Whatsapp vs. Facebook Messenger: The New Kings Of IM

Vs Richard Goodwin 11:49, 23 Jul 2014

When it comes to IM options on your mobile, there’s never been more choice. But which – Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger – is best?

In case you missed it: Facebook just bought WhatsApp for $19 billion. Facebook – when you combine Messenger and WhatsApp – now controls around 79% of the IM market. Zuckerberg says Facebook won’t touch the look and feel of Whatsapp, so things are likely to stay the same for the foreseeable. He also confirmed that Messenger and Whatsapp will continue to co-exist as applications in their own right with little to no cross over. 

Think $19 billion is too much for an IM app? Below – via The Telegraph – is The Zuck himself explaining why his company decided to drop an absolutely unholy amount of money on a messaging application: 

"WhatsApp is a great company and it's a great fit for us. Already almost half a billion people love using WhatsApp for messaging. It's the most engaging app that we've ever seen that exists on mobile by far. About 70 per cent of people who use WhatsApp use it every day, which kind of blows away everything else that's out there."

What we see is that WhatsApp is on a path to connecting more than a billion people and there are very few services in the world that can reach that level and they're all incredibly valuable – The Zuck.

Facebook Messenger, like Whatsapp, is available on both Android and iOS. Messenger is free and does away with the need to be inside Facebook proper to use it. Google, Apple and BlackBerry – as well as Microsoft with Skype – all have some kind of IM offering on their books. But here we’ll be focusing on the big boys: Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger.

Why IM Is VERY Important

Traditional SMS is on borrowed time and in a couple of years everything will be done over data, the wheels for this change are already in motion. Whatsapp has a huge user base of active monthly users and processes some 18 billion messages a day, according to the company’s CEO Jan Koum.

BBM recently clocked up 20 million downloads across Android and iOS, and services like WeChat and Viber continue to grow. As 2013 moves into 2014 more and more people will begin ditching traditional SMS in favour of services like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and to a lesser extent BBM.

Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp?

Cost

Facebook Messenger is a free standalone application and is now available to download inside the App Store and Google Play. You login with your Facebook credentials but can also authorize the app with your phone number too in a similar vein to Whatsapp. This way you can access both your Facebook contacts and Phone contacts inside the application.

Whatsapp hates adverts. It absolutely despises them, so in order to generate revenue on mobile the company has adopted a rather more unique method of extracting cash from its users. Here’s the official line via Whatsapp. 

“For all phone types, WhatsApp is free to download and try for the first year. After, you have the option of extending your subscription for $0.99 USD per year.

Subscriptions are cumulative, so if you pay for an additional year of service, it will add to your current subscription or free year-long trial. There is no difference between the free and paid versions of WhatsApp other than the length of service.”

Verdict: Messenger is completely free, so in this context it wins. Although those already committed to Whatsapp aren’t going to be too bothered about paying a paltry 69p to continue using the service. Preference in this regard, as well as market penetration, will undoubtedly work in Whatsapp’s favour… at least for the time being.

UI

One area where Whatsapp really lets itself down is with design. It is functional but it does look dated and is in dire need of an extensive UI overhaul. Everything inside Whatsapp feels slightly cramped and looks a bit cheap and nasty, and that’s perfectly okay in the early days of an app, but Whatsapp has been around for years now and is bloody huge – a redesign is most definitely now required. 

Facebook Messenger is the exact opposite to Whatsapp. It looks slick as hell with its blue on white styling and intuitive user interface. The UI itself is broken up into three sections: Chat Logs (Clock Symbol), Contacts (Head Symbol), and Settings (Cog Symbol). 

Inside Contacts you have two options: Messenger and Active. “Messenger” contains people using the Facebook Messenger application, while the Active tab is reserved for people who are online but using the actual Facebook website chat client. 

Verdict: Facebook Messenger wins this round.

Features

Whatsapp:

  • Image
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Location
  • Contact – ability to send contact details to another Whatsapp contact

Facebook Messenger:

  • Image
  • Audio
  • Image Search – use Bing to search for images online for sharing in chat 
  • As it stands, Whatsapp is the more feature-rich IM client supporting video and the ability to send location updates to contacts. 

Verdict: Whatsapp wins

Overall

Which IM client you use on a day-to-day basis will largely be based on how invested you are in either Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger. Serial Whatsappers will likely take longer to be persuaded over to Messenger. Old habits die hard, and if you’ve got lots of groups and friends who exclusively use Whatsapp you’re not likely to switch allegiance over night.

Messenger does have nearly all the same features as Whatsapp and it does look a hell of a lot better, which will be a big draw for some users. Facebook still has a lot of work to do before it catches up with Whatsapp, but the advent of Messenger is a significant step forwards for the social network.

Even if you are a dedicated Whatsapp user, Messenger is definitely worth a look. I’ve been using both Whatsapp and Messenger side by side for a few days now and have yet to decide which is my personal favourite.

I prefer the way Messenger looks but feel more at home using Whatsapp as most of my close friends can be found on there. So for now, at least, I shall be straddling both worlds, waiting to see which service is eventually favoured by my nearest and dearest because, at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters when it comes to IM apps. 

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