Sunday, September 11, 2022


When I was in hospital I would give a daily update to my parents in Arizona, my sister in California, Claudia in Berlin, Natalie in Wellington, and Kája.  I couldn't use iMessage because Nat and Kája are Android users and everyone is on Apple.  I couldn't use WhatsApp because my parents and sister don't use it.  So I had to go old school and use SMS (text message). 

SMS is Short Message Service but in the USA we call it a "text message" and we use "to text" as the verb.

The USA is one of the few big countries where SMS remains the usual way to chat.  SMS/Text message travel over telephone lines rather than over the Internet.

If you use an iPhone then and you want to message someone else who also has an iPhone then you send them an iMessage.  The message goes over the internet.  If you want to message someone who uses an Android phone then you send them an SMS.

The benefit of SMS is that it works with any phone.  However, there are security flaws, you don't get notifications when the recipient has read your message and you can't start a video call from a text message.  SMS messages are up to 160 characters.

WhatsApp is a free instant messaging and voice-over-IP (VoIP) service that was purchased by Facebook in 2014 for $19.3 billion.  It's the most popular way to message people in most of Europe, Africa, Latin America and most of India.

It's heavily used across Europe.  Mainly because it's free.  In the USA, SMS is usually priced at a flat rate and most carriers include text messaging as part of your mobile package.  In Czechland, a single SMS is usually around 1 Kč (5¢) which over a month can add up to a good chunk of change.  On the other hand, most U.S. mobile providers charge a heavy fee for international text messaging.

To use WhatsApp you just need an internet connection.  With WhatsApp you're not limited to 160 characters per message, you can send images, videos, audio files and documents, there are read notifications when the recipient has seen the message, you can use it to video call, group chats and calls are no problem and it uses end-to-end encryption which means that only the sender and the recipient of the message can see its contents.  Plus, it's free.

Spain uses it the most.  Something like 90% of mobile users use WhatsApp.  In the USA, only about 1/3rd of users have downloaded the app.  I bet that a good chuck of the users have it to communicate with family and friends in parts of the world where SMS is expensive.

In China, WeChat is the go-to messaging tool while in Japan, Line is number one, and Telegram is popular in Russia.  WhatsApp is banned in China, North Korea, Syria, Qatar, and the UAE.

Here's a short video I found on YouTube that talk about why Americans don't use WhatsApp.

©Digital Trends

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