatsapp" spam.
    Don't want to use something that generates spam.
    (Whether Whatsapp generates spam directly or indirectly through a third party, I don't care.  I don't buy MetLife because of their spam generation either.)
  • Reply 15 of 45
    The fact that it runs on so many platforms has made the app popular in areas where branded smartphones, and their included first-party apps, do not have a stronghold. 
    LOL, where might that be? Northern Siberia? Antarctica? North Korean Gulags? 

    Wait! Wait! I know, the Gobi Desert!
  • Reply 16 of 45
    freerangefreerange Posts: 1,594member
    mdoss said:
    Er... once connectivity has been established with the web interface using the QR code, there is no need to keep re-scanning the QR code for every successive session. It's purely a one time thing.

    I am on an iPhone 5 with an iMac and run WhatsApp on both everyday. I only had to scan the QR code the first time I set up the web interface.

    Second point, audio calling on WhatsApp has not been unreliable as the article seems to suggest. Call quality has always been excellent with crystal clear audio and no lag or echo of any kind.

    Finally, for those of us concerned with Facebook's data mining, there's an equally good alternative - Telegram. Telegram tout security as their USP.

    Unfortunately, as crofford said, until Apple decides to make iMessage cross-platform, WhatsApp is the way to go. The whole world uses WhatsApp.

    The author makes a claim at the very end about iMessage being the more well-rounded robust solution. I am afraid my experience has been quite the opposite. It's WhatsApp that I believe is more well-rounded, sheerly in terms of ubiquity and working on practically every device out there; and more solid in terms of reliability. Again, that is just my experience. YMMV.

    Cheers
    "The whole world uses WhatsApp." Ummm, wrong! A significant part of the world is using a far superior service to WhatsApp - Wechat! WhatsApp is a total POS compared to WeChat. AI, let's get on the ball and compare these two third party apps. As to Wechat, best of all, it's not part of Facebook!
    bloodshotrollin'red
  • Reply 17 of 45
    citpeks said:
    But why use it?  Or anything besides iMessage?  In the real world, not everyone owns an iPhone, or uses SMS/MMS to text.  You have to go where the social circle goes, even if that includes some horrible apps.

    No you don't "have to" use shitty apps. Nor do you "have to" chat with people squatting over a dead burro.. 

    This article left readers erroneously thinking iMessage is not cross-platform. 
    john.b
  • Reply 18 of 45
    freerange said:
    mdoss said:
    Er... once connectivity has been established with the web interface using the QR code, there is no need to keep re-scanning the QR code for every successive session. It's purely a one time thing.

    I am on an iPhone 5 with an iMac and run WhatsApp on both everyday. I only had to scan the QR code the first time I set up the web interface.

    Second point, audio calling on WhatsApp has not been unreliable as the article seems to suggest. Call quality has always been excellent with crystal clear audio and no lag or echo of any kind.

    Finally, for those of us concerned with Facebook's data mining, there's an equally good alternative - Telegram. Telegram tout security as their USP.

    Unfortunately, as crofford said, until Apple decides to make iMessage cross-platform, WhatsApp is the way to go. The whole world uses WhatsApp.

    The author makes a claim at the very end about iMessage being the more well-rounded robust solution. I am afraid my experience has been quite the opposite. It's WhatsApp that I believe is more well-rounded, sheerly in terms of ubiquity and working on practically every device out there; and more solid in terms of reliability. Again, that is just my experience. YMMV.

    Cheers
    "The whole world uses WhatsApp." Ummm, wrong! A significant part of the world is using a far superior service to WhatsApp - Wechat! WhatsApp is a total POS compared to WeChat. AI, let's get on the ball and compare these two third party apps. As to Wechat, best of all, it's not part of Facebook!
    with 89% of users in China, Wechat is nowhere except in one country.
    Back to the OP for messaging Whatsapp is "superior" due to its cross platform capabilities. iMessage is great but only via Apple products, by keeping it "inhouse" Apple drives people to use other sevices. in this case WhatsApp.
    gatorguy
  • Reply 19 of 45
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    cnocbui said:
    what's the value for Apple in giving android users iMessage? iMessage and other offerings are fringe benefits for Apple hardware owners. why would android users buy the cow if they have the milk for free?
    The point isn't about providing benefit to Android users, but providing benefit to Apple users so they don't have to lower themselves by having to use an inferior solution when they want or need to communicate with people on the other side of the barbed wire.
    I'm not buying it. I can use SMS or WA or Facebook messenger or Skype chat or any number of protocols. I  don't know what the quantifiable value is for me or Apple.
  • Reply 20 of 45
    Mr_GreyMr_Grey Posts: 118member
    You'd have to be foolish, desperate, or living in China to even consider using WhatsApp IMO.    
    magman1979bloodshotrollin'red
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