Instant messaging has long been one of the staples of the internet. The ability to instantly trade messages of text or pictures between people from any distance is pretty neat. Whether it’s friends, people from high school you haven’t see in forever, or family in a different state, instant messaging is an easy way to keep in touch with them.
The best part is that it’s only gotten easier over the past few years. What was once the sole province of AOL and AIM has now diversified into hundreds of different instant messaging services of varying cost and quality. Thankfully, a lot of those services have made their way to Android. Now, instant messaging is more preferable with some of the third-party apps available on Android.
So, if you’ve ever gotten tired of Google Talk, the stock instant messaging app, don’t worry. There are plenty of quality IM alternatives catering to a variety of different audiences. Which one is best really depends on what social networks you use. There’s an instant messenger for every network, though. Here are a few instant messaging apps that easily surpass the stock app.
This article is part of the Beat The Stock series that explores the best replacements for your stock apps. Other articles in this series include –
- Messaging (SMS) Apps
- Dialers and Contacts
- Web Browsers
- Music Players
- Video Players
- Instant Messengers (Currently viewing)
The Stock Instant Messaging App for Android – Google Talk
Google’s stock instant messenger bears all the usual hallmarks of an Android stock application. Everything works, but it’s still the bare minimum of functionality. All the shiny bells and whistles that you find on other apps is nowhere to be found in Google Talk.
It does, however, do a good job of talking to other Google users. Complain as I do about the dull user interface and graphics, Google Talk for Android is the ideal messenger client for trading text with your Gmail friends.
The downside is that it’s only for Gmail users. No Facebook integration here, Google+ users need only apply. It also only sends text, a stark contrast to other apps like Go SMS Pro which revel in sending all different types of media.
All in all, Google Talk is a competent app. Heavy Gmail users will undoubtedly find it useful, but everyone else won’t.
Best Alternative Instant Messaging Apps for Android
Kakao is kind of like the Skype of instant messaging. Download the app for Android or iPhone, make an account and you can send as many free messages as you’d like to other people. The messages have lots of handy options, too. You can send text, photos, or videos.
It’s a nice service. Kakao runs over WiFi or 3G and doesn’t require a real texting plan. Because of that, it can also run on iPod Touch and iPad. Cross-platform messaging is a go as well.
The only real disadvantage is that both people who want to have a conversation must have Kakao accounts, again like Skype. Still, it’s a well-built app and everything works. People looking for a good universal texting replacement won’t go wrong here. Just make sure your friends buy in as well.
This app says it all in the title. Download Yahoo! Messenger and talk to all your Yahoo! friends straight from your phone.
Although clearly targeted at Yahoo! users, Y! Messenger also integrates with Facebook to allow cross-platform chat. This is a much-appreciated addition, as Facebook has a wider audience that just Yahoo.
The messages themselves are very nice, too. Y! Messenger comes with lots of options for communicating via text, video, photo, emoticon, or even attached file. Not sure what’s up with that last option.
All in all, I’d recommend Yahoo! Messenger. Heavy Y! users will of course get the most value out of it, but the Facebook integration is a nice touch for everyone else too.
Download Yahoo! Messenger
No confusion about this app’s target audience. Facebook allows you to send private messages to other users. Facebook Messenger lets you send those notes right from your phone.
The app itself is dead simple. Just open it and you go straight to your inbox. I found replying to messages and reading new mail a breeze. Plus, the app flawlessly integrates with the official Facebook app.
Unfortunately, Facebook Messenger is limited by what private messages can actually hold (e.g. only text and pictures). No video messaging here. Still, Facebook users will find a lot to love here.
Download Facebook Messenger
Go! Chat kind of goes with Facebook Messenger because they aim for the same audience. As any Facebook user knows, you can communicate via private message or instant chat. Facebook Messenger does private messages, and Go! Chat handles the chat.
Give Go! Chat permission to access your personal info and it instantly starts working. Your friends are all listed out (by groups, no less). Tap one and you can start instantly messaging with them.
Go! Chat meets the standard of multiple messaging options (photos, video, file, voice messages, smileys, and text). That and a nice UI marred only by unsightly ads make for a very useable application.
The only real caution is that it’s completely targeted at Facebook users. Those of us whose friends have joined Zuckerburg’s army will like it, but of course it’s useless to Google+ fans. Perfect for Facebook users, not so much for anyone else.
Download Go! Chat
WhatsApp is more of a blend between texting and instant messaging. Messages to people in your contacts who also have WhatsApp are free, but the app also includes integration for normal texting. We have done a detailed WhatsApp review earlier.
In that sense, it’s somewhat like Kakao in that your friends have to get it as well for the service to really be useful. Still, WhatsApp has a good user interface and the integration of normal texting is an appreciated addition.
If your friends buy into WhatsApp, then I guess it would be nice. Recommended for those users, then.
Messenger WithYou (No longer available)
This one’s targeted more at the Windows Live crowd. It connects with your WL account and lets you message everyone in your MSN contacts. You can also message Yahoo! friends, oddly. Not sure why that was added, but no complaints. It’s a good feature.
The messaging system is up the standard set by Kakao and others. Text is of course an option, along with pictures, videos, and other files. There’s a 1mb file size limit, though, so make sure it’s a short video.
All in all, a well-built app that users of Windows Live and MSN will greatly enjoy.
Download Messenger WithYou
It’s much more difficult to crown a single “best alternative instant messaging” app because it really depends on the person. For example, if you don’t use Yahoo! then you probably won’t find Y! Messenger very helpful.
It really depends what social network you use most. Still, the good news is that no matter what network that might be, there is an app for it.