There are a few basic elements to touch on when discussing WhatsApp, instant messaging for your smartphone. In simple terms, this is a platform used to send text messages, images, documents, and audio messages via the Internet, using cell phone numbers. Some reports show that this app is the most popular one used for messaging, with user numbers approaching a billion.
There are a number of messaging services, so there must be some specific reasons why this app has attracted so many satisfied users. One reason has to do with a niche market in mobile phones. WhatsApp works with Nokia phones, once a very popular choice among cell phones that saw its market share shrink to about 3 percent in the most recent year for which numbers were available. Most people now know that iPhones and Android phones such as Samsung and a few others seem to dominate the phone world.
However, a quick look at information for WhatsApp shows that the Nokia brand is listed right along with Android, iPhone, and even Blackberry. Other sources of information show that the Nokia NIS is supported by this message app, with work in progress on a number of other Nokia phones and a growing list of phones that will work with WhatsApp. Here are just a few of the features for WhatsApp currently:
- Individual or group chatting
- Calling without using allotted minutes
- Photos, videos
- Web links
- Numerous languages, including Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish
In 2016, WhatsApp was still considered an early-stage technology named with a play on words – What’s Up, a common slang phrase. Two guys in Silicon Valley created the application after working with a large, traditional online company for many years. The goal: a better SMS alternative. OK, so what is SMS, exactly? The acronym stands for short message service, used with phones and the Web using standard protocols so that both mobile phones and fixed-line phones can send text messages.
SMS: It’s Everywhere
As far back as 2011, SMS accounted for the vast majority of mobile phone use, by some estimates up to 80 percent. This message protocol is said to generate billions of dollars in the communications economy. Thirty years ago SMS was the basis for electronic memos and pager messages, then it became a staple for mobile-to-mobile use. SMS has now expanded to include landlines and satellite communication as well.
How Does It Work?
While it will not do to get into the science and technology behind SMS and WhatsApp (there just is not enough time or space here) the end-user answer to the question is rather simple. The messaging app allows users to exchange messages but they do not have to pay for SMS service. It works with Nokia, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Android, and iPhone and uses the data plan for email and Web browsing that you already have in place.
You Can Trust It
It is quite interesting to browse for information about WhatsApp and find that privacy and security are at the top of the priority list. These benefits would be what you expect from a serious provider and apparently this app sees security as a primary element. The creators envisioned people using their application during the most difficult times, not just for everyday use. This means, obviously, that you can use the platform with your mobile device without worrying about sharing personal information. Built-in encryption keeps all the data from getting into the hands of those you do not know or cannot trust.
WhatsApp describes this benefit as being a “special key” that only you and the other recipient have access to. Messages can only be “unlocked” by those currently involved in the conversation that is taking place. End-to-end encryption is put in place automatically when the app is used. According to company information, not even WhatsApp will be able to access any of the information included in personal messages. When first you start an account with the app, privacy settings are most visible, by default.
Without changing the settings, other users would be able to contact you, even if they are not included on your friends list. They will also be able to see your profile. But with a few easy steps, users can add security by allowing their information to be held only by people they know and trust. Of course, there is the usual, and useful, secure password process for getting to the account in the first place. Aside from these efficient security measures, WhatsApp has some customizable features. These include colors, buttons, text font, text size, and even text bubbles. Most of this is accessible through a simple Options menu.
The process of getting started with the app is not, as they say, rocket science. Like most good messaging applications, you simply sign into your account and start messaging. If you need to add a contact to your list, there is a menu for that. You can also make them a favorite with a simple menu step. To communicate with your contacts, use the Chats menu and start a new message. As with the person-to-person message, you can easily create a group to communicate with. Just use the Options selection on the Chats menu.
Perhaps one of the most interesting elements in the WhatsApp process is the group icon. If you want to create a group that will receive and send messages on a particular subject, for example, you will first need to select an icon for that group. According to the most recent information available, an individual can include more than 250 people in a group using the “plus” sign and typing in contact names. Administrators can be named as well. Users can be blocked quite simply and just as easily unblocked. Look for voice call capability to be added in the near future.
The two creators of WhatsApp seem to have done something right. WhatsApp Inc. was purchased by Facebook in 2014 for a reported $19.3 billion.