Messaging is a huge part of how we use our phones in our daily lives — after all, these are communication tools, first and foremost. The best messaging apps are generally the ones that the most people you know already use, even if they don't offer the most features. Often times, those apps can vary greatly depending on factors like where you live and what kind of phones you and your friends use.
We surveyed the Android Central staff to see what each writer uses to keep up with friends and family, and quickly noticed some repeat answers and patterns. Whether it's a general love for sticker packs or a distate for Facebook's dominion over messaging, there's a lot of common ground shared amongst the team.
Adam Doud Freelance Contributor
Adam has been writing and podcasting the mobile tech space for almost a decade. When he's not writing for Android Central, he hosts the Benefit of the Doud podcast, spends way too much time on Twitter, and redesigns his office space over and over.
Facebook Messenger, Google Messages, iMessage, Slack
One thing you'll notice about this list is that two of them are default SMS clients for many phones: Google Messages for the Pixel and a few other Android phones, and iMessage for iPhone. Yes, I carry an iPhone, because it's like having the other team's playbook. The third option, Facebook Messenger, isn't a default, per se, but it's something that most people already have. Bear in mind, I live in the United States, and for us here, SMS is pretty much how people communicate. I'm an old guy, so I've never really adopted any of the newer platforms like WhatsApp or Telegram, though I use both to communicate with exactly one person each.
I use Facebook Messenger for family messaging. It started with my wife because she and I had T-Mobile once upon a time when T-Mobile SMS wasn't very reliable in our area. Data connections were ubiquitous, so we switched to that for reliability. My father, mother, and brother all followed suit shortly after.
I don't really use other messaging apps, because I frankly don't want to be "that guy" who is the one person someone uses Allo for, or whatever. Personally, I don't mind having a billion apps on my phone, so I don't mind that two people have gotten me to install two different messaging apps, but my friends and family aren't really tech savvy, so I just go with what they're good with.
Finally, Slack is what I use to communicate with friends and colleagues in my professional life. I've made friends at most of the places I've worked over the years, and many of them are on Slack because of work, so it's usually just a matter of getting them to sign on to a different server.
Alex Dobie Executive Editor, Global
An almost decade-long veteran of AC, Alex is usually found in the UK — even more so than usual this past ten months. He has been blogging since before it was called that and spends most of his time leading video for Android Central on YouTube and beyond, which involves pointing a camera at shiny things and speaking words at a microphone. When all this is over, maybe he'll get back to posting airplane window shots on Instagram.
The most important feature of any messaging app is people. And, being in Europe, WhatsApp is unavoidable in the same way iMessage is for many in the U.S. — even considering recent privacy concerns around the Facebook-owned app. WhatsApp has plenty going for it feature-wise: calling capabilities that work well even on a flaky connection, a decent selection of stickers and a copycat stories thing that I'll probably never use. But the driving factor for me in using WhatsApp every day is that the people I care about use it. All the gimmicks and widgets and mini-apps in the world aren't worth anything if the bulk of the people in your life aren't on that platform.
For the outliers who aren't on WhatsApp, I occasionally use Facebook Messenger, Telegram and WeChat. I also have Hangouts and Google Chat installed — along with Android Messages, of course, but the latter is basically just a dumping ground of two-factor authentication texts at this point.
The main reason I have each of these apps on my phone is, once again, the people not the features. FB Messenger has old school/university friends and older family members. WeChat is basically the only reliable way to message work-related contacts living in China due to the country's internet censorship. And Telegram has a pretty rad sticker pack of the one and only MrMobile.
Andrew Myrick Freelance Contributor
Andrew is a freelance writer at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer. You can follow him on Twitter @andymyrick for some random tech takes, but more sports and Star Wars memes.
Facebook Messenger, Telegram
Unlike all of the cool kids, most of my non-work correspondence goes through the dreaded Facebook Messenger. There are some nifty features, like the ability to video chat (which has come in handy), but it's still a dumpster fire of an app. In fact, the only reason why my Facebook account is even still activated is due to the need to use Messenger. It's the app that I talk to friends and family on, and of course the biggest reason is that it's platform agnostic.
Telegram is the app that I wish I could move everyone over to, but it's just not going to happen. There are a few friends that I chat with on Telegram, including our resident Dad, Jeramy, but that's about it. And yes, I look for every excuse possible to use one of the fantastic sticker packs inspired by MrMobile. Thanks Hayato.
Ara Wagoner Staff Writer
Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Ara dove into Android in 2011 and has been theming launchers and poking entertainment apps with a stick. When she's not writing about cases and Chromebooks, Ara tests her tech at Walt Disney World and bakes bread and pumpkin seeds depending on the season. If you see her without headphones, RUN.
