Tag Archives: WhatsApp

7 Apps for Planning a Spring Break Trip

By Tracey Dowdy

Planning a Spring Break trip can be equal parts excitement and dread. The promise of relaxation and getting away from it all can be overshadowed by the reality of expenses and scheduling. Whether you’re traveling alone or with family and friends, these apps can help you plan, stay within your budget and make the most of those days away.

TripIt

TripIt is a godsend for planners and laid back travelers alike. By pulling all your reservation information from confirmation emails, TripIt takes all those flight details, rental car agreements, hotel addresses and so on and creates one streamlined itinerary. Best of all, TripIt is fully functional offline which is ideal if you’re travelling abroad and roaming isn’t available. (Free – iOS, Android)


App in the Air

App in the Air acts as your flight concierge. TripIt integration means you won’t miss your flight, as any delays, gate changes or updates are sent to you in real time. The app makes it easy to manage your time by breaking each trip into 4 stages – check-in, boarding, takeoff, and landing – and creating a countdown so you know how much time you have to grab a snack before boarding. If you’re traveling with a group, you can track their flights as well. Once you’re back on the ground, links to local cabs are available to get you to your final destination hassle free. (Free but with in-app purchases – iOS, Android)


Mint

Mint makes sure your vacation regrets are limited to bad karaoke and questionable sushi by helping you stick to a budget. Few things can ruin a trip faster than realizing you’re spending way more than you intended. Set a spending limit before you leave and Mint will track your expenses in real time and let you know when you’re getting close or surpassing your limit. (Free – iOS, Android)


Google Translate

Google Translate may seem like an odd suggestion but the most recent update lets you have conversations in real time via Conversation Mode. Open the app, select the two languages you’d like to converse in, tap the microphone and speak. You can also translate street signs, menus and other text by using your phone’s camera. Simply hold the camera over written text and Word Lens immediately translates the text into English. (Free – iOS, Android, Windows)


XE Currency

XE Currency takes the guess work out of “How much is that in dollars?” You can convert over 180 currencies at up-to-the-minute exchange rates. The app works off line as well by storing the most recent rates. (Free – iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry)


WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a smartphone messenger that uses 3G or Wi-Fi when it’s available to exchange messages across platforms and is a great alternative if you’re only traveling for a week or less and don’t want to change your phone plan. Just switch from SMS to WhatsApp to exchange messages, pictures, videos or audio clips with family and friends. (Free – iOS, Android, Windows)


Viator

Viator is ideal for making the most of your trip while sticking to a budget. Whether you like to explore or are just looking for an alternative to the beach on a rainy day, Viator helps you find and book the best deals on local attractions, museums, tours or even popular local hangouts.  (Free – iOS, Android)

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Facebook Not Feeling the Love (Again)

When Facebook announced in April of this year that the messaging feature would be removed from the Facebook mobile app and users would be required to download the separate Messenger app, there was the usual outcry from the Facebook faithful. After all, Facebook users are notorious for not liking change, whether it’s a seismic shift like increasing the size of photos or something smaller like tweaking Facebook’s privacy policies.

However, this time the backlash feels a little different. We are almost four months into the migration period and, if anything, the anti-Messenger sentiment is growing. Over 21,000 people have submitted a review of the app on iTunes and over 95 percent of those reviews are resoundingly negative, leaving Messenger with an embarrassing 1-star rating. (1 star is the lowest rating on iTunes; fortunately for Facebook, you can’t give an app zero stars!)

What are the biggest failings of Messenger? Well, there are numerous complaints about the app constantly crashing and messages not going through, but the biggest objection appears to be the lack of convenience: ‘Why do we now have to use two apps when before we just used one?’ It’s a very good question and the answer probably has more to do with Facebook’s long term strategy for growth that it has to do with the convenience of its current customers.

When Facebook paid $19 billion for WhatsApp back in February, many analysts and tech commentators were left scratching their heads. How could a simple messaging app, albeit one with over 400 million users, be worth so much money? While some of the reasons for the acquisition were defensive – anything to stop it falling into the hands of Google – it was also an admission that, in the mobile era, Facebook has some serious limitations.

While Facebook continues to pick up additional users in various parts of the world, it has reached saturation point in many of its largest markets, including the U.S. In fact, younger American users have been abandoning Facebook in droves, preferring less cluttered, more direct social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and even Twitter.

It’s this movement back to straightforward messaging that has Facebook worried. Not only can you get back to a more meaningful one-on-one dialogue (or one-on-many using group chat), but the latest texting and chat apps allow you to add photos and videos, and even engage in one-touch video chat.

