WhatsApp has been around for a while now. In my sphere of friends, colleagues and family members it used to be something a few people used every now and then for perhaps contacting their friends abroad. It was cheaper than texting a foreign number, and the result was pretty much the same.
Although there’s plenty of other options around, the Facebook-owned service seems to have experienced a meteoric rise in popularity of late. It seems, in a way, that people are gradually choosing this a new default messaging app which suits their needs.
Based on my own experiences, things are definitely changing. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a certain range of people who contact me on Skype messaging, and a few who use Google Hangouts plus some who prefer the now “old school” method of an actual SMS text message
So what’s happened here? I get a gerzillion text messages as part of my monthly bundle. I can send a text, send another and another. Even weirder, all mobile phones can send and receive text messages. No apps needed. No special smartphone. Even some crummy old Nokia from 1997 can do it.
Why are people moving ?
Well, put simply. I think a lot of it is due to the networks charging stupid amounts for picture messages. At the moment, if you’re on giffgaff, you’ll be paying 16p to send an MMS- aka picture message. This is one of the cheapest prices amongst the various networks too.
If you’re looking at your next contract and thinking of moving you’ll probably never see picture messages being included in the allowance. Texts, calls and data – yes. Picture messages? No way.
But it’s something we want. Perhaps we don’t realise it in a way because we’ve not had much of an option. Until the likes of WhatsApp arrived you’ll have probably only sent a picture message on a special occasion – perhaps the birth of a baby or a wedding. However, when networks like EE charge 40p per MMS you’re going to get a big bill if you send one message to all your friends and family.
Worst of all? The picture quality is bloody terrible. Not only that, but some people might not have it setup properly and they might get the infamous, “Unable to download message” notification. Perhaps you have to go to some mad login page on the web. Perhaps there’s some mad password that you have to transfer from your phone to some crummy webpage. It’s a mess.
Yet, until fairly recently, people would either have to email an image or send a crummy low-quality picture which was no better than a thumbnail. Send 10 of those to your friends and family and you’re adding £4 to your bill.
£4 to send a few thumbnail messages? In 2015? Are you nuts?
Sure, there’s stacks of apps out there to get around this, but not everyone has them installed and if they do it’s different to the one you use. Should you install two or three different ones just to send a picture message? Well, I tried that for a bit, but now I’ve noticed more and more people asking if I’m on WhatsApp, and that seems to be way ahead in the popularity stakes at the moment. Why? Why WhatsApp? There’s plenty of other services, but somehow this is the one we’re all defaulting to.
It’s surprising, because with so much choice I never honestly thought that one would become this popular. Remember MSN Messenger back in the day? That was on everything. I remember it on a Pocket PC. Getting to that level of popularity is difficult for any messaging app, especially in such a crowded and competitive marketplace, yet I’m finding that even my most techno-fobe friends are asking me if I’ve got WhatsApp.
The main benefit, at least for me, is the fact that I can send pictures to everyone for nothing. OK, so it’s cutting a tiny slice out of my monthly data allowance, but I can send 10 pictures of beer to my mate without paying £4 for the privilege.
WhatsApp has a bunch of other features to of course. I can send audio recordings, which seems really popular in some countries – it’s like a walkie-talkie conversation. Group chats can be initiated too, which is great for arranging nights out or even participating in local interest groups. There’s a web interface, you can send videos, locations and you can also call via the t’internet too. Brilliant if you’re trying to communicate with people in other countries, plus it’s great for sending endless abusive messages to your mates and family.
Now I’m at the stage where most of my mates, colleagues and family aren’t using Facebook Messenger or Google Hangouts or Viber or Skype – they’re on the ad free (and cost free for the first year) WhatsApp.
The same thing happened with video calling. Here in the UK I was doing video calling in 2004. Everybody thought it was going to be the next big thing, but it wasn’t until Apple rammed it down everyone’s throat for free that it became a properly popular thing.
Networks. Learn from this. Don’t charge stupid amounts for crap services, because customers will always find a better alternative.