I'm still hanging onto Hangouts tooth and nail; that's where the family group chats are as well as chats with many of my old Google+ friends (yes, I loved Google+, and I miss so many of the people I connected with there). Hangouts is everywhere I am, I don't have to worry about a separate login since it's all part of Google, and it's got every feature I need except dark mode. The rest of my messaging is splintered, but Hangouts remains my rock, and I'm awaiting this year's conversion to Google Chat with a mix of dread and anticipation. It'd better carry all my old convos over, too, because that Hangout has almost a decade of family photos in it.
For the rest of my friends and acquaintances, I go where they are most of the time. I use Twitter for a lot of conversations, I use Discord for a few more, I use Google Messages SMS for others, and I have a lengthy DM history with one of my more intimate friends on Instagram (in fact, he is the only reason I leave Insta installed on my phones). Insta is by far the worst of the apps I use for communications, though; the way they do GIFs is all wrong! Discord is notification-happy by default, but at least it's easy to go in an change it to mentions-only for group chats.
Chris Wedel Freelance Contributor
Chris is a fan of all things tech and gadgets. Living in rural Kansas with his wife and two young boys makes finding ways to get and stay online tricky. By utilizing his years of experience with the tech and mobile communications industries — success is assured. When not conquering connectivity challenges and testing new gadgets, Chris enjoys cruising a gravel road in his UTV with some good tunes.
Google Messages, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Snapchat
I hate using multiple apps for chatting with friends and family. Unfortunately, after I got many of them convinced to use Hangouts and Allo back in the day, only to have those services get the boot — I lost all of my power. I loathe Facebook Messenger, but with much of my family either spread across longer distances or unwilling to give up Facebook itself, I have to keep on it to share photos of my kids — which in turn keeps the Messenger tether.
Since RCS has been picking up steam, I have been using Google Messages to handle as much as I can to chat with friends and family to avoid Facebook Messenger. Google Messages has gained some nice features recently, and you can use it in a browser too. If I could convince people I talk with regularly to change over to Telegram, I would.
I'm relatively new to Telegram and began using it like many others in the messaging collab — my colleagues use it. Telegram has solid security and fun features to keep it feeling fresh and not like using a secure hub to send encrypted messages — though you are. Lastly, I still use Snapchat because it is still fun to send messages to groups of friends. Those are the messages, video clips, and pictures that aren't taken seriously, and I'd prefer don't stick around to come back and haunt me.
Harish Jonnalagadda Asia Editor
Harish is the Asia Editor of Android Central. A reformed hardware modder, he now spends his time writing about India's handset market. Previously, he used to ponder the meaning of life at IBM. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.
My day starts and ends with WhatsApp. I use it for talking to friends and family, staying in touch with media colleagues, PR contacts, and so much more. WhatsApp has permeated every facet of life in India in 2021, and it is just not feasible to stay away from the platform. The service has a few features that are unique to India; it has a payments option that is based on the country's UPI infrastructure, and it is just as seamless to use as Google Pay. Think of it as Venmo, but better.
Businesses have also taken to WhatsApp; I get recommendations on what shows to watch from Netflix, transaction updates from my bank, and back when going to movies was a thing, I used to get tickets delivered straight to my WhatsApp number. WhatsApp has turned into a platform of its own in India, and the recent privacy issues have done little to dissuade users from the service.
I used WeChat quite a lot in the past to talk to PR contacts in China, but following the app's ban by the Indian government, I transitioned to Telegram. The best part about Telegram is that it uses a cloud-based authentication system, so it works on several devices at the same time. I like the fact that Telegram is highly customizable, and it just feels more fun to use than WhatsApp. Ideally, I'd like to switch my friends and family over to Telegram, but after the Allo debacle, I know that's just not realistic.
Hayato Huseman Video Editor
Hayato is a recovering trade show addict and video editor for Android Central based out of Indianapolis. He can mostly be found complaining about the cold and enthusing about prog metal on Twitter at @hayatohuseman.
Telegram, Google Messages
I've been a die-hard fan of Telegram since Michael Fisher convinced me to move from WhatsApp back in 2019. Unlike many of my colleagues here, a large majority of my friends were already on Telegram, so making the switch was easy, and I've watched as more and more of my friends have slowly moved over as frequent debacles with WhatsApp bring focus to the alternatives.
By far my favorite feature of Telegram, especially coming from WhatsApp, is the ability to use it on multiple devices at once, without having to futz with QR codes and temporary sign-ins. Sure, it's less secure, but the convenience is easily worth the trade-off for me, and if I really needed to send anything sensitive, I could create an encrypted chat.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that I've made half a dozen custom sticker packs for Telegram that my friends and I constantly send back and forth — including, yes, my regularly updated MrMobile sticker pack with nearly 50 stickers that range from unflattering to downright embarassing. Have fun, and use this power for good.
