The software uses a handset’s Wi-Fi or a mobile data connection to send messages containing text, pictures, audio or video files to other WhatsApp users. WhatsApp is available for devices running Google Android (although not the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 as we discovered) as well iPhones, Nokia handsets and BlackBerry’s. There’s no limit on the number of messages that can be sent, or the amount of characters that can be used. This means those with a mobile tariff with unlimited mobile data or a Wi-Fi network in regular reach, can save money on SMS and MMS.
The app is free for Android users to download but after a year you’ll be charged $1.99 (£1.25). Although on some other platforms you must pay for the app outright, but it’s a small one-off fee (69p on iPhone for example).
We found WhatsApp was very easy to use. As soon as the app is launched, the main Chats screen that shows all the conversations between the smartphone owner and other WhatsApp users is displayed. To read or reply to any of these messages simply tap the message. A text box is located at the bottom of the screen, pressing on it allows the user to start typing their message. Meanwhile, to attach images, video or audio to a message, simply press the menu button and select attach. Once the type of file to be attached has been identified, the user will be able to trawl the handset looking for the file. To read previous messages, simply scroll up or down on the screen.
Contacts don’t need to be manually added either. The app accesses the smartphone’s phone book and identifies other WhatsApp users, then adds them to the contact list automatically.
A tick appears next to the let-hand side of the message when it has been sent, while a second tick indicates it’s been received by the recipient. We loved the fact there’s a group chat function, and a social element that ensures a status can be posted and appears underneath a user’s name in the Contacts list. There are a range of defaults that can be used such as Available’ or ‘Busy’ but there’s also the ability for the user to write whatever they want. The app can also be customised to use different ringtones for when WhatsApp messages are received