Just before Christmas I got a sponsored link on my Facebook wall begging me to download and install an application called WeChat. I normally don’t look at those invites, no matter how tempting they sound. But being on my annual leave on a hot, slow December afternoon, I just thought, why not have a look. Being very conscious about personal and device security, I decided to download from the Google Play (Android market) using my HTC Desire HD. Ever since I clicked download, my “chat life” has never been the same. So good is WeChat that I am planning to uninstall WhatsApp within the next 3 months. I don’t mind loosing those who are not on WeChat.
So, why am I so hooked all of a sudden?
What is WeChat?
WeChat is a mobile phone text and voice messaging application developed by Chinese company Tencent. It is available for Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, and Symbian platforms. It supports about 7 languages; English, Chinese, Indonesian, Portuguese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Russian. WeChat is supported on Wi-Fi, 3G, and 4G data networks. As of January 2013, it has 300 million.
What is WhatsApp?
WhatsApp is instant messaging application for smartphones developed by the American company Whatsapp founded in 2009. In addition to text messaging, users can send each other images, video, and audio media messages. Whatsapp is available for Android; BlackBerry, iOS, Symbian and Windows Phones. WhatsApp handled ten billion messages per day as of August 2012, growing from one billion in October 2011. According to the Financial Times, WhatsApp “has done to SMS on mobile phones what Skype did to international calling on landlines.” It has simply killed mobile SMS. It is estimated WhatsApp has between 300 – 500 million users.
Why is WeChat Better
While WhatsApp is definitely the current must-have App for any smartphone, there have been a lot of issues that have dogged the little but powerful App. The biggest one being the 2012 “discovery” by hackers that it sends messaged as plain text. They have since fixed this but it was a big issue. A lot of issues, some of them petty, still remain and they have been working against its grown. Below are some the current headaches WhatsApp gives it legion of users.
1. Privacy Issues
When it comes to WhatsApp, privacy is thrown out of the 16th floor window! First of all, it’s tells the other person whether you are online, offline or worse still “last seen at 3.42am”. This is a serious privacy issue, though many may disagree.
WhatsApp also tells you the message you sent has been delivered, so if no response comes from the other person, and you can see your message was delivered, the usual conclusion is that you are being ignored. While this is a good feature in a way, it can be a source of some unnecessary “explanations” for many people. WeChat won’t do any of the above! They developed the app with privacy in mind.
Another cool feature is that WeChat allows you to “logout”. There are cases you don’t what instant messages streaming in when you are busy on something…prayer, funeral, in church, sleeping or even busy with a serious program at work! Such times you wish you could sign out of WhatsApp. The only option you have is to disable your internet connection of your device, meaning you lose your emails, Gtalk, Skype etc.
Still on the privacy issues, WhatsApp is again found pants down. It allows anyone with your number to send you an instant chat. I am sure most of you have had to ask “Who is this?” more than a dozen times! Needless to say, WeChat will ask you to approve any persons before they can send you a message.
Lastly, your WeChat contact will never see your number! This might surprise you, but remember on WeChat you are not limited to signing up using your mobile number. You login name is enough!
2. Voice and Video Chat
This is a cool feature that the guys at WhatsApp either forgot or thought it wasn’t cool. Instead of typing a message to your fiancée saying “I love you”, you can just say it and send. The effect is definitely not the same. Hearing someone and reading what they typed is not the same. I find this feature more useful when driving. There is no way I can type a message doing 120Km/hr on the freeway, so I just send a voice chat! And the other person replies with a voice chat too, so no need to read those little letters when on the steering! I know using the phone when driving is not recommended, but who doesn’t?
3. Social Features
Besides groups, WhatsApp has no other social features! Now WeChat comes with many social features!
- Facebook Connect – you can login or connect with WeChat using your Facebook profile
- Moments – share photos with friends, more like Instagram.
- Shake – just shake your phone and discover other people around the World shaking their phones and connect with them and start chatting.
- Web WeChat – chat with someone using a PC
- Look Around – you can use this to find people around you who want to chat. Imagine bored at the airport waiting for your next flight, this could help kill the hours!
4. WeChat is FREE
WeChat is totally free and that WhatsApp rumour and insecurity about its license expiring in 60 days or so and you don’t know how to renew, is something you will never have to live with when using WeChat.
5. Data Usage Info
WeChat keeps statistics on its data usage and you can easily review and see how bad of good it is compared to its competitors. WhatsApp does not have this info, but when I used 3rd part tools to measure my WhatsApp data usage over a week, I realised WeChat uses about 40% less data than WhatsApp.
The almost 2 months I have used WeChat, I have realised it’s far better than WhatsApp and gives me a lot of peace of mind. The feeling that my privacy is respected makes me happy to use this App. And the cool “nice-to-haves” make it interesting to play with.
WeChat’s enormous size (15MB), however, works against it, especially in Africa where data is expensive and speeds might be very slow at times. WhatsApp is only 8MB
This guest arrticle was penned by Concern Shoko. Shoko is a software developer and the Founder & CEO of web hosting company Mega24.co.za