Friday, November 22, 2013

The New Tech Battleground: Messenger Apps

The way we communicate really isn't changing much these days. Text really is just text, after all right? Than why has the latest tech battleground returned to such familiar territory?

Right now the competitive landscape has never been greater with messaging services such as Kik, WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook messenger and the resurgent BlackBerry Messenger all jockying for position. So is SMS such a poor platform that it needs to be replaced or enhanced? Are our data plans that poor where looking for WiFi based alternatives is a must? I guess so! And if there is a true advantage to using a third party application for messaging surely the greatest success will be software that plays well on all platforms, right?

Here is my quick read on who is coming up, going down and sticking around.

Choices...Too Many Choices...

iMessage (Apple): Fantastic service which offers integration across all Apple hardware iPod, iPhone, iPad and Apple laptop and desktop configurations. The supreme benefit is being able to carry a text conversation from a mobile device to a seated desktop environment. In my life when committed to Apple products I found that this helped me rely less upon e-mail for work related conversations (as long as those I was communicating with were iMessage users as well). Also iMessage unlike SMS carries across WiFi which means I found myself utilizing the service on planes with in-flight data. Negatives? Does not carry outside of the Apple platform. While iMessage is going nowhere I would also say unless a bridge is created for products outside of Apple iOS that it will never be a full on solution.

BBM Messenger: BlackBerry is making headlines for the vast amount of downloads their app is receiving since becoming available for both Apple and Android. The success however still has BBM outside of the top 100 downloaded apps in the US which means a great deal of BBM's success is internation. My biggest beef with BBM is simple. Since your account is based on a unique PIN and not tied to your cell number it is difficult to find other "friends" to chat with on the service. Also their is no way to "geo-search" for say new friends to speak with which will also stunt its growth. I will watch BBM updates moving forward; if they can say ... fix either of these issues they will see traction for sure.

Kik Messenger: Kik is stable and available across Apple and Android devices. It's not available for BlackBerry and while Kik does attempt to tie to a cell number to bring your "friends" before you I have also found that a good number of randoms are offered as people I already know...which is disconcerting to say the least. It's a good interface but I think this is the one competitor that BBM could really place in their crosshares...only time will tell.

Facebook Messenger: While FB Messenger also is a quickly evolving I think most people see Messenger as strictly a text application. It's multimedia functions for file and pic sharing are limited to a degree in what others can offer. Also when it comes to privacy Facebook (for good/bad reason) has always been under the gun. Facebook is pushing like other apps to tie accounts into an index searchable by Cell phones...I think many may be reluctant to do so.

WhatsApp: While my personal experience with WhatsApp is limited it is an attractive interface that integrates with cellular numbers. It's also available over the three main platforms in my life: BlackBerry, Android and Apple. Right now I see WhatsApp continuing to improve and conquer in the Messaging landscape.

Surely there are others to talk about as well that do similar things to the aforementioned applications: Skype, Snapchat, Yahoo Messenger (RIP?), GroupMe and our geo-friendly meeting apps like Whoshere, Blendr (Badoo) and Skout all could arguably be used to communicate and share information with friends. I have left them out for I don't see them relevant as a full service media / text solution. Possibly I could be wrong with Skype, who knows. Truth is I think the greatest success will come from a platform that can offer text, data share, video chat, geo-search and contact search integration. To me that would be an all-in-one solution that we could all get behind all the while still enjoying the freedom to sit on several sides of the hardware fence (Andorid / Apple / BlackBerry / Windows).

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