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Best apps for Cross-Platform Messaging from a BlackBerry smartphone

Some of the people I want to stay in touch with are on Android and iPhone instead of BlackBerry. I don't want to resort to SMS, I want the power of instant messaging, what can I do? What's the best option?
Cross Messaging Apps
By Ryan Blundell on 2 May 2012 09:12 am EDT
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One of the most popular features that has many flocking to, and staying with, the BlackBerry platform is BlackBerry Messenger. One of the best parts of BBM is having real-time confirmation when your BlackBerry to BlackBerry instant messages are successfully delivered and read. BBM is all about reliability in communication and the power of knowledge. Once that ‘R’ pops up, in your mind you know that you should expect a prompt reply...hopefully. It’s not just a single letter from the alphabet that has me hooked – it’s how many options BBM gives me. Ever since BlackBerry messenger first came out, it made a strong case of being forever superior to text messaging. I can add contacts to my network, use the personalization options I have to let my network know who I am and what I’m thinking or even make use of BBM connected applications to be more social while playing games or checking in at a venue. A standard SMS is 160 characters, which seems like a lot compared to a 140 character tweet, but it seems inefficient compared to the 2000 character limit of a BBM.

Instant messaging, in general leaves SMS in the dust, as it allows you to actually have a conversation, rather than broken thoughts and sentences that are easy to get confused -if there’s a 2 part SMS, you might get the second part first. Of course not everyone uses a BlackBerry, and those who may not know better may resort to using SMS to keep in contact with friends and family that use other platforms. Luckily, there is quite a selection of cross-platform messaging applications out there that keep you in the loop, regardless if someone is using an iPhone or a smartphone powered by Android or Windows Phone 7. Keep reading to see which one may be best for you.

Like I said before, you definitely have more than a couple of options to look at when it comes to cross platform chit chat. The problem lies in getting the features you want. You may be used to BlackBerry Messenger and come to expect the exact same functionality when talking with someone using a different platform. As the song goes, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need”. That being said, don’t forget that there are a good number of applications that do offer many features that you’re looking for.

Best Cross-Platform Messaging Apps


WhatsApp WhatsApp

Whenever I hear someone asking what they can use to chat with users on other platforms, WhatsApp always comes up. It’s arguably the most popular cross-platform messaging application. It’s also one that offers a lot of the additional features that many have been hoping to get. You connect with your contacts by entering in their mobile number; no email accounts or special PINs, just their digits. You have the standard push, sent and received notifications, which we come to expect. They’ve most recently added the “Share Location” where, as you may have guessed, you can send the person you’re chatting to your current location or choose from a list of locations around you. They’ve also included the ability to set a group icon for group chat. Now that’s on top of some amazing features like exporting chat history and implementing a broadcast message. It could be said that WhatsApp has quickly become the standard for cross-platform messaging applications. This would probably be my go-to application, though I am hoping to see them be able to add custom backgrounds, like you can do with the iOS and Android versions.

More information/Download WhatsApp

Touch Touch

Until recently, Touch had been the application my wife frequently used. Now that the developer has ceased support for Touch’s predecessor PingChat, they can focus on adding to the impressive feature lineup that has been built into Touch. While it may not have an export chat history option available, it does boast message encryption and the ability to block people. The layout of touch is extremely fluid and provides more of a social network type of feel, through its Activity Stream, that makes you almost forget the cross-platform messaging capabilities. You are able to send media, as you can with most apps of this type, but you have to do so from within Touch itself. It’s not an easy process either, as you have to scroll through a list of your pictures and/or videos until you get to the right one. Whatsapp provides functionality within the BlackBerry menu, allowing you to quickly send the image or video you’re looking at. Additionally, the response time of touch is outstanding. If you are a Pingchat user and you want to upgrade to Touch, you’ll find the process to be effortless.

More information/Download Touch - formerly PingChat!

Cnectd Cnectd

The developers couldn’t be bothered to use all of the letters to spell connected correctly, probably because they’re too busy making sure the rest of the world stays connected through Cnectd! Still sporting a Blue and Orange motif, Cnectd gives you no nonsense, quick connectivity to your contacts. Cnectd was one of the first few who had sent/read notifications, which made it very popular in the past. They also provide location sharing and access to connect with your Facebook account, in order to create a profile and automatically add contacts who already have Cnectd. The only downfall I saw with Cnectd was the licensing requirements. Sorry, there’s no way I would spend money to use Cnectd for a limited time. As great as the functionality is, I can’t justify it.

More information/Download Cnectd

kik Kik

If you haven’t been living under a rock, you may have heard the name Kik kicked around over the past year and a half or so. While we first heard of it as the Kik music app, which was supposed to enable users to buy DRM-free music directly from the BlackBerry, we eventually came to know it as one of the popular alternatives to BlackBerry messenger. The sent, read and delivered stamps are all present and loved and the speed is fantastic. Even though it was removed from BlackBerry App World, you can still download and use it, thanks to an open connection to Kiks servers. If you do decide to install it, don’t tell RIM I sent you there, I don’t want to get into any trouble!

