The Best Messaging Apps for 2020 and Beyond - AcisNI.com

The Best Messaging Apps for 2020 and Beyond

​How can we define the best messaging apps? The truth is we can't really but what we can do is look at different uses, needs and popularity to give us a list of messenger apps to suit just about everyone.

​What's the best for me will be different to many other's needs. In this article I'm going to take an in depth look at messaging apps - the most popular, the best for certain devices or for certain uses.

There is a lot to cover so feel free to jump ahead to the sections that interest you most.

​The Most Popular Messaging Apps

​A lot of people see popularity as a recommendation but just because an app is popular doesn't mean it is the best for your needs.

Having said that, it's hard not to agree that the most popular messaging apps are the best in terms of general use. Things are not so straightforward when you break down popularity into regions and countries.

Consider this - WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app by number of users Worldwide but it isn't the most popular in the US. Line and WeChat have huge numbers of users - but mostly in China and parts of Asia.

So maybe just looking at user statistics isn't such a great measure of the best!

best messaging apps

​Messenger App Statistics

​I'm deliberately going to keep this simple and refer to user numbers - "active monthly users".

There are lots of stats sites and articles with great deep breakdowns covering daily active users, number of messages sent and wonderfully complex stats! I'm sticking to user numbers - sourced from : Statista and Datareportal figures.

​If you want deeper statistics go have a look .... but come back!

Below is a list of the most popular messenger apps - by active monthly users:

​App

Platforms

Users

​Popular in

WhatsApp

​iOS Android Windows Mac

​2 Billion

Worldwide: S. America, UK, Saudi Arabia, India, Russia, Indonesia

​Facebook Messenger

​​iOS Android Windows Mac

​1.3 Billion

Worldwide: USA, Canada, UK, Australia, Norway, Sweden ​

​WeChat

​​iOS Android Windows Mac

​1.11 Billion

​China, Mongolia

​QQ Mobile

​​​iOS Android Windows Mac

​823 Million

​China

​SnapChat

​​​iOS Android ​

​314 Million

USA, UK, France, Australia, Germany

​Skype

​​​iOS Android Windows Mac

​300 Million

​USA, UK, Iceland, Lithuania

​Viber

​​​iOS Android Windows Mac

​260 Million

Eastern Europe: Russia, Ukraine, Serbia

​Discord

​​​iOS Android Windows Mac

​250 Million

?​China

​​Line

​​​​iOS Android Windows Mac

​203 Million

Japan, Thailand, Taiwan 

​​Telegram

​​​​iOS Android Windows Mac

​200 Million

Iran, Uzbekistan

​​Kakao Talk

​​​​iOS Android Windows Mac

49 Million

​​South Korea

Don't worry I'm going to look a little closer at each one below but there are some interesting stats to consider when looking at this list.

Most of these apps require the person you are messaging to be on the app as well - this makes it relevant to consider which apps are commonly used in different countries. Not much sense in signing up with Line or WeChat if all your friends or colleagues are in the US.

What Are the Most Popular Messaging Apps in the USA?

Speaking of the United States ... did you know that the USA has only the third largest number of internet users behind China and India! But - 70% of all Americans have a smartphone and 82% of American teens use iPhones.

Messenger app usage in the US is different to many other regions because Americans still tend to message and text using the phones native messaging program.

This is probably due to the fact that most carriers have generous "free" sms and data bundles. In other countries texts cost money and messenger apps are a free alternative ... if using Wi-Fi.

When you look past native programs the most popular messenger apps in the US are:

  • ​Facebook with 106.4 M users
  • ​SnapChat with 45.98 M users
  • ​​WhatsApp with 25.58 M users

Source : Statista
The stats can be fascinating!

​So popularity can be an indicator of what are the best messaging apps ... but only to a point.

Later I'm going to list some of the less popular messenger apps and then look at the best apps for certain specific needs such as the most secure messaging apps and the best messenger apps for work environments. But first let's take a closer look at each of the main apps.

WhatsApp

whatsapp

​WhatsApp has recently reported on their blog that they have over 2 Billion active users - making it the most popular messaging app worldwide!