With these other options available, who is going to bother to open Facebook to send a simple message? Ironically, the in-app message integration that is so convenient to traditional Facebook users is now a major inconvenience to non-Facebook users, and it’s those non-Facebook users that are so important to the future growth of the company.

As they have demonstrated many times in the past, Mark Zuckerberg and friends are quite willing to take a little criticism now if it means they stay relevant down the road. Meanwhile, Facebook mobile users can either download the Messenger app or switch to one of the many alternatives. Either way, we end up doing what Facebook wants us to do and that’s open another app!

7 Messaging Apps That Are Replacing SMS

When texting first became popular, most texts were sent via a wireless carrier’s network. This service (also known as SMS) used to be a huge revenue-generator for the carriers, but is now largely bundled with ‘free’ voice or calling plans as the carriers switch their attention to data.

If you are still using SMS to text your family and friends, then rest assured you are not alone. Despite all the chatter about WhatsApp, SnapChat, Messenger and the rest, SMS remains the #1 messaging option for an overwhelming majority of smartphone owners.

But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way forever. The ability to add multimedia functions, group chats, video calls, and much more is quickly adding to the allure of messaging apps, and it seems only a matter of time before they catch up and even surpass the popularity of SMS.

If you have a teenage son or daughter, it’s almost guaranteed that they are using at least one messaging app. If you are thinking of joining them, here are 7 of the more popular options:

Facebook Messenger

messengerTNUp until now, Facebook included a messaging feature in its social network app, so there was no need for a separate download. However, Facebook has just announced that all future mobile messaging will have to be done through the stand-alone Messenger app. Desktop users will be able to continue to use the built-in messaging app as before.

Messenger includes text, group chat, photo and video sharing options, and even stickers. The good thing about Facebook is that almost everyone is on it, so you won’t have to spend time adding all your contacts.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry


WhatsApp

whatsappTNWith over 500 million active users, WhatsApp is arguably the most popular messaging app in the world – so popular, in fact, that Facebook agreed to pay $19 billion to acquire it! WhatsApp’s strength is its simplicity. Once the app is downloaded, WhatsApp checks your contacts and automatically adds WhatsApp users. You don’t need to send a request to be able to connect through WhatsApp.

WhatsApp supports text messages, group messages, photos and videos, and audio media messages. WhatsApp management has also announced that they are developing a voice option, which will be the equivalent of making a phone call.

Cost: $0.99 per year (first year free)
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone


Skype

skypeTNEstablished as a desktop tool, Skype has made an uneven transition to mobile, disappointing some early adopters and encouraging other messaging services to step up and fill the void. The Skype mobile app supports text messaging, photos and videos, and face-to-face video and voice calls over Wi-Fi or a wireless network. There is also a low-cost voice calling option to mobile devices and landlines.

Cost: Free (with the exception of some calling options)
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone


Google Hangouts

hangoutsTNAlthough Google Hangouts supports an instant text messaging service, its real strength is in multi-person voice and video chats. The video chat option is particularly appealing and supports a number of increasingly sophisticated production options. The messaging app is very basic but it does support photos and GIFs, which can be automatically saved in a Google+ album.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS, Android


SnapChat

snapchatTNExtremely popular among tweens and teens, SnapChat started life as an instant photo-sharing service that allowed users to add a text caption. The photos automatically disappeared after a few seconds, leading to (largely unfounded) fears of teen sexting. SnapChat also supports plain text chat and has recently added Stories, which allows users to video chat simply by pressing and holding the screen.

SnapChat’s success has attracted the attention of Facebook but so far SnapChat’s founders have rebuffed all acquisition attempts. Both Facebook (Slingshot) and Instagram (Bolt) have recently introduced SnapChat competitors, although Bolt is not yet available in the U.S.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS, Android


LINE

lineTNPopular overseas, LINE supports free voice and video calls as well as regular text messaging, photos and more. Although the app is fee to download, users can spend money on a range of in-app purchases, which include stickers, games and even messages from celebrities. Music and shopping services are expected to follow.

Cost: Free with some optional in-app purchases
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone


Kik

kikTNWith the decline of BlackBerry (and the beloved BBM), there was an obvious need for a smart and flexible cross-platform messaging tool. Enter Kik, a rapidly-evolving messaging service that now has over 100 million users. With Kik you can exchange text messages, videos, images, emoticons, and more, and features like Kik Cards allow for a surprising level of customization.

Price: Free
Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone