With the introduction of Android 4.4 KitKat, Google replaced its default SMS app with Google Hangouts. Some users were left wholly indifferent, while others were left harbouring less than positive feelings for Mountain View's decision. Luckily, the open nature of Android lets everyone that has a beef with Google+ and Hangouts seek out an alternative messaging app, and it just happens that the market is so full of choice!
We've rounded up nine messaging apps that do SMS, chats, email, audio and video conferencing, along with almost everything else in-between. Some of them offer complete functionality for the price of free, others have paid features, and there are some that give up certain functionality in exchange for extended privacy and data protection. Whatever you might be looking for, chances are you will find it here. And if it isn't there, it might be up to you to devise your own messaging start-up!
9 alternatives to Google Hangouts
9 alternatives to Google Hangouts
The browser-based appear.in has a delightfully simple premise. First, open the website at http://appear.in. Then, enter a name for your conversations room, and hit "create!" The site will generate a link to the room. Copy it and send it to the people you'll be chatting with. When they click the link, they will simply appear in the room you created. There is no registration or download requirements - the link is all you need. For the security conscious, appear.in uses P2P communication, which means that video streams are shared between you and other people in the chat while nothing is stored on a server.
vLine works on the same principles as appear.in. Touting a basic "copy&paste video chat" philosophy, vLine is free, supports multi-party chats, has Always On functionality, and runs in the browser.
Slack is a complete solution for team communication that seems to offer everything and then some: multi-party chat with photos and videos; sync across different devices; cloud storage integration; notifications; remembering conversation history; searching inside messaging threads; file manager. And since you'll probably ask, Slack is free to use for as long as you want and with an unlimited amount of people.
HipChat is a no less complete alternative to both Google Hangouts and Slack. In addition to fully-fledged conversations and file-sharing support, it features 256-bit SSL encryption, 150+ emoticons, Secure Guest Access with complete control over what your guests are seeing, and cross-platform support that stretches across Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS.
Hall is used by companies such as Amazon and JC Penney, for reasons including group and private chat support, sync across devices, encryption of data to and from the Hall cloud, cloud storage integration, notification center, and more. It's free for personal use, while business use costs $8 per user a month.
Currently available for Android and iOS, Telegram has been making waves as one of the most security-conscious messaging apps on the market. Taking protection of users' private data to heart, it relies on a custom data protocol which is open, secure, and optimized. Telegram supports two layers of secure encryption, 256-bit symmetric AES encryption, RSA 2048 encryption, and Diffie-Hellman secure key exchange. It makes sense that its makers are offering $200 000 to anyone that's able to decipher Telegram messages. An app for the truly paranoid without being overly paranoid, Telegram doesn't support group video or cloud storage integration, but group and private chats are among its many abilities. Its open platform will also make it possible for enterprising developers to come up with a secure group messenger spin-off.
WeChat basically has it all, and gives it all for free. For starters, its cross-platform support includes prehistoric oddities such as Symbian and BlackBerry OS 5.0 devices. It's many features include Live Chat, which is another way to say "conference calling", Group Chat with QR code, Chat History Backup, Video Calls, Moments for sharing spontaneous photographs, Look Around for discovering nearby users using geo-location, and Drift Bottle, which emulates messages stuck in glass bottles that drift across the ocean of cyberspace. What, you thought there's no app for that?
Voxeet prides itself on sound quality. It is said to make group conference calls with an experience so natural, it feels like everyone's in the same room. There's also "speaker recognition", which puts VU meters next to participating speakers' avatars so you know who's talking all the time. Voxeet, which is available on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android, takes group conferencing very seriously, which shows in features such as One-Click Conferences, Virtual Conference Room, Contact Management, Scheduling Made Simple, and plenty more. However, to get the best of it, you will have to wear headphones. Voxeet's free version supports HD conference calls with up to 8 participants.
Coming out of Japan, Line is already a massive hit in and out of its homeland. Available on Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Nokia Asha, Windows Phone, and Firefox OS, the messenger supports real-time voice and video calls and chats, photo and video sharing, voice messages, subscribing to news feeds, user time-lines, and 10-second videos.