messaging apps on a phone

Best Free Messaging Apps in 2022

Communication is a vital part of our lives, but it’s not always easy to stay in touch with friends and family that live far away. 

This is where messaging apps come in, and there’s no shortage of options that allow you to talk to people around the world. 

In this article, we guide you through the best free messaging apps you can download.

Jump straight to the apps

 

What are messaging apps?

Messaging apps are online platforms that allow users to connect and communicate with people around the world. 

These apps usually function over both Wi-Fi and data, so long as you have a signal.

Depending on the app you’re using, you can message, voice call, video call, send files, send images, share your location, and more. 

You can also usually access these messaging platforms via the web, but downloading the apps is usually the more secure option.

 

Why use messaging apps over texts or email?

You might be wondering why someone would default to messaging apps over text or email. 

Instant

Messaging apps are instantaneous, so your message will go through immediately. Emails and texts aren’t always instant, and can take longer to transfer across servers. Instant messages may also encourage people to respond faster. 

Read receipts

On a lot of apps, you can see if the person has received your message or read it. With email and text, it’s more difficult to know if the message has even arrived. 

Flexible

Messaging apps are also a lot more flexible, often supporting group chats and easy ways to contact people you don’t know the personal number or email address of.

Are messaging apps secure?

Some messaging apps encrypt your messages to keep your conversations private from prying eyes. But be wary that apps are hackable. It won’t be secure if malware has infiltrated your phone or the server the app is hosted on.

If your messaging app is compromised, the hacker may be able to see your personal information, including the content of your messages.

If you’re worried about protecting your information, you could invest in a phone designed for privacy. These handsets have security features built-in, preventing or severely reducing the likelihood of your data being stolen or intercepted. 

Learn more about how to keep your smartphone safe online.

Are messaging apps considered social media?

Messaging apps are not strictly defined as forms of social media, but they’re often linked with social media platforms, like Facebook.

They overlap in some ways, but they’re used very differently. Social media is often for broadcasting, sharing news and images, and transferring information, whilst messaging apps are more for simply chatting. 

Some social media platforms that feature messaging-like functionality include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram

Best free messaging apps

Check out our top recommendations below for the best messaging apps you can download and use for free.

 

Facebook Messenger

Apple

Android

 

Release date: 2011

Users: 2.6 billion monthly

What can you do?

Directly tied in with Facebook, Messenger allows you to see which of your friends are online and available to chat. You can send messages, emojis, images, files, and GIFs, as well as remove, mute, or block contacts.

Messenger is a stand-alone to Facebook, so you can avoid the social media side if you wish, though you do still need an active account.

Pros

✔ You are instantly connected to anyone you have listed as a friend on Facebook

✔ You can create group chats to collaborate with other people, for leisure or business purposes

✔ You can market a personal business on Facebook and interact directly with your audience over on Messenger

Cons

✘ The privacy laws established by Facebook have been under scrutiny in the past

✘ The app runs in the background by default, which can drain your battery

 

WhatsApp

Apple

Android

 

Release date: 2008

Users: 1 billion monthly

What can you do?

You can send messages, photos, GIFs, documents, files, links, and videos to other people on WhatsApp.

Pros

✔ No need to set up an account because WhatsApp authenticates users with their mobile phone number

✔ You can find people through their phone number rather than searching through profiles of the same name

✔ Messages are secured with end-to-end encryption for privacy

✔ Messaging groups have a maximum capacity of 256 people, ideal for businesses

Cons

✘ WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, so if you want to steer clear of this social media giant, you’ll have to avoid this messaging app too

Snapchat

Apple

Android

 

Release date: 2011

Users: 306 million daily

What can you do?

This platform allows you to send instantaneous and self-destructive messages of photos, videos, and text.

Pros

✔ Messages self destruct when you click off the chat or after 10 seconds, so conversation isn’t stored, and unnecessary space isn’t used up on your phone

✔ Snapchat stories allow you to publish content for 24 hours

✔ You can see who is watching your stories and opening your chats

✔ Extra content from online magazines is available to read

Cons

✘ Self-destructive style of messaging may be a con for people who like to read back through their messages. You can also forget where you were in a conversation if you don’t reply straight away

✘ Sensitive interface means you could swipe and end up somewhere else on the app

Slack

Apple

Android

 

Release date: 2013

Users: 10 million daily

What can you do?

