30 December 2020

The best instant messaging apps of 2021


Written by

Faye Chong, Digital Marketing Executive @ Novocall

Baker and dog enthusiast.


Instant messaging apps have revolutionized the way we communicate.

And messaging apps aren’t just used to text friends and family.

Businesses have started using messaging apps to engage with customers and connect with them on a more personal level. And this will be even more apparent in the coming year. 

But before we get down to the list of best messaging apps, let’s run through the basics.

What is an instant messaging app?

Instant messaging (IM) refers to real-time online communication that connects two or more people. 

Instant messaging apps facilitate session-based exchanges of text, audio, video communication, and files. Because most of these apps are free to use, communicating with one another has become easier and more cost-effective.

Over the decades, the rise of messaging apps has skyrocketed. In 2020, there are 2.7 billion mobile phone messaging app users worldwide, and this number is projected to increase to 3 billion by 2022.

Must-have messaging app features

The number of instant messaging apps out there can be overwhelming. But before you hit that download button, we’ve compiled a list of features that you should take note of!

End-to-end encryption

With the sheer amount of data shared via messaging apps, data protection and privacy has been a concern for many users. 

That’s why messaging apps implement end-to-end encryption.

This technology applies encryption to messages on one device so that only the device to which the message is sent can decrypt it. Your messages are secured with a ‘lock’ and only you and the recipient have the ‘key’ to unlock them.

In other words, end-to-end encryption ensures that only you and the person you're communicating with can read what is being sent. This includes photos, videos, voice messages, documents, and calls.

If your messages are end-to-end encrypted, it’ll be impossible for a third party to intercept and read your messages (even the app provider itself!). And for businesses, this is extremely important if your clients will be sharing personal information such as their home address or phone number.

Scheduled messages

Scheduled messages allow users to plan weekly or monthly reminders and automatically send them at a specified time in the future. This means that you no longer have to manually send messages at a given time.  

Schedule messages in Telegram.

With this feature, businesses can send posts such as payment reminders and product launch updates at a specified date and time. 

Group Chat

Different from a 1-to-1 private conversation with a recipient, group chats are messages sent in a group of 3 or more people. Conversations in group chats are visible to all members of the group, and members can join in the conversation whenever.

Businesses can use the group chat function to create exclusive communities where messages can be shared quickly with multiple people at once.

Ecommerce features (e.g. Bots)

As I mentioned, businesses have also begun using instant messaging apps. So why not look at a feature that’s beneficial to businesses as well?

Bots can help to simplify and streamline tasks.

For example, bots can be used to automate answering. This means that businesses can use bots to help engage with customers and answer simple questions before a real person takes over the conversation.

This is especially useful when there’s a high influx of messages coming in and reps are unable to handle all conversations at once.

Creating a bot in the Telegram app.

Aside from automatic answering, bots can also be used to send updates about the weather, share useful news articles, and even schedule reminders.

Broadcast/Announcements

Broadcast features allow businesses to send a single message to multiple users without the need to send it to each individual recipient.

 An example of broadcast messaging in WhatsApp.

Unlike group messages, message broadcasting ensures that everyone on the recipient list receives the message directly into a 1-to-1 chat. They might not know who the other recipients of the same message are.

With this feature, users would be able to send a single message to multiple users without sending it to them individually. Messaging broadcasting is not like group messages as the recipients receive the message as a non-group message. They also don’t know about the other recipients of the same message.

Top 10 instant messaging apps of 2020

Without further ado, let’s dive into the top 10 messaging apps!👇


WhatsApp

To date, WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app with 2 billion active users on a monthly basis. Like most messaging apps, it is free to download on all mobile devices. With almost 8.2 billion messages exchanged on a daily basis in 2013, WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014. Aside from sending texts, photos, and voice messages, WhatsApp also has built in call and video chat features. 

End-to-end encryption: Yes

Scheduled messages: No

Group chat: Yes

E-commerce features (eg. Bots): Only on WhatsApp Business

Broadcast feature: Yes


Facebook Messenger

In 2011, Facebook introduced its very own instant messaging platform, Messenger. With 20 billion messages exchanged monthly, Messenger is one of the most popular messaging apps. To use Messenger, you must first have a Facebook account to communicate with other Facebook users. You can send text, photos, emojis, GIFs, and stickers. Messenger allows users to integrate chatbots and also has call and video chat features.

