We’re in the future. We have portable communicators (Star Trek, eat your heart out), we have a global network connecting everyone that we can access wirelessly (Neuromancer, pfft). But even with all the recent advancements in smartphone tech, our mobile phones are still that, devices for SMS and phone calls. These functions haven’t changed much in the last 20 years and maybe it’s time we see what else is available. In fact, we are now seeing a bevy of applications and services which provide the basic functions you love in a different form, or add more features to current systems.
iOS made pretty big with the introduction of iMessage, but other popular apps like Whatsapp have really leapt to the fore as ways to replace your SMS and MMS services. Allowing you to send text, emoticons, pictures, audio and video, Whatsapp is free to install and only costs US$0.99 per year (with the first year free). It also adds other features like group chat to expand upon the limitations of the humble SMS. This represents a huge change from traditional SMS and a huge saving over normal message costs. Many social mediums (Facebook, Twitter, Steam) also provide a way to keep in contact with your friends, compatriots and loved ones by instant message.
Skype has always been an awesome way to keep in touch with distant family by audio/video/messaging chat over computers. But now with the smartphone generation, Skype is available for free on Android, iOS and Windows Phone. It allows the same great functions you’ve loved, but you’re no longer paying the cost of a video or voice call.
One of the biggest advantages of these apps is you’re no longer paying the cost of a message or call, you’re simply paying the data usage charge to send data over the app. Aside from the added features that many apps bring most of them also allow a user to transmit their data over wifi. No longer is living in an area with bad mobile service the end to your mobile communications. Using wifi, whether at home, at work or out in public on a wifi hotspot, you can use these without even worrying about data charges.
The biggest downside to these is unlike traditional phone and SMS apps, there aren’t standards for interoperability so you may need to install a few different apps if some of your friends prefer Whatsapp while your family likes Skype and your co-workers are always on Steam.
With a recent drop in the number of SMS messages sent, it’s looking more like the time to investigate and check out replacements for the humble SMS or phone call.
Have you heard of any good “killer apps” for keeping in touch with friends and loved ones? Do you still send SMS messages or do you email to remind a co-worker about that memo and send Facebook invites for that pub lunch?