WhatsApp has been around for a while and still continues to grow. Founded in 2009 by two ex Yahoo employees Brian Acton and Jan Koum it was later bought by Facebook in 2014 for a whopping $19 Billion.

It started as an alternative text messaging service with status updates but has grown into a full featured cross platform communications app.

As well as sending messages and sharing files it includes VoIP calls (voice over internet protocol) allowing users to make free voice and video calls - using Wi-Fi or an existing data plan. Group chat features have proved very popular with users allowing up to 250 people to communicate privately.

It features end to end encryption and was seen as one of the best secure messaging apps. It was however rocked by a few high profile hacking scandals and the takeover by Facebook didn't inspire confidence with security experts!
See my article on How to Hack WhatsApp to see how
at risk you could be.
For most people it is still seen as secure.

​WhatsApp


​Available for :

​iOS Android Windows Mac

​​Cost :

​Free 

​​Voice Calls :

​​​Yes

​​Video Chat :

​Yes

​Group Chat :

​Yes ​

​​Security :

​Encrytpted

​​File Sharing :

​Yes

The Good:

  • Free other than Wi-Fi costs
  • ​Good encryption for security
  • Great for group chat
  • Cross platform

The Bad:

  • ​​Voice calls not available in all countries
  • ​​​Now owned by Facebook

Conclusion:

​WhatsApp is the most popular around the world because it works well and is free. The user interface is clean and simple. It was hailed for its security although that has been dented slightly by association with Facebook and the related security scandals. Still growing!

​Facebook Messenger

facebook messenger

​​Hot on the heels of WhatsApp comes Facebook Messenger - now the most used messaging app in the United States. Of course it is part of the largest social media platform in the world.

Messenger is free - on a Wi-Fi connection - allowing you to message anyone on Facebook. Sending messages, group chats, voice and video calls are all covered.

Facebook Messenger can be used with Business pages allowing them to message customers efficiently. Great for appointments and bookings - and many use it in this way.

​​Facebook Messenger


​Available for :

​iOS Android Windows Mac

​​Cost :

​Free 

​​Voice Calls :

​​​Yes

​​Video Chat :

​Yes

​Group Chat :

​Yes ​

​​Security :

​Not Encrytpted

​​File Sharing :

​Yes

The Good:

  • ​Easy to use
  • ​​Seems like everyone is on Facebook already!
  • ​Works well cross platform

The Bad:

  • ​​​Part of the Facebook empire causes some security concerns for users

Conclusion:

​​Facebook Messenger ticks a lot of boxes for many users leading to its popularity. So many people are on the platform worldwide that contacting people is relatively easy. Great for integration with your business needs.

​WeChat

wechat messenger app

​The most used messaging app in China with over a billion users - WeChat is definitely popular. However it has failed to really grow beyond China and Mongolia - but hey it doesn't need to!

It's free and easy to use and has some fun features to allow users to meet others they don't already know - Look Around. WeChat has also become huge as a payment method.

Part of WeChats popularity might be down to the fact that China blocks many other social apps and sites - and as for security ... well I wouldn't describe it as the most secure.

​​WeChat


​Available for :

​iOS Android Windows Mac

​​Cost :

​Free 

​​Voice Calls :

​​​Yes

​​Video Chat :

​Yes

​Group Chat :

​Yes ​

​​Security :

​Encrytpted

​​File Sharing :

​Yes

The Good:

  • ​Free and easy to use
  • ​​Handy for online payments
  • ​Some fun features

The Bad:

  • ​​​Not popular outside China
  • ​​​​Possible security issues

Conclusion:

​​WeChat seems great for users in China and perhaps for anyone doing business in China. The lack of users beyond that makes it less attractive - if none of your friends or contacts are using it - why would you!

​​QQ Mobile

qq mobile logo

​​Another huge Chinese app - almost solely used in China with little global uptake. It is actually owned by the same parent company as WeChat (Tencent) - in fact it used to be the most used messaging app in China until WeChat came along.

It seems to be on the decline as WeChat takes over. Still popular with younger users (under 30) it still boasts a huge number of users - 823 million.