Outside of Telegram, I mostly use Google Messages to keep up with friends using good ol' SMS. It isn't my favorite, but it doesn't require convincing your friends to move to a particular app, and the Messages app is actually pretty nice. If it weren't for my favorite guitar brand using Facebook for owners' groups and custom orders, I'd have deleted my account years ago, but since I'm stuck with it, I use Facebook Messenger every so often — mostly just when a friend messages me first. Otherwise, DMs on various social networks like Twitter and Instagram do the job.
Jennifer Locke PlayStation Content Lead
Jennifer has been playing video games nearly her entire life. If a controller's not in her hands, she's busy writing about everything PlayStation. You can find her obsessing over Star Wars and other geeky things on Twitter @JenLocke95.
I know everyone hates it (for good reason), but I use Facebook Messenger 90% of the time for a simple reason: all of my friends and family are already on it. When I wake up, I instantly know I have messages to check that my friends sent throughout the night. During the day, we're constantly sending each other memes and other cursed images, because that's just who we are. But what I really love about it is the ability to send voice message clips. Sometimes my friends and I will have entire conservations this way exclusively. And it's much easier than typing when I'm out walking my dog.
I use Discord occasionally, but quite frankly it's a little daunting. Between Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Slack I hit my limit with social media. There's a Discord group between a few of my friends that has over a dozen channels, with different conversations happening in each of them, sometimes flowing over to another channel. I just can't keep up. Facebook Messenger gets the job done, so that's what I'm sticking with — even if Facebook is awful.
Jeramy Johnson Editor
Jeramy is proud to help Keep Austin Weird and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about smart home gadgets and wearables, he's defending his relationship with his smart voice assistants to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.
I came to Telegram a bit late. Actually, I was sucked into the app by my coworkers here at Android Central. I'd used it before, but ran into the age-old problem of figuring out how to convince my friends to change messaging apps with me, and quickly abandoned it for a long time. However, after finally ripping the Band-Aid off and deleting my Facebook and WhatsApp accounts, I've come back to the service with a vengeance, and find myself using it more than any other messaging app.
Telegram is not perfect — but I don't believe that a perfect messaging app exists. I love how secure Signal is, but I know I can get most of that level of security thanks to Telegram's Secret Chat feature. Plus, with Telegram I don't have to worry about some big tech company tracking and monetizing my movements or other personal information like I do with WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. It works seamlessly across all of my devices including my Chromebook, and I love how customizable it is. Basically, Telegram has the best balance of privacy, security, and fun features out of any of the messaging apps that I currently use, so that's why it's my favorite.
Jerry Hildenbrand Grumpy Old Man
I'm like that song stuck in your head that you don't know the words to or even the name, but you know it's really good. I've been around since the early days of computers and developed my first chunk of poorly written software using punch cards, and this somehow makes me extremely capable to write about Android. If it plugs into the wall, chances are I've taken it apart and tried to put it back together again. I like to crack jokes and tell tales of valor on Twitter sometimes, so say hey.
Signal, Telegram, Google Messages, Google Hangouts
Messaging sucks on every mobile platform. Not because the apps or services are bad, but because even the second coming of Christ wouldn't be enough to get all my people to use the same messaging service.
Most of the people I talk to regularly just use SMS. Luckily, more than half of those folks are using the chat features of Google Messages because it just automagically turned on thanks to Google pressing the issue. Some of the more technically inclined people I chat with use Signal, which works out great for me. My coworkers sucked me into Telegram and it's not bad. And because I use Google Fi, Hangouts lets me get messages and make calls when using a different phone on a different carrier.
I swore off WhatsApp when Facebook bought the company a few years ago and never used Facebook Messenger. Not because those services are bad, but because Facebook is a company I don't want to have my personal data.
Messaging sucks and probably always will.
Joe Maring Former Senior Editor
Joe was Android Central's Senior Editor and has had a love for anything with a screen and CPU since he can remember. He's been talking/writing about Android in one form or another since 2012 and often does so while camping out at the nearest coffee shop (though not so much these days). He currently works at Screenrant.
Telegram, iMessage, SMS
Like many of my colleagues, I'm someone that uses multiple messaging apps on any given day. It's not something I particularly enjoy, but that's just the way it goes.
My wife uses an iPhone, and as such, I use iMessage to chat with her and some other family members that are also on Team Apple. For the other chunk of my family that uses Android, we're still stuck in the days of SMS texting. I've debated trying to convert everyone over to a single third-party messaging app, but the amount of time and effort it would take for middling results just isn't worth it.
