WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are currently the king and queen of instant messaging apps, and they could soon merge into one now that Facebook owns WhatsApp. If you're not keen on that idea, now's the time to start preparing by trying out some WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger alternatives and encouraging your friends to join you. Here are 5 of our favourite instant messaging apps that let you send messages, photos and videos for free. See also: 200 best Android apps for everything
What is an instant messaging app?
There are a huge number of apps available for smartphones that utilise the handset's WiFi and 3G/4G connection to send messages, pictures, video and voice clips to other smartphone users. They can potentially save you money, as if you have unlimited data in your mobile phone package or are regularly connected to WiFi, you can use them instead of traditional messages which your operator can charge you for, particularly if they feature images or videos.
Many these instant messaging apps are cross platform, too, so you're not limited to only talking to friends that have the same phone as you.
See also: What are the two blue ticks in WhatsApp?
5 WhatsApp & Facebook Messenger alternatives
Available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone, Kik is steadily growing in popularity as a solid WhatsApp rival. It began life in 2010 and by November 2013 it has 100M users.
What's different about Kik is that, in addition to allowing you to send messages, photos, videos and more for free via your web connection, it also offers a built-in browser. It's username-based, so you don't need to have the phone number of the person you're chatting with, but that can cause problems with bots and spammers.
Kik recently purchased GIF Messenger 'Relay', so we're expecting further features to arrive as a result of that acquisition in the near future.
Currently extremely popular in China, WeChat is another good WhatsApp alternative. Like WhatsApp, WeChat requires your phone number rather than a username, and then send messages, share photos, locations and more. You can also use WeChat for video and audio calls as an alternative to Skype or FaceTime.
WeChat is available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry.
Another app that allows free voice and video calls in addition to messaging features is Line, which works across iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry, as well as online on your PC or Mac.
There's also a Facebook-like timeline feature and a 10-second video clip tool, as well as the ability to make free audio and video conference calls with multiple users of the app.
Users of Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Phone should also consider Viber, which is another messenger service that is growing in popularity. It's now owned by Rakuten, the company behind Play.com.
As with the other apps listed here, you can use Viber to send text, pictures and videos, and you can also use it for voice calling if you're using an Android, iOS or Blackberry device.
The final messenger app in our list is Tango, which again offers one to one and group chat for sending video, pictures and text messages, and it also lets you make video and voice calls over 3G, 4G and WiFi.
It's got a bit more of a social element to some of the others, though, allowing you chat to nearby Tango users if you choose to.
Tango also offers brand channels, a Spotify-powered Music feature and a games feature.
Tango is available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Kindle and Windows.