​​​QQ Mobile


​Available for :

​iOS Android Windows Mac

​​Cost :

​Free 

​​Voice Calls :

​​​Yes

​​Video Chat :

​Yes

​Group Chat :

​Yes ​

​​Security :

​Encrytpted

​​File Sharing :

​Yes

The Good:

  • ​​Massive reach in China
  • ​​​Useful for business communication

The Bad:

  • ​​​Not popular outside China
  • ​​​​Possible security issues
  • Not as advanced as others including WeChat

Conclusion:

​​​Again this app is really only useful in China or for people with friends and business in China. It is one of the oldest messenger app platforms and has survived since 1999 so who knows if it may stage a fight back. Not really of much interest to western users.

​​Snapchat

snapchat image

​​Snapchat has seen huge growth across many western countries with active users topping 314 million. It started out as a fun way to edit and share mainly photos but has developed to become a true messaging platform.

We have all seen the funny filters in action that users seem to love. Now you can share videos and even have voice and video calls. New features have been rolling out too with Snapchat Stories and Moments.
Various Snapchat Hacks are available and can be a risk to security.

​Snapchat


​Available for :

​iOS Android Windows Mac

​​Cost :

​Free 

​​Voice Calls :

​​​Yes

​​Video Chat :

​Yes

​Group Chat :

​Yes ​

​​Security :

​Encrytpted

​​File Sharing :

​Yes

The Good:

  • ​​Probably the most fun messaging app
  • ​​​New features keeping things fresh
  • ​​Security - with messages that disappear

The Bad:

  • ​​​​Group chat features not as easy as others
  • ​​​​​Confusing interface with so many options

Conclusion:

​​​Snapchat has always been seen as a fun app first and foremost. Will people use it as a serious messaging app? Time will tell but they struggle to engage business users in a messaging capacity.

​​​Skype

skype logo

​​​Skype is one of the longest running communications apps launched in 2003 and now owned by Microsoft. Its focus has always been on voice calls and video calls - but has always covered text chats and group chats.

It is seen a serious tool - popular for business and general communications worldwide. They have paid options for international calling to landlines - at very good rates compared to normal international phone calls.

​Skype


​Available for :

​iOS Android Windows Mac

​​Cost :

​Free 

​​Voice Calls :

​​​Yes

​​Video Chat :

​Yes

​Group Chat :

​Yes ​

​​Security :

​Encrytpted

​​File Sharing :

​Yes

The Good:

  • ​​​Great for video calls
  • ​​​​Reliable service and wide user base
  • ​​​Group video calls

The Bad:

  • ​​​​​Some features cost money

Conclusion:

​​​​Skype is a reliable and serious communication app favored by many business users. International calling is a great way to cut costs on landline calls - not everyone is on mobile! Not going to seduce younger users for fun anytime soon.

​​​Viber

viber app

​​​Viber is very similar to WhatsApp in a lot of ways and seems to have gained traction in Eastern Europe. It has worked hard to offer some features from other apps such as disappearing messages and voice to landline calling (low cost).

It offers all the usual messaging, sharing, voice and video calling. Group chats are popular with unlimited numbers of users and even open groups where anyone can drop in and chat.

​​Viber


​Available for :

​iOS Android Windows Mac

​​Cost :

​Free 

​​Voice Calls :

​​​Yes

​​Video Chat :

​Yes

​Group Chat :

​Yes ​

​​Security :

​Encrytpted

​​File Sharing :

​Yes

The Good:

  • ​​​Viber Out - allows calls to landlines at low cost
  • ​​​​Group chats

The Bad:

  • ​​​​​Ads on the platform can be intrusive
  • ​​​​​​Video call quality can be sketchy 

Conclusion:

​​​​Viber is a good competitor for WhatsApp in terms of features and user interface. Its popularity in many Eastern European countries make it a great choice if you live or do business there.

​Discord

discord

​​​Discord is a communication app primarily designed for gamers. It can be used as a general messenger app with all the features you would expect such as text messaging, group chatting and voice and video calling.

It is very popular with gamers who can chat and share tips whilst gaming. It works well across all platforms and can be used online or through the app downloaded on your PC or phone.

Over 250 million users worldwide and most of them gamers!

