Beyond email, how many other ways can you send messages to other people? Well, for the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, there’s Messages, which doubles up as standard SMS text messaging from iPhone to other smartphones with text messages.
Beyond Messages, and, in an approximate order of popularity and usage, are these instant messaging apps– WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, Skype, QQ, Snapchat, Viber, Line, Wire, Telegram, Signal, and then many, many others; only a few of which work on macOS, too.
iPhone. Android. Desktop.
My wife and I own iPhones so we use Messages because it does text messages pretty much everywhere. But we also have Skype, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and have dabbled with Line, Wire, Telegram, WeChat, and a few other– because all friends and family members are not created equal.
For moments of more intimate privacy, and just between the two of us and nobody else, we often use KakaoTalk because the alerts always show up on iPhone and Watch at the same time (something Messages does not). KakaoTalk is from Korea and works on Mac and Windows PCs, as well as iPhone and Android phones. The app is free and features messages, emoji, and voice and video calls.
KakaoTalk is kind of our personal messaging app. There are features we don’t use, including the chat rooms, and file sharing. We don’t care how secure it is because we don’t say anything worth tracking or hacking but we want a degree of privacy beyond Messages.
Toward the more secure end of the scale is Signal; a very secure instant messaging app that gets Whistleblower Edward Snowden’s seal of approval. Signal uses end-to-end encryption, works in groups as chat, and lets you share files online. And, yes, Signal does voice and video calls. It’s available for free for iPhone and Mac (Android and Windows, too).
Most of the text messaging apps listed above are encrypted in one manner or another, but there are holes and Lily Hay Newman rummages through the list of the good, the bad, and a few ugly ones.
Do you need yet another instant messaging app?
That’s a fair question to ask, though I suspect the vast majority of iPhone and Android smartphone users don’t care and use Messages and SMS text messaging and don’t worry about anything else. Criminals, hackers, government spooks, and Trump administration officials may prefer apps with even stronger security.
Not all instant messaging platforms are created equal. Just look at Messages as a platform. Apple has perhaps 1-billion users on Messages and with Animoji, SMS text message capability, and high security– not to mention mostly seamless integration between devices– it’s not going away and for those of us who care, we now have to manage multiple messages applications.
Is that a sufficient price to pay for enhanced security and convenience?
I think so.