These are the Best Messaging Apps: WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, and more!
Instant messaging has revolutionized the way the world works. Most of us got our first spin with it during the height of MSN Messenger from its launch in 1999. Now the rise of smartphones has changed the way instant messaging works again. However, there’s not a single, one-size-fits-all solution for messaging just yet. There are several options out there for instant messaging, but sometimes it’s not even our decision, but rather, we have to use whatever our friends and family use. Nonetheless, among apps, keyboards, and more, a decent messaging service should be in order as well. From widely-used options to privacy-focused ones, there’s something for everyone here.
Navigate this guide:
- Best Overall Messaging app: WhatsApp Messenger
- Best Android-focused Messaging app: Google Messages
- Best Messaging app for Features: Telegram
- Best Messaging for Privacy: Signal
- Best Messaging app for Socials Integration: Facebook Messenger
- Best Messaging app for Groups and Communities: Discord
- Best Messaging app for Businesses: Slack
- Honorable Mention: Google Chat
Best Overall Messaging app: WhatsApp Messenger
Ah, WhatsApp. It might not be as good as other instant messaging apps feature-wise or have the cleanest track record when it comes to privacy or the communication around privacy. But there’s a compelling argument as to why most of us use it anyway — everyone else uses it, and we’re kind of stuck with it. That’s because of its absolutely massive user base — over 2.5 billion active worldwide users. Given there are roughly 7.5 billion people on Earth, that means a third of the world uses WhatsApp. Depending on where you live, you probably have an absolute majority of your friends and family using it as well. While several other IM apps offer a lot more functionality, and WhatsApp is quite slow to integrate new features, WhatsApp has the biggest draw of an IM app: a large and active user base, making it near-omnipresent and consequently indispensable.
Even when taking out the user base, it’s still not half bad — end-to-end encryption for messages and calls, stickers, stories, and more make WhatsApp one of the best IM apps you can get.
Best Android-focused Messaging app: Google Messages
Google Messages is on track to becoming Android’s alternative to iMessage, Apple’s iOS-only messaging service. But here’s the thing about Google Messages — it uses RCS, which is an open standard meant to replace SMS and serve all smartphones, even iOS. Yet somehow, Google seems to be the only one bringing it to the masses. So what gives?
We don’t know, but what we do know is that Google Messages, as a service, is pretty cool. It features SMS fallback for users without RCS, and it brings all the features you would expect from a normal messaging app, including voice messages, multimedia, and more. It’s even testing end-to-end encryption. It’s one of the best IM apps you can get if you’re looking for something to communicate with your Android friends.
Best Messaging app for Features: Telegram
Telegram was once hailed as the ‘hail Mary’ of privacy in instant messaging, and for what it’s worth, it’s still pretty good in that respect, even though its “security” and “encryption” spots got dethroned by apps using end-to-end encryption protocols. But Telegram has started to focus more on building a whole social network experience around their concept of messaging.
Telegram has massive groups with thousands of people, channels, communities, and even recently got an audio/video chatting experience similar to Clubhouse. Plus, it also keeps constantly adding new features to improve the user experience, features automated bots, and much more. There’s a new feature release practically every couple of weeks, and the users can’t get enough of it.
Best Messaging for Privacy: Signal
Signal is a great IM app, but it is a bit barebones in what it does as most of its focus is on securing your privacy. In fact, WhatsApp and Signal share the same end-to-end encryption protocol, the Signal protocol (made by, you guessed it, Signal). But just because it works like WhatsApp under the hood doesn’t mean the apps are closely related at all.
While WhatsApp is backed by a big tech company (Facebook), Signal is backed by the Signal Foundation, a non-profit organization, and makes keeping your messages and personal information safe from prying eyes a big part of their marketing. It’s one of the best IM apps if you care about security as much as you care about your privacy.
Best Messaging app for Socials Integration: Facebook Messenger
There isn’t much to the story here. Facebook Messenger started off as the messaging component of Facebook in 2011, and from there, Facebook started spinning it off into its own thing. Currently, Facebook Messenger is still the messaging component of Facebook, but it can also work standalone without a Facebook account. If you wish, you can also integrate both Facebook and Instagram messaging into the same app. Given that Facebook Messenger also works with SMS, the app tries to be an all-in-one messaging hub which can either be a godsend or extremely annoying, depending on your perspective.
You should consider this app if you need to keep tabs on Facebook and Instagram messaging.
Best Messaging app for Groups and Communities: Discord
Discord as a service is pretty amazing. Once launched as a gaming-focused VoIP/instant messaging service, it was meant to allow gamers to coordinate with each other over voice channels while having minimal impact on game performance. Soon, however, it started shifting away from just gaming to a more all-purpose communication service where people can hang out, talk, and have fun with each other.
If you have a group of friends, you can start your own Discord service as a hang-out place for everyone, or you can scale it up as much as you want and have servers with thousands of people, bots, several channels, and more. It’s one of the best IM apps if you’re going to focus on group messaging and communication over anything else.
Best Messaging app for Businesses: Slack
Slack is often compared to Discord, and we can clearly see why — it provides similar functionality and allows users to create separate channels for different purposes. But Slack features a lot more features that make it good for businesses over anything else. It features integrations with other services to maximize your workflow, supports bots to either automate parts of your workflow or simply do the stuff no one wants to do, supports message pinning, managing, and tracking documents, and even allows for sharing specific channels across multiple workspaces.
If you have a team and want to have a reliable method of communication inside your team, Slack is your best option.
Honorable Mention: Google Chat
Google Chat gets an honorable mention, both because of Google’s hilariously bad history with messaging services and because it’s actually not that bad once you take a closer look at it. Google Chat is one of the two apps that’s meant to replace Google Hangouts, another Google messaging service that’s soon to be retired, the other one being Google Meet. You’re probably already familiar with Google Meet as a Zoom alternative, but Google Chat is meant to take care of the messaging component.
Google woes aside, however, Google Chat is meant to be good as both a one-on-one messaging service and a service for teams, similar to Slack, providing similar functionality. So if Slack isn’t your team’s cup of tea, maybe Google Chat would be a good option for you?
If you’re looking for something where you know you’ll find most of your friends and family, then WhatsApp is quite likely one of the best options you can grab off this list. Otherwise, Telegram and Signal should be able to fit the bill pretty well in terms of privacy and security, while Discord takes the crown for the best app for groups. If you’re a business, however, Slack might be able to serve you a little bit better.