WhatsApp has five main tabs. The first, Favorites, is a list of your stored Contacts who also have a WhatsApp account, so you know who you can contact using the app. Next is Status, which lets you alert your contacts on whether or not it's a good time to chat. Contacts links to your entire contacts list stored in your iPhone; you can tap a contact and send them a WhatsApp invitation if you'd like to encourage more contacts to try the service.
Chats shows a log of all of your current chats, and it's also the place to go if you want to send a new message. Tap a conversation to continue chatting in that thread, or start a new message by tapping the box in the top-right corner. You can also broadcast a message to all of your WhatsApp contacts, or create a group chat.
Settings lets you configure your WhatsApp profile with an image and a username. It also contains settings for font size, message timestamps, how to handle incoming media, blocking users, and setting up a wallpaper.
Messaging itself is a pleasant experience. I enabled Push Notifications, so I get a ping whenever I have an incoming WhatsApp message. Messages have a similar layout to iMessages, with a staggering back-and-forth between each exchange. Your messages are on the right, while those of your chat partner are on the left. When you successfully send a message, you'll see a small checkmark next to its chat bubble; when you see a second checkmark, it indicates that it has been received and read by your friend on the other side. If you're actively having a conversation, you can see when the other person is typing.
WhatsApp handles multimedia messages really smoothly. You can capture a new photo or video to send (or pull one from your Camera Reel), send an audio note, share a contact, or share location. Location sharing is really handy for organizing a meet-up with friends.
I love the data/Wi-Fi only approach to WhatsApp, but of course that leaves me in a sticky spot when I'm in a place without a connection. I only wish there was a way to integrate the WhatsApp platform and approach with Messages as a whole.
Kik: just the basics
Kik has a unified inbox with friend requests, messages, and other notifications.
A close second is Kik Messenger, a messaging platform that lets you send notes to other Kik users. It's not as full-featured as WhatsApp, but is available on the same platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, and BlackBerry.
Kik requires your name, email address, and phone number, along with a username and password to get started. (Don't worry--your phone number and email address are kept private by default.) Upon install, Kik searches through your iPhone's contacts to find other Kik users for you to message with.
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