​Discord


​Available for :

​iOS Android Windows Mac

​​Cost :

​Free 

​​Voice Calls :

​​​Yes

​​Video Chat :

​Yes

​Group Chat :

​Yes ​

​​Security :

​Encrytpted

​​File Sharing :

​Yes

The Good:

  • ​​​Lightweight app doesn't interfere with gaming on PC
  • ​​​​Cross platform
  • ​​​Great gaming community

The Bad:

  • ​​​​​Not popular with non gamers

Conclusion:

​​​​If you are a serious gamer and want to chat easily with friends and others - Discord is an obvious choice. With so many other platforms it makes sense to concentrate on the gaming market rather than try to reach the mass market.

​Line

line messenger

​​​Line has become the messenger app of choice in parts of Asia including Thailand and Japan. It competes with WhatsApp and Viber in terms of features and is adding new ones regularly.

Where it is popular it has really taken off - offering a payment portal Line Pay, a taxi booking platform Line Taxi as well as the usual voice and video calling. They focus on fun things too like emoticons and stickers - targeting the younger users.

​Line


​Available for :

​iOS Android Windows Mac

​​Cost :

​Free 

​​Voice Calls :

​​​Yes

​​Video Chat :

​Yes

​Group Chat :

​Yes ​

​​Security :

​Encrytpted

​​File Sharing :

​Yes

The Good:

  • ​​​Lots of features
  • ​​​​Free using Wi-Fi
  • ​​​Line pay for cheap calls to landlines

The Bad:

  • ​​​​​Not popular outside East Asia
  • ​​​​​​Lots of adds

Conclusion:

​​​​​Line is another great app but only practical for users in the countries mentioned - if your friends or business contacts aren't on it ... not much good for you!

​Telegram

telegram app logo

​​​Although Telegram is very popular in Iran and Uzbekistan it has a significant spread in other countries. It is seen as one of the most secure messaging apps - which might help explain its popularity in certain countries!

It offers text messages, voice and video calls, file sharing and group chats up to 200,000 people ... if that's what you need.

Security is the big selling point. It uses end to end encryption even for voice calls - allegedly avoiding any chance of eavesdropping.

​Telegram


​Available for :

​iOS Android Windows Mac

​​Cost :

​Free 

​​Voice Calls :

​​​Yes

​​Video Chat :

​Yes

​Group Chat :

​Yes ​

​​Security :

​Encrytpted

​​File Sharing :

​Yes

The Good:

  • ​​​High security
  • ​​​​No adds and free

The Bad:

  • ​​​​​May not be popular in your country

Conclusion:

​​​​Telegram is aimed at security conscious users and offers all the features you would expect from your messaging app. If you need to send secure messages or make secure calls - it might be the one for you.

​Kakao Talk

kakao talk app

​​​Another very country specific messenger app - this time used almost exclusively in South Korea. Kakao is claimed to be installed on 93% of all smartphones in South Korea - pretty incredible!

It provides all the features you would expect from your favorite messaging app - with a Korean twist. A lot of features are linked to popular Korean culture and media. Seems to tick a lot of boxes for its users.

​Kakao Talk


​Available for :

​iOS Android Windows Mac

​​Cost :

​Free 

​​Voice Calls :

​​​Yes

​​Video Chat :

​Yes

​Group Chat :

​Yes ​

​​Security :

​Encrytpted

​​File Sharing :

​Yes

The Good:

  • ​​​Great for South Koreans
  • ​​​New features keeping things fresh
  • ​​​Useful for visitors or anyone doing business in Korea

The Bad:

  • ​​​​​Too country specific for worldwide use
  • ​​​​​Confusing interface with so many options

Conclusion:

​​​​This seems like a great app for anyone in South Korea but beyond that it isn't going to take off. I'm guessing they don't need it to ... it's doing well in Korea.

​That just about covers the most popular messaging apps at least by the number of active users. Of course the list goes on with new apps coming to market all the time - who knows what the next big thing will be.

​It's clear from a quick look at these apps that they are all pretty much competing in the same features - with a few having a specific angle. It is hard to know why an app is so popular in one country versus another.

Obviously it is a numbers game. Because you need an app where your friends or contacts are already active that leads to the spread of certain platforms. Will WeChat ever grow outside China, can Viber compete with WhatsApp beyond Eastern Europe?

