Let me be completely honest here. I prefer chatting to talking over the phone.There is something insanely comfortable about being able to think your replies out, add funny emoticons to your conversation and generally be able to multitask while conversing. And aiding my love for chatting as a mode of connecting with my friends are cross-platform messaging apps that run on your data plan and let you keep chatting for no extra charge. The cross-platform messaging market is undergoing a pretty little boom period now with players like Nimbuzz, Kik and Viber amongst many, many others claiming small chunks of the market with specific features catering to their respective niches.
However, the one app that seems to have been catapulted into the spotlight in quite a massive manner in India has been WeChat. I say “seems” because, despite the app perching itself coolly on top of the charts on both the iOS and Android app stores, you will almost never find more than a handful of your friends using the service at any given point of time. However, with a lot of money being pumped into a huge marketing campaign that spreads across the print and television channels, it looks like this app by China’s Tencent is here to stay.
So, we decided to pit the multi-faceted WeChat against the dependable, big daddy of cross-platform messaging—WhatsApp Most will think comparing a relatively new app like WeChat against WhatsApp is a no-brainer. However, those also happen to be the same guys who scoffed at Facebook on Orkut back in 2007 while playing fraandship-fraandship over what was lovingly described as “Scraps”.
There is no denying that WhatsApp is a giant in its own right. The service, after all, is currently catering to more monthly active users than Twitter’s user base. Yes, I’m not making this up; WhatsApp has more than 250 million monthly active users and it processes about 18 billion inbound and 12 billion outbound messages everyday. While we do not have the exact figures of how many users WeChat servers, official figures on the Google play store say that the app has been download between 10,000,000-50,000,000 times, and has received an average rating of 4.5. On iOS too, the app is rated at 4.
Nitty-gritties out of the way, if there’s one area where WeChat cannot touchsApp,it,s tthe interface. while whatApp’s Ul-especially on Android—is as sharp as a ninja’s katana, WeChat’s effort looks as jarring as your neighbouring aunty doing an item number at the society’s Canpati Pandal.
If you decide to give it a go, it might be ages before you actually manage to get used to WeChat’s very confusing interface. There’s the main page from where you can access your chats, a contacts page that lets you handle your connections, and a social page that has four more options.
WhatsApp. on the other hand, follows the app equivalent of the wham-bam-thankyou-ma’am principle. With a relatively neater interface on Android. WhatsApp has the edge when it comes to looking pleasing to the eyes. Moreover, it is far, far ahead of VVeChat. Its time WeChat too releases a Holo version of its app on Android. The stalker-friendly “Last seen at” and the tell-tale double-ticks indicating that a message has been sent/received are features that WeChat could do well to lift from the more experienced WhatsApp. While a well-circulated joke says that the “Last seen at feature” has been behind many a break-up, it’s a very important feature for most power cross-platform messaging , user as is the double-tick system.
WeChat’s problem is that it has spread itself too thin. The app wants to offer a little something to everyone. It has video chat, audio messaging, social, profiles, stickers, emoticons, and load more, essentially turning the service into a mixed bag of nothing.The service and its features are too elaborate for its own good. Right from the moment you decide to sign up for service, you’re made to go through a slightly long process of choosing a new user name, connect it to your social networking profiles, and have WeChat provide you with a whole new one called “Moments”. All WhatsApp needs is your mobile number and acess to your contacts list.
Then again, like a famous advertisement goes, “Itne paise mein itna-eech rnilega”, WhatsApp’s limited features cannot hold a candle to WeChat’s elaborate offerings. The latter’s capabilities begin where WhatsApp’s end. The newcomer believes texting each other is passe; it allows you to send across not just voice messages, but also lets you hold video chats, converse using the walkie-talkie mode, and even like and comment on photos. Besides being a cross-platform messaging app, WeChat moonlights as a mini social networking ecosystem. WhatsApp, on the other hand, lets you message friends and send audio messages.
Additionally, WeChat also has a brilliant web mode using which you can can access your chats and transfer files with a browser. I -sincerely wish WhatsApp would consider incorporating this feature and make life easier for people like me who have to shift focus between my phone and my PC.
For all the flak it gets for having a very confusing interface that looks extremely cluttered, WeChat has some great features. Its social tools go largely unnoticed, and frankly, it is the service’s fault for not highlighting its strengths. For one, there is a “Shake” feature that, based on your location, connects you to people aground you or even across the globe. All you need to do is activate are feature and shake the phone. Now, we don’t know if shaking get rid of your loneliness is a euphemism for something, but this feature could help you make new friends. Of course, you’ll -ave to rummage through a swamp of fraandsbippers , unless that -appens to be your thing. Also, the “Look Around” feature overlaps a little with Shake, and shows the people using WeChat around you. The “Drift Bottle” is a fun concept of picking up floating — essage bottles in the proverbial WeChat sea and choosing to reply to them. WhatsApp, on the other hand, lets you message friends and send audio messages.
If you’re on the receiving end of fraandshippers, you will need to tinker around with WeChat’s security settings quite a lot. You can control pretty much every aspect of the service, choose who can see you, opt between letting strangers contact you, and even turn-off certain annoying features. WhatsApp, on the other hand Well, you get my drift.
The bottom-line here is that WhatsApp is currently leading this •ace, but it’s in danger of becoming the hare that fell asleep near the finish line. If it finds solace in piggy-backing on the status quo and refuses to evolve, WeChat just might turn into the proverbial tortoise that won the race. Having said that, assuming none of my friends are currently on either of the apps, I would ask them to contact me over WhatsApp for the sheer simplicity and ease of use. And even though it looks like WeChat could end up stealing a huge chunk of WhatsApp’s users over a period of time, its features are far too many to enable it to capture and hold the attention of people who simply want to be able to talk to their friends and loved ones.