It seems like there’s a cool, new chat app popping up every day. And for good reason: The benefits versus built-in text apps are tremendous. Some chat apps can allow you to make Wi-Fi and Internet-based texts and calls both internationally and at home for a fraction of the cost — if not for free. But with so many options available, how are you supposed to decide which one to use?
We reviewed the best chat apps and compared them side-by-side, so you can spend less time researching and more time chatting with your friends and family.
What these chat apps have in common
First off, with many of the apps you choose, you’ll find that they share some of the same basic features:
• WiFi-based texting is free, both domestically and internationally
• Texting and calling work over both Wi-Fi and cellular networks (message and data rates may apply for cellular networks)
• Existing phone contacts can be scanned to find contacts already on the app
• Group chat functionality
• Photo messaging
• Free to download
• Available on Android and iOS
The best chat apps compared
While there are core similarities between most major chat apps, there are slight differences that can help you determine which is right for you. Compare the most popular chat apps in the table below.
|App||Most Popular In…||# of Users||Compatibility with non-users||Video Chat||Other special features|
|Worldwide||1 billion (as of 2/16)||No||No||Customize photos and videos with editing tools|
|China||700 million (as of 12/15)||Yes (voice calls to mobile & landlines)||Yes||Share photos and status updates with contacts; Send money via Western Union|
|Line||Japan||600 million (as of 2/15)||Yes (voice calls to mobile & landlines)||Yes||News feed updates and promotions from celebrities and brands|
|Skype||US||300 million (as of 9/15)||Pay as you go voice calls to any phone number||Yes||No|
|Tango||US||350 million (as of 2/16)||Yes (voice calls to mobile & landlines)||Yes||Ability to play games during video calls|
|Kik||US||300 million (5/16)||No||No||Anonymous messaging|
|Viber||Vietnam, Philippines||250 million (as of 4/15)||Yes (voice calls to mobile & landlines)||Yes|
|KakaoTalk||South Korea||160 million (as of 9/15)||No||Yes||Yes|
Things to consider when choosing a chat app
- Are your friends and family tech-savvy enough to navigate a smartphone app? If not, you may be better off with a service that has compatibility with non-users.
- Do you want to make video and voice calls? Choose an app that does more than texting and photo sharing.
- Is international calling your primary need? Choose based on calling rates.Things to consider for traveling
- Do you expect to have regular access to Wi-Fi? If not, speak to your network provider about an international data plan.
- Are you using the app to speak with locals or folks back home? Choose the app (or apps) most popular where you’re communicating.
A note about sending money through mobile chat apps
We’ve partnered with WeChat and Viber so you can send money to friends and family right from your chat app, even if the recipient doesn’t have an account.
Read more about some other top apps for travelers.