Google Allo, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Telegram, Hike, WeChat, Line: How many messaging apps do you really need in your life? The list is endless, and don’t forget Google Hangouts still exists. But it’s safe to assume most of our interactions are now taking place on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, at least on smartphones. After all both of these apps have 1 billion users each. And now there’s Google Allo, entering a crowded market space.
The idea with Google Allo is simple: Have a mobile number based login, rather than one linked to an email. The app can understand phrases in English and Hinglish. Both Allo and Duo which is the video-calling only app, are geared towards a market like India where instant messaging apps are booming and will only grow bigger.
So how does Allo stand out from the rest of the apps? Is it really better than WhatsApp? Or Facebook Messenger? We explore the differences in the all the apps.
Google Allo: The USP for Google Allo is that it can do a lot more than regular messaging apps. Google Assistant combines the power of search, machine learning to pitch results that are accurate, and scarily so. You can pull the Google Assistant in the middle of a chat, ask it to look up restaurants close by, or movie timings for later in the evening, or just play a game with the Assistant. The app also gives auto-suggestions for replies.
It’s also ahead of WhatsApp in offering support for Stickers and the ability to draw on photos and videos (Android only). Along with Gboard on iOS, a user can also send GIFs on Allo. There’s also an Incognito chat mode for end-to-end encryption and the chats disappear after sometime. A user can tweak the expiration time for each message in this Incognito mode. Groups chats are also supported on the app and a user can send an SMS for free to those who don’t have the Allo app. These replies from an SMS also come inside Allo.
The drawback: There are privacy concerns since this is not an end-to-end encrypted app and Google is storing all your chats with Google Assistant on their servers. From a privacy perspective the app is not so so perfect. Also Google Allo doesn’t support file-sharing like say WhatsApp or Telegram yet.
WhatsApp: WhatsApp Messenger’s biggest plus is that it’s end-to-end encrypted by default. So on WhatsApp your messages can’t be read by a third-party by WhatsApp or even Facebook. Once you delete the message it is truly gone forever. WhatsApp also support voice-calling on the app itself. It also has support for sharing from third-party apps like Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud and you can upload files from here into your messages.
WhatsApp plans to get stickers, scribbling on photos, etc pretty soon as well, according to the latest Android Beta files. In iOS, WhatsApp is integrated with Siri, and the voice-assistant can send messages or make voice-calls directly on the app. WhatsApp is also planning to launch services on the app and you’ll soon have your bank or airline messaging you on it.
The drawback: WhatsApp has recently announced a big policy change where it will start sharing information with Facebook which is its parent company. A user can opt out of this feature, and while no information will be ‘posted on’ Facebook, other information like phone number, device used, etc will be shared with the social media giant in order to improve ads on the website.
Facebook Messenger: Facebook Messenger also has over 1 billion monthly users, and the app already supports voice and video-calling feature. Facebook Messenger will automatically show all your Facebook friends in the contact lists. A user can also sync their mobile number with the app, and give it access to their SMS app as well.
However any requests from people who are not on your friends list end up in a separate ‘Message Requests’ folder on the app. A user has the option of accepting or declining these requests. The app also supports GIFs, Stickers as well and you can even scribble on photos before sending to them to someone.
Facebook is also betting on chatbots for Messenger and looking to integrate more services inside the app.
The drawback: Facebook Messenger doesn’t support end-to-end encryption by default; it will have a separate Secret Conversation mode which will do so and the messages will get deleted after sometime. But that’s yet to roll out. And just like Google Allo, regular conversations in the app are not end-to-end encrypted.
Also the chatbots have so far not been a great success, and there’s a fear they’ll be too spammy.
Telegram: Telegram is one app that gained a lot of users and attention after Facebook bought over WhatsApp. Telegram supports end-to-end encryption but only in the Secret Chat mode, although it says all chats are encrypted by default on its servers.
Telegram’s big features are the ability to share heavy files (upto 1 GB supported) and formats like MP3, MP4, etc. Users can also add over 5000 members in a SuperGroup. Telegram also has public channels where people can broadcast stuff to the general public. There’s also the ability to send stickers, photos, etc on Telegrams and it has support for bots as well.
The drawback: Telegram’s Secret chat, which is an end-to-end encrypted feature, is not a default one. A user has to open a separate secret chat and then set a time limit on the messages, after this they expire, and are deleted.
Snapchat: The app once known for sexting between teens has come a long way, and is now the one that everyone is copying. From drawing on photos to face filters to Stories and Messages that disappear after 24 hours, Snapchat has everyone’s interest.
Snapchat lets users share stories with a bunch of followers, and videos (up to 10 seconds) instantly. The videos can be edited as you shoot them to add annotations, text, emojis, even a face filter as you’re recording it live. A user can also follow other important Snapchatters and see their stories as they post them. Discover tab has content created specially for Snapchat, which is usually videos or image-based articles.
On the messaging side, Snapchat lets you make video calls, send stickers, pictures, photos, to your friends on the app.
The drawback: Snapchat’s complicated design means not everyone can figure out the app, and it takes a while finding all the new features. Snapchat is also not end-to-end encrypted and messages are stored on the company’s servers for 30 days before they are deleted.