I started using Telegram last year after lots of nagging encouragement from Hayato, and honestly? I really love it. The mobile and desktop apps are great, there are tons of features to tweak the messaging experience to your exact liking, and I've gotten a lot of joy out of some of the custom sticker packs (the Mr. Mobile one is pure magic). More important than all of that though — most of my friends and colleagues use it too. From group chats to one-on-one conversations, a lot of the people I want to talk to are already on Telegram.
It would be amazing if I could get the iMessage and SMS people in my circles to switch over to Telegram too, but I know that's a battle I won't win. Yes it's annoying, but that's just the reality of messaging in 2021.
Michael Allison Freelance News Writer
Michael is another of Android Central's tall and handsome stable of news writers. He's generally interested in any and all consumer tech, with his current obsessions being Google's Pixel line and Chromebooks. When not writing on Android Central, he can often be found reading fiction, writing for fun, or working out. You can follow him on Twitter @mkeallison for reasons.
WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat
I'd like to think that I'm not particularly wedded to any messaging app. That said, while there are messaging apps I'd like to use more often (Google Messages, Telegram), the apps I do in practice use are dictated by those I want to communicate with.
I can rotate between Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger, but primarily my app of choice is WhatsApp. That's where my multiple family group chats live, that's where my group chat with a group of very close friends created as a gag three years ago lives, that's where most people text me, and that's what the UK uses as standard. So that's my most used messaging app.
I would love for the app to get a design refresh and match Facebook's other apps. I'd love for it to be a bit more peppy and cheerful and — for lack of a better word — modern. There are many other better messaging apps out there, but WhatsApp is where a lot of people have planted their feet, so it wins by being the default.
Michael Hicks Senior Editor
Michael is a former ebook dev turned tech writer whose career arc took him from VR to wearables, emerging tech to gaming guides, before arriving at AC to cover Android, Oculus, Stadia, and smart homes, among other things. A Bay Area native, he loves underperforming sports teams, running, and tormenting his friends as the DM for D&D and Star Wars RPG campaigns.
iMessage, Facebook Messenger
I'd really like to delete Facebook one of these days, for all the obvious reasons. But it's my primary way of staying in touch with old high school and college friends. I have one FB message chain titled "Life" with two college friends that has to have tens of thousands of messages running all the way back to graduation in 2012. We've promised to print it out and bring up our old, most embarrassing opinions at any of our respective weddings. In that chat and others, it's my spot for chatting about the latest episode of popular shows, planning reunions for when we're all back in the same state during holidays, and getting or giving support during tough moments.
Likewise, I may be switching from iOS to Android, but most of my family and long-term friends use Apple's messaging system, and I'm not sure I plan on giving up iMessage anytime soon! None of them are particularly interested in tech or fussed about privacy concerns, and I doubt I could convince them to migrate over to any new apps besides Instagram. I know other messaging apps have cool sticker packs, but most of them love using reaction gifs from Giphy more than anything else.
Samuel Contreras Freelance Contributor
When Samuel is not writing about networking and carriers, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It's the Pentium 3.
I have a rather simple set of requirements for my messaging apps with the first one being that it works— always. Telegram has really gotten its app together in the past couple of years but when it was new, my friends and I had a too frequent issue where Telegram notifications would not deliver in a timely manner. After a bit of frustration, we tried out Line having had a bit of experience with it from Japanese friends. We've been using it for several years with no issues.
Line is a fairly bloated app with stories, blogs, and a ton of stickers. Line Lite is available for a more streamlined experience. Stickers seem to be a bit of an afterthought in other apps but Line has them front and center with quite a few impressive IPs. Animated Pokémon and Mario stickers are present as well as stickers from just about every major anime. If you're a bit of a nerd, there's probably something here for you. Line also has free group and video calls that work well even internationally.
I kept my Telegram account active and still use it with a few friends. In the last couple of years, Telegram has really gotten its act together and has been a very reliable messaging app as it has had a bit of a renaissance from people looking for a little more privacy. It's also nice that both Line and Telegram work perfectly on Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows and can be used on all platforms simultaneously.
What messaging apps do you use?
It's clear that we're still a long way from having one centralized app for cross-platform messaging, but that isn't such a bad thing. Diversity and choice are the cornerstones of innovation, and with so much competition out there, there's plenty of incentive for developers to continue making their messaging apps and platforms better for the end user.
Have you convinced any of your friends to move to a particular service like WhatsApp or Telegram? Or have you been on the receiving end of the discussion? Is there a must-have feature that keeps you loyal to one service above all others? Whatever the case, let us know in the comments below!
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Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.