You can enjoy instant connectivity even without a BlackBerry – and across platforms
BBM (or BlackBerry Messenger) is popular and cool. According to Ranjan Moses, carrier product manager, Research In Motion (RIM), India, it has over 55 million users worldwide and is one of BlackBerry’s most popular services.
“The reason for its popularity is its speed and reliability,” explains S.R. Raja, co-founder and president, Mobile Monday Bangalore, an NGO that tracks the mobile phone space. According to him, BlackBerry installs dedicated servers at service providers like Airtel and Vodafone which make the delivery of the message speedy, encrypted and reliable. “Since BBM is routed through your cellular network, it works even if your GPRS internet is down,” says Raja.
This capital expenditure, though, means BBM comes at a slight premium over other instant messaging services which use general infrastructure or the Internet. While data plans for BBM start from Rs. 129 for post-paid plans and Rs.5 for prepaid users, according to Moses, 2G data connections cost about Rs. 99 a month onwards or 10 paisa per 10 kb, making them a cheaper proposition. For most users, however, this premium is worth it since BBM messages are encrypted and reach almost instantly across the globe.
However, there’s one limitation to BBM. It’s not available across platforms. “BBM has better interface than other instant messaging services,” says Nikhil Sethi, a Delhi-based management consultant who bought a BlackBerry Pearl last year, “but my friends are mostly not on BlackBerrys”. Sethi is connected to only 15 of his friends through BBM on his BlackBerry. For the rest, he uses cross-messaging platforms like WhatsApp which work for most platforms—iPhone to Android, to Symbian. “WhatsApp directly takes all the contacts on my phone book and lists them in my chat list, so I can connect with them whenever I want without any PIN requirement.”
Raja sees this as the future of instant messaging where people use not one but many chat applications to be in touch with different groups of friends. “Users will not stick to one platform. They will use different applications for different sets of communities,” he says.
We look at the best free-to-use instant messaging apps for you to start experimenting. All you need is a data plan and a smartphone.
There’s no learning curve with Kik’s simple user interface, which has only two buttons—settings and message. After you create a login, you simply click the message icon and start messaging to your friends. Each message you send is encrypted and the user data is deleted from the Kik servers. You can see when the message is sent, delivered and when the other person is typing back to reply. It does not automatically take data from your phone book so you will have to go to settings in order to find friends. The messenger now also supports sending photos and group conversations. Like BBM, another good thing going for the app is that it has a developer relations section called “Apps that Kik”, wherein an app developer can connect their apps with the messaging app. So if you use ‘Angry Birds’ and it’s connected with Kik, your Kik contact list will know how many levels you have crossed. One issue in India is that not many people know about the app. Though the app has over 10 million users worldwide, it still has to work on its numbers in India.
Works on:Apple, Android, Blackberry, Windows 7
Have friends spread across all platforms and want to combine them all? Then choose to chat on Imo, which lets you sign in and chat on a number of different services—Google Talk, ICQ, Yahoo, Skype, MSN, Steam, Myspace and Hyves. It offers group chats, you can meet new people, and it saves your chat history. Plus, it allows instant voice messaging. If you don’t have the mobile handy, you can simply sign in and chat from a browser.
Works on:Apple, Android, Blackberry, Nokia Ovi
Yoke Messenger has a cheerful, cartoon-inspired user interface. You can add your friends’ birthdays through the app and you will get notifications when one is due.