End-to-end encryption: No, unless “secret conversations” are enabled.

Scheduled messages: Yes

Group chat: Yes

E-commerce features (eg. Bots): Yes

Broadcast feature: Yes, but through subscription messaging, promotional broadcasts, and follow-up broadcasts.

 

LINE

LINE is a Japan-based, cross-platform mobile messenger app. It has dominated the Asian market, specifically Thailand and its home country, Japan. LINE boasts about 164 million monthly active users. Other than the standard messaging function, the app also offers voice calls and video chat. LINE users can send and receive money, network, or play games. The app also has its very own stickers called “LINE Characters”. 

End-to-end encryption: Yes

Scheduled messages: No

Group chat: Yes

E-commerce features (eg. Bots): Yes

Broadcast feature: Yes


Telegram

Telegram is a cloud-based messaging app known for its user privacy, message encryption, and delivery speeds. In 2020, it is reported that there are over 400 million monthly active users worldwide. Its key features include creating group chats with 200,000 participants and animated stickers. Telegram also has an open API, which means that users are free to build their own unofficial apps for use with the service. 

End-to-end encryption: Yes

Scheduled messages: Yes

Group chat: Yes

E-commerce features (eg. Bots): Yes

Broadcast feature: Yes

WeChat

Dominating the Chinese market, WeChat has about 913.3 million users worldwide. Aside from its messaging functionality, it also serves as a social media app and a digital payment method. What makes WeChat different from other messaging apps is that you can call landlines and mobile numbers, which allows WeChat users to call those who don’t have the app. 

End-to-end encryption: No

Scheduled messages: No

Group chat: Yes

E-commerce features (eg. Bots): Yes

Broadcast feature: Yes


Viber

Viber is a social chatting app with over 1 billion users. Aside from sending text messages, stickers, and emojis, Viber allows users to make video calls, voice calls, and share photos. You can like and reply to certain messages in group conversations, and send short video messages. Also, an additional feature called Viber Out allows users to make international and domestic calls at low rates.

End-to-end encryption: Yes

Scheduled messages: No

Group chat: Yes

E-commerce features (eg. Bots): Yes

Broadcast feature: Yes


IMO

IMO is a free video, voice, and chat app that lets you talk to your contacts 1-on-1 or in groups. You can connect with people who you don’t know by turning on your location settings. IMO allows you to share video broadcasts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Like most other messaging apps, you can also share photos, files, and stickers.

End-to-end encryption: Yes

Scheduled messages: No

Group chat: Yes

E-commerce features (eg. Bots): No

Broadcast feature: No


KakaoTalk

KakaoTalk is the most popular text messaging app used in South Korea with over 52 million active users worldwide. It is free to download on all mobile devices and is available in 15 different languages. Other than serving its functionality as a messaging platform, you can play games and make online payments with KakaoTalk. It has also become a popular messaging platform because of its wide range of stickers and emoticons. 

End-to-end encryption: Yes

Scheduled messages: No

Group chat: Yes

E-commerce features (eg. Bots): Yes

Broadcast feature: No


Signal

Signal is frequently recommended as a WhatsApp alternative. Similar to Telegram, it is known for its chat encryption and security. It supports texts, voice calls, group messages, and sending files. Signal allows you to edit your media within the app, send stickers and emojis. 

End-to-end encryption: Yes

Scheduled messages: No

Group chat: Yes

E-commerce features (eg. Bots): No

Broadcast feature: No

Wire

Wire is a collaboration app that gives its users encrypted voice calls, video calls, and messaging. A key feature of Wire that makes it stand out is that users can register for Wire with their email address. This gives peace of mind to those who prefer not to give away their phone number. You can also share and collaborate with files, documents, and links with emoji reactions.

End-to-end encryption: Yes

Scheduled messages: Yes

Group chat: Yes

E-commerce features (eg. Bots): No

Broadcast feature: No

Choose the right instant messaging app

With many options out there, which messaging app is the right one for you? 

As we always say, it depends. Because it really does! 

Aside from the must-have features, we listed above, you should also use an app that your customers frequently use and one that supports your business goals. 

But why limit yourself to using just one app to communicate with your customers? With NovoChat, you can link multiple platforms on one single dashboard. Keep track of all your conversations without having to toggle between different messaging apps. 

To find out more about how NovoChat can help you, schedule a call with us today!