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10 Best Mobile Messaging Apps

Mobile Messages Are Increasingly Popular

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Mobile messages are becoming big business as scores of new and established mobile messaging apps add social networking features and compete to meet the growing demand for free mobile calling and SMS services.

Established mobile apps like Facebook Messenger and older Internet calling services such as Skype increasingly are competing with upstart mobile messaging apps, including MessageMe, Viber, Line and TextMe.

It can be hard to know which free mobile messaging service to use because so many are available. To help sift through this crowded category of apps, here's a look at ten of the best mobile messaging apps. Almost all offer some form of free voice calling and free mobile SMS, either over WiFi or the user's smart phone data plan.

1. Line Mobile Messaging

Line is a mobile messaging and voice calling app with social networking and gaming features that increasingly has been going global. It is owned by South Korea's Naver Corp. and ranks as the top messaging app in Japan, where Naver's Japanese division NHN Japan Corp. developed it in 2011.

In addition to free voice calls and instant text messaging with pals, the Line messages app offers games you can play with your Line friends and a built-in camera app with filters for sharing photos with them.

The Line mobile app also offers idiosyncratic cartoon characters and stickers that serve as emoticons and are designed to make communicating more fun. The core communication features are all free, but Line offers a freemium model that includes charging fees for premium stickers. Line is more popular overseas but has been making a push in the U.S. in 2013.

Line is available as a desktop app and mobile app for iOS, Android and other platforms. It considers itself more of a social entertainment network and not just a messaging app.

2. WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a mobile text messaging app designed to let cell phone users send text messages without having to pay SMS fees to their carriers. The messages are sent via the Internet and therefor require the user to have a data plan on their phone, which is typical of these messaging apps. Messages can include video, audio and photos, not just text.

WhatsApp is a cross-platform app, meaning it's available for a variety of mobile operating systems and allows messaging across them all-- including the iPhone, Android, Nokia, Windows Phone and BlackBerry. The app launched in 2009 and has proven popular.

Unlike a lot of mobile messaging apps, WhatsApp doesn't offer voice calling, at least not yet. And it's not 100 percent free, either. WhatsApp has been costing 99 cents to download, but then is free to use. However, WhatsApp reportedly has been considering switching to an annual subscription fee, though it likely would remain modest in price.

3. Viber

Viber is a popular free mobile messaging app that piggybacks on WiFi or the data plan a cell phone user has to make voice phone calls and send SMS messages that are not counted as part of their carrier's paid calling plan or text messaging plan. The company's tag line is "Connect. Freely."

So its main appeal is the ability to use WiFi or a paid mobile data plan on a smart phone to circumvent the limits of a paid voice-calling plan and/or paid SMStext messaging plan. The voice calls use VOIP, or voice over the Internet.

The Viber app is known for its ease of use, since it reads your phone's settings and contacts and immediately enables the app. There's no need for a password or special set-up process, which most apps require. Messages can include photos as well as text, and the voice calls can move off of the carrier's 3G or 4G data network and onto a wifi network when one is available. Group messaging also is available for up to 15 friends, allowing for more private conversations than, say, on Twitter.

4. MessageMe

MessageMe is a newer entrant into the crowded field of mobile messaging apps. The app launched early in 2013 and is focused on multimedia and context, allowing people to mix media by drawing on photos and send instant messages that blend media types. It has a slick interface designed to simplify the process of creating and sharing multimedia messages in real time. MessageMe is available for iPhone/iPad and Android devices.

5. Voxer

Voxer is commonly known as a "walkie talkie" or "push-to-talk" app because when you click on its little talk button, you can send an instant voice message or multimedia message to a pal. The message is either instantly played through your friend's phone speakers if their phone is turned on and the app is running, or it is received as a recorded message like voicemail. Voxer also enables text and photo messaging, like most mobile messaging apps do. It also enables VOIP voice calling like Skype does, and group messaging. Voxer is free for individuals and works with Android and iOS devices. A business version also is available with extra features for a fee.

6. HeyTell

HeyTell is another push-to-talk app that allows instant voice messaging. It's available for iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, and Android devices. The app presents you with a big "hold and speak" button that you click to speak your message. As with Voxer, you don't have to sign up or create an account, and it works across different phone platforms. It has social networking features allowing you to friend people and easily send them voice messages . The app, from a company called Voxilate, Inc., is free, but there are in-app premium fees for advanced features like ringtones and a voice changer.

7. TextNow

TextNow is yet another mobile app that offers free voice calling and messaging by piggybacking on wifi and/or user data plans. It works on desktop computers as well as mobile phones, and assigns each user an individual phone number for receiving phone calls and text messages. It offers unlimited free messaging (both voice and text) across the United States and Canada. TextNow is available for both Android and iPhone/iOS devices.

8. Talkatone

Talkatone is another mobile app offering free voice calling and text messaging over WiFi or 3G/4G/LTE data plans. It's available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. The Talkaphone website says the app Talkatone app allows people to "call and text any US or Canadian phone over WiFi or Data (3G/4G), without requiring cell minutes."

9. Keek

Keek is a video messaging service for mobile phones. You can think of it as a video knockoff of Twitter. People use it to record and share video status updates of up to 36 seconds, which they can share directly with Keek contacts or post to Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and their personal page on Keek.com. The free Keek app is available for Google Android and Apple iOS devices.

10. Snapchat

Snapchat differs from most mobile communication apps in that it specializes in sending messages with a particular feature--they disappear. That's right, messages sent with Snapchat self-destruct seconds after the recipient views them. The short-lived nature of Snapchat messages has made the app controversial yet popular with young people.
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