Initially designed for businesses, Slack allows you to privately message colleagues, set up group chats, tag people, set reminders, send photos, videos, GIFs, and make calls. You can also set different statuses so people know when you’re available or if you’re on lunch or in a meeting.

Pros

✔ Up to 1,000 people can be in one messaging channel

✔ Slack reduces email traffic as you can directly contact colleagues and securely share documents over chat channels

✔ You can still access important data even when a colleague leaves or their email is deactivated

Cons

✘ Can be quite casual with all the informal chat channels and options on offer, which could distract from work

✘ Sharing passwords on Slack could pose a security risk as they remain in the chats. Consider sharing via a password manager instead

Discord

Apple

Android

 

Release date: 2015

Users: 150 million monthly

What can you do?

Discord can be used as a live-streaming platform now, but was initially a text-and-talk service. It’s free to sign up to an account, where you can join servers to chat and play games.

Pros

✔ Can set up custom channels to talk about specific topics, as well as privately message friends

✔ As well as live-streaming, watching others, and chatting, you can also watch movies on the app and chat with friends while viewing it simultaneously

✔ You can join up to 100 servers to chat with like-minded people on topics you care about

✔ You can create your own private servers to just chat with friends

Cons

✘ Can be a little techy, especially if setting up a server

Telegram Messenger

Apple

Android

 

Release date: 2013

Users: 500 million

What can you do?

You can communicate speedily and securely from all over the world. This app is quite similar to WhatsApp in its style and functionality. 

Pros

✔ The chat history isn’t saved on your phone, so it won’t use up internal storage

✔ Conversations are encrypted to keep your information safe from hackers or prying eyes

✔ Chat groups can be created with up to 200,000 members, great for hosting online events or for large companies to interact in one place

Cons

✘ A slightly less popular messaging app - you might have to persuade your friends to install it too

✘ Occasionally, there have been reports of their ‘self-destructive’ messages failing to delete

Viber Messenger

Apple

Android

 

Release date: 2010

Users: 820 million monthly

What can you do?

Viber Messenger was launched as a voice calling application, but has since added instant messaging abilities, so you can both text and call friends, family, work colleagues etc.

Pros

✔ A maximum of 250 members can be present in one chat

✔ End-to-end encryption keeps your messages and private information secure

✔ Chats can self-destruct if you set them to, clearing up storage on your phone

Cons

✘ Self-destructive messages might mean you forget important information 

✘ The app will charge you for calling landline or non-Viber users, so to keep the experience free, you can only contact other Viber uses

Signal

Apple

Android

 

Release date: 2018

Users: 40 million monthly

What can you do?

The Signal app is an instant-messaging platform with ultimate privacy embedded into its design. Due to this, it’s been mostly used by governments and other officials for a more secure and private messaging experience. You can send messages, images, GIFs, videos, links, files, and make voice or video calls to fellow Signal users.

Pros

✔ Messages are secured with end-to-end encryption

✔ Lock the app with fingerprint technology or a passcode to keep your messages even more secure

✔ Self-destructive messages

✔ No need for an account - you can use your phone number to communicate with others

Cons

✘ Not as widely known or used as some of the others on this list, so you may not be able to communicate with people you know

 

WeChat

Apple

Android

Release date: 2011

Users: 1.2 billion monthly

What can you do?

You can voice call, message, and video call, as well as send photos, voice notes, videos, your location, and more.

Pros

✔ Group chats can have a maximum of 500 members in one

✔ Use the Time Capsule feature to share short videos (like stories) to your contacts that will disappear in 24 hours

✔ Follow other accounts to read and interact with original content and news stories

Cons

✘ If you want to call a landline or mobile number not attached to a WeChat account, you will be charged

Discover more

For communication apps that focus more on video calling, check out our recommendations for iOS and Android.

 

You may also be interested in reading about some of our other app recommendations:

 

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