Instant messaging

Instant messaging is quickly becoming a more popular alternative to the traditional SMS text message. So we've rounded up five of the best mobile apps for keeping you connected when you're out and about (or just on the sofa).

Although most mobile tariffs come with plenty, or unlimited text messages, instant messaging can very a great alternative – particularly if you are abroad and want to avoid roaming costs.

See also: 5 of the best apps for travel on smartphones and tablets.

Many of these apps offer video calling on top of messaging but we'll be focusing on the text-based side of things here.

Skype logoSkype

Now owned by Microsoft, Skype is so well known for video messaging that it has verb status. However, the app can be used for sending and receiving text messages. There are two major advantages that Skype has to offer – it's free (for instant messaging) and it's available on every major mobile platform giving large amounts of freedom. The app works of Wi-Fi and a mobile data connection and is also supported on PC, Mac, some home phones and even TVs. As well as messages you can also send files. Skype really is the messaging app to beat.

Price: Free

Available on: Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and Windows 8.

Skype on Android tablet

Viber logoViber

Viber supports even more mobile platforms than Skype including Symbian and Bada, although there's no Modern UI app for Windows 8. It's free and there are no ads which is great from a user point of view. You can share photos, videos and locations. You can even paint a doodle or draw over photo before sending it. Groups of up to 40 people can have a conversation and, whether you like them or not, there are both emoticons and stickers. The app handily syncs with your contact list, detecting which have Viber.

Price: Free

Available on: Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Symbian and Bada.

Viber on Windows Phone

WhatsApp logoWhatsApp

Like the others, WhatsApp is free to download but has in-app purchases. You can use the app totally free for the first year but from then on you'll have to pay 65p per year. This isn't much but it makes it less attractive than its fully free rivals. Like Viber, WhatsApp uses your phone contacts and displays the ones which have the app installed. However, it does use the phone number associated to your SIM so you can't use it on multiple devices. This does mean that you don't have to log in and the app will save messages offline.

Price: Free with in-app purchases.

Available on: Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Nokia S40 and Symbian.

WhatApp on iPhone


One of BlackBerry's main selling points for its phones has been BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). At the time of writing BBM is still limited to BlackBerry handsets but will soon be launched on Android and iPhone. This big move warrants it a place in this round-up as it will be the first time the popular service is cross-platform. As well as text messaging, you can send photos, voice notes and videos files. You can even share your screen or the view from your camera if so should wish to do so. The Android and iPhone apps will start with messaging with other features to follow.

Price: Free

Available on: BlackBerry, iOS and Android.

BBM on BlackBerry

Facebook MessengerFacebook Messenger

If you use Facebook then you'll almost certainly use and reply on it to keep in touch with your friends. Although messaging is available in the normal Facebook app, Facebook Messenger gives you a dedicated space for having those private chats. The messages you send will go to the main web Facebook so your friends don't even need the app. Chat Heads are a useful way of keeping track of your conversations and allowing you to continue messaging while using other apps. Like its rivals, you can send photos, location and things like stickers.

Price: Free

Available on: Android, iOS and Android.

Facebook Messenger on Android

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