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Top smartphone chat apps reviewed

Kate Russell's weekly review of the best apps and websites.

With so many chat apps vying for your attention how do you choose the right one? You will obviously be swayed by how many of your contacts you can reach with the platform, and smart voicemail service, Libon, has just added Open Chat to its free apps. It lets users send text, pictures, audio, location data and more to any of their contacts, no matter what messaging service they use.

Recently snapped up by Facebook for $19bn (£11.4bn), Whatsapp lets users send free text, image, voice, video and location data to other Whatsapp users. It is currently free for the first year, with a $0.99 annual subscription thereafter that lets the developers keep it advert-free.

The king of the multimedia chat apps in Asia is WeChat with around 250 million users. It is free on all leading platforms with similar features to Whatsapp but including voice and video calls. This app also uses QR codes to add contacts and set up group chats, which is an important feature for those writing in Chinese languages, which use thousands of characters rather than the Latin alphabet that the Western Qwerty keyboard is optimised for.

Another popular cross-platform service is Kik, with features similar to Whatsapp and WeChat. One big difference is that you do not need to share any personal details, such as phone number or email, to send a message. Instead you create a username, so it is perfect for connecting with people you might not want to be in contact with for ever, like on holiday or through a dating site.

For an alternative in the private messaging line-up there is BBM, which is now available on iOS and Android as well as Blackberry handsets and you share a Pin rather than your personal information.

If you are a total privacy freak, Telegram Messenger is one app that has been gaining a lot of traction lately. Messages between users are free and private, and you can initiate a secret chat, which heavily encrypts messages user-to-user with a unique key, to avoid interception by hackers or government snoops.

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  • 28 Mar 2014
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