More information/Download Kik

Hookt Hookt

Great, yet another app that doesn’t want to be spelled properly. Given a quick run down earlier this month by Bla1ze, Hookt Messenger goes above and beyond BlackBerry Messenger. You can not only used Hookt on your BlackBerry, but also from your computer or even your PlayBook. That way, you can chat away without looking like you’re messing around with your BlackBerry all day (I’m not saying it’s a bad thing mind you). You can also send your contacts one of dozens of stickers. The layout is simple and smooth, allowing you to focus on chatting and functionality.

More information/Download Hookt

Recently, CrackBerry forum member wout000 put together a fantastic comparison chart, which covers pretty much all of the main cross-platform messengers. wout000 took the time to reach out to the developers to see what they can or can’t do, as well as which platforms they work on. For the full image, as well as the original post, click here. Great Job wout000!

wout000
[Click for larger image]

Alternative to Cross-Platform Messaging - Social Networking or Instant Messaging!

Besides these cross-platform specific instant messaging applications, you do have a few other options. These days, you can’t throw a stick without hitting someone who is on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social networks. So why not use them as your main means of communication? On top of that, you have applications such as IM+, Nimbuzz that offer support for multiple social networks and instant messengers. My fallback choice would be the Google Talk application, as I would frequently chat from my contacts on there from my computer, so why not take the conversation with me?

So there you have it, there are many options to choose from. Which ones are you using already? What should be added to the list? Let us know.

Reader comments

Best apps for Cross-Platform Messaging from a BlackBerry smartphone

36 Comments

We use Touch all the time (its replaced SMS between the family) .. Multiple devices (Android, Blackberry & iPhone/ iPod Touch)..

Works great..

Please consider adding Samsung ChatOn to the list: https://web.samsungchaton.com/
It is now available for Blackberry and in my opinion it has more features than WhatsApp with the main disadvantage being that is doesn't work on Nokia phones but it does works on Samsung Bada OS which makes up in some way. The main advantage is that because is backed by Samsung it will be free while WhatsApp is free only in the first year.

I've tried Touch, WhatsApp and some others, but chose Cnectd afterall. Quick, reliable and nearly no battery consumption. Just what I need. Yep, it's paid (as well as WhatsApp), but it's worth the money. Still, there are many glitches and the UI is rather poor, but as far as I know guys from MCI Consultants are working on a new versions.

Thanks for this article, it's helpful. I've been using Live Profile for a while now. It works well on Android, BlackBerry and iOS. Haven't tried in on a Windows phone yet. Since I've had my friends and family all download Live Profile that's the one I'll be sticking with for a while. It also has D and R and file sharing. That's all I need.

Great job on that data chart, except

1. FourSquare can be (partially) integrated with BBM
2. a Group can be named/renamed in WhatsApp

I've been using whatsapp for like 2 years and I haven't once been required to pay for it...Also that chart says you can block a contact in WhatsApp how does one do this?

Go to "settings" (it's the wheel on top, second icon from the right) and select "blocked contacts" 4th option from the top.

You can block contacts using that window.

Trillian is awesome. It's a multi-IM client that maintains message history between devices! STart a conversation on your Windows 7 laptop, continue the same conversation on your BB when it's time to pack up and go home!

http://www.trillian.im/

If you mentioned it and I missed it, I'm sorry. However, I don't see you mention that too many of these 3rd party chat apps suck the BlackBerry battery dry in short order. I have tried a number of them and removed them when I started getting 'Android like' battery life.

I gave WhatsApp and Kik a shot for a bit when my wife got an iPhone. But then I realized I could add text-only contacts to my BBM. Now everyone is back within the single app, and aside from status updates (not a big deal to me) and the "R", I barely notice a difference.

Even when SMS/MMS messages come in, they now show up in BBM. It's awesome.

@PegCityNerd

How does Google Talk fit into all of this? It's even more cross platform since you can message from your pc/ mac as well.

+1 for GTalk which is a native app on Blackberry and also Android. Nowadays almost everyone have a gmail account.

WhatsApp wins for me, simply because the largest number of people around me use it. For me, the functionalities are similar enough from app to app that the number of my friends on each app decides which one I'm going to use.

Because Kik was developed by one of the original developers of BBM (remember the litigation?) it is the closest thing BlackBerry Messenger in terms of performance.

Can't bring myself to use WhatsApp because I refuse to enter my cell number just to use an app. Especially with no End User Licence Agreement. That's asking for trouble.

You do realize that most apps you install on your phone get your phone number, right? Unless you block it when installing an app, of course... but most just click "trust" and go.

Avoiding SMS, using BBM for all vital realtime messaging remains the top reason for my 5 household devices all being BB. It is the killer app, and I hope it gains in its centrality to the BB experience in BB10 and beyond. If not, I may have to settle for an iPhone or WinMobile phone migration!

Thanks for the article.

Yeah, good luck getting all the other people on other platforms to use the same cross-platform app.

Keep it simple/stupid and link your contacts to BBM for a one-stop-shop. Yes you will be SMSing them but WGAF? I'm not one to stress out about things like this and linking