Who knows but it is getting harder for up and coming apps to differentiate themselves from the rest. Ultimately they all soon copy any unique features.

Up and Coming Messaging Apps

There is a long list of apps and I'm just going to briefly mention a few that might make a splash in the near future:

Kik Messenger - this one is already growing in popularity and offers a few unique features such as being able to send and receive messages without a phone number. You can sign up using email and use the platform.

kik messenger

TikTok - you've probably heard of this app, it has been getting a lot of attention in the media. At the moment it is not really a true messaging app but that will likely change. It is a fun music video sharing site - with lip syncing proving popular.

What's interesting is that other big social platforms are already rolling out plans to copy its features.

Signal - another messaging app to watch, its main selling point is security. It claims to be the most secure app available. In these times of privacy scandals and hacking reports ore people are paying attention to security online.

GroupME -  as the name suggests this one targets group users. Focusing on a specific target group might be the way to gain a market but with so many of the big names already covering group messages they will have to work hard to grow this app.

groupme app

Loads more apps are available but can they make any impact - they do have some great names: Tango, Nimbuzz, Voxer Walkie Talkie, HeyTell, Talkatone and Silent Phone.

Let's have a look at the best messenger apps for certain situations:

​The Best Messenger Apps for Work

​Messaging apps are increasingly being used in work environments for a range of purposes. Some uses include : general communication between staff, sharing work documents, video conferencing and handling customer services.

Some of the tools being used are more sophisticated than general messaging apps but many businesses do use these for work purposes.

​A host of platforms have been developed specifically for the work environment and they can be expensive. Some include : Slack, Zoho, Microsoft Teams, Twist and Flock.

In my view these are not really classed as messaging apps - not in the context of this article.

​Facebook Messenger is probably the most used app by smaller business. It is popular for handling bookings and customer support for small business users.

When you get into the country specific apps like Line in Japan you can see widespread business use with add-ons like Line Pay and Line Taxi.

Small businesses will always find ways to get the most from these apps in a way that suits their needs. But, remember you need to "be where your customers are" - that may be Facebook, WhatsApp or WeChat - or maybe all three!

​The Best Secure Messaging Apps

​Who isn't worried about their online security? It sometimes seems like everyone is spying on everyone else! All the hacking scandals and big companies "stealing" our data.

It's no wonder that messaging apps are trying to outdo one another on the security front. After all, that can attract a large market share ... at least with a certain section of users.

​I write about a lot of online security issues here at AcisNI.com - take a moment to read some of my most popular posts:

How to Tell if Your Cell Phone is Hacked
How to Detect Spy Apps
How to Remove a Hacker from Your Phone
How to Remove Spy Apps

WhatsApp used to be seen as the most secure app with their end to end encryption. Law enforcement even called them out for helping terrorism and crime.

Now, WhatsApp are still using the same security measures but they have been bought over by Mark Zukerberg's Facebook. People have lost some faith in the security of the app because of the association with Facebook and its recent scandals.

Is WhatsApp still secure - yes just as secure as before .... but can you trust Facebook? It has a lot to do with perception.

Signal has emerged as the most secure messaging app today. Said to be recommended to politicians and world leaders and allegedly used by Edward Snowden .... and I guess those people could do with secure messaging!

End to end encryption is used by many of the most popular apps but it seems that this isn't enough these days. They have a habit of using some part of the data for advertizing and behavior analysis.

signal messenger logo

Signal stands out - it is free and open source - so no big companies stand to make money. This is a big deal when you think about it. They also claim the best encryption process and do not collect any data whatsoever. Sounds good to me!

​How worried are you ... really. I don't like the idea of being spied on but I'm not lying awake at night worrying about the security of my WhatsApp messages. But then again I don't have much to fear. Not everyone can say the same.

​Conclusion

​So, are we any closer to finding the best messaging app? Maybe, but I hope you have gained some insight to what is available and how to approach the subject - find what works for you and your needs.

Thanks for reading!

Spread the love

About the Author Susan Kennedy

Hi there - I'm Susan, a regular mom who has used spy apps for years now. I was fed up with spammy reviews and poor information so I started this website. It keeps growing!

follow me on:

Leave a Comment: