It seems that everybody is talking about WhatsApp right now. The instant messaging app appears to be everywhere and it’s hard not to take a stroll down the street and finding someone using its services. In just a couple of years, this app became the staple of modern communications, serving millions of people around the world and breaching the gap between them and their friends. By providing an almost free way of sending texts to friends and family, this tool caught everyone’s attention and quickly rose to the top.
You could say that WhatsApp was to SMS what Skype was to landlines back in the day (and you wouldn’t be wrong). In other words, the app transcended the “geek ghetto” and got out in the open, where people that hadn’t heard from mobile IM before started using it as the default option. This kind of phenomena happens a lot in the digital world: a certain software offers a nifty feature, some people start using it and recommending it, suddenly more people is using it and before you realize it, the tool is the undeniable default.
And though this can be a deserving reward for an innovative developer, this almost always mean that a more sophisticated or complete tool in the same field is being overlooked. It’s not fair and I don’t know why this happens. But we owe it to ourselves to be in constant search of alternatives that can lead us to better services. This is especially true in a field like mobile IMs, a market that’s been flooded with options. So, since I won’t be taking for granted that the default option in anything is the best, I’m going to keep looking for alternatives.
That’s why today I’m starting a more direct head-to-head comparison between WhatsApp and its competitors to see if the default option chosen by the majority really holds its ground when put against a similar tool. In this article, I’ll be comparing WhatsApp to Hike Messenger, India’s response to this phenomenon and an old acquaintance of ours. Let’s see what were the results.
A year ago it would have been a little more difficult to talk about the “basic offer” of an mobile ins ant messaging app. There still was the need to define what “basic” really meant. Today, we already know what to expect from this kind of tools: free texts between contacts over a 3G/4G or Wi-Fi connection, voice calls and emoticons. All of these are present in both WhatsApp and Hike Messenger but they are included in slightly different ways.
While WhatsApp has a more traditional approach to these features (meaning that it reminds us of the typical desktop messengers we used for years), Hike takes a few notes from other mobile IMs and includes a more varied offer. This especially true when talking about emoticons and stickers and sharing voice clips. The former ones are obviously inspired on LINE’s success with them while the latter feature is just an adapted concept from the walkie talkie era.
There’s another crucial difference in these basic features: the people you are able to message with both apps. WhatsApp works exactly as you can anticipate: it integrates with your device’s address book and let you send texts to any of your contacts as long as they have the app installed on their devices. Hike, on the other hand, integrates with the address book too, but it let you send message to anyone in there, not just the ones that have Hike on their phones. This is a great function and it’s probably Hike’s way to deal with the (lack of) popularity.
As for the rest of the features, they all work in the same way both in WhatsApp and Hike. These include the possibility to start group chats and the ability to share multimedia files over a conversation, features that work flawlessly in both apps.
Mobile instant messengers aren’t known for their extras, simply because people have grown accustomed to the options and tools defined by the default option (AKA WhatsApp). But of course, all of the alternatives that wish to dethrone it must offer something extra that tempts users to abandon a well-established and widely spread platform for a more obscure one. In Hike’s case, this extra thing is its social side which takes a clue or two off of the most popular social networks.
Basically, India’s messenger will let you post updates inside a Circle of friends, a selected group of contacts that will see all of the things you write on that very same circle. Think of this feature as a exclusive space devoted to private messages between you and your closest friends. Of course, there’s a central hub where you can catch up with what everyone’s been doing by reading all of their posts. Besides, you’ll also find a series of moods, which aren’t more than just emoticons to reflect how you’re feeling.
There are three more extra things in Hike that aren’t present in WhatsApp. First of all, you’ll be able to install this app in many of the major platforms, including the PC. This means that you’ll be able to chat using your desktop computer, an amazing possibility when working there, since you won’t be forced to go back to your phone time and time again to check your messages.
Also, there’s a customizable Last seen feature that will let your friends know when was the last time you were online. I know WhatsApp also has a similar feature but in Hike, you’ll be able to adjust it for it to be displayed only to a selected group of friends. In this way, people you don’t want to talk to (you know who they are!) won’t be able to tell when was your last activity.
Finally, Hike has a more private approach to the way it handles the messages you send back and forth. That’s because this app integrates 128-bit SSL encryption for all its Wi-Fi connections, adding an extra layer of security to the whole thing.
On the contrary, WhatsApp don’t sport any social side, has a limited Last seen feature and is known for its privacy issues and the concerns of the users around them. In other words, it feels as if the app was beaten by Hike in terms of extras.
As we’ve seen briefly in this article, Hike Messenger is definitely a more complete option. However, it’s true that certain options won’t be used by certain people, which makes them look as if they were using precious space that could have been used for something else. This is especially true for the social side of the app, which I doubt is as frequently used as the developers surely intended for it. On the other hand, there are extras that should definitely be more popular and widespread, especially the possibility to install the platform on PC to keep chatting from there and the ability to send messages to non-Hike users.
WhatsApp might look like a more incomplete option when compared to Hike but that’s just relative. No one can deny that WhatsApp is a great IM focused on providing a quality service. So, no one can blame its developers if they aren’t trying anything new: they are just interested in instant messaging, not social networking. It’d be foolish to point fingers and say that their tool sucks simply because it doesn’t pack many other things.
Besides, WhatsApp has become the default option, which means that practically everybody is there. So, if you’re thinking about jumping into the mobile IM wagon, you’ll probably end up here. In short, WhatsApp’s popularity is so well established that its developers feel that they shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken. Its competitors, such as Hike itself, are the ones that has to try different paths to try to overthrow it from its throne. Unfortunately for those alternatives, packing extra features just for the sake of it won’t work, so they’ll have to offer really revolutionary functions if they wish to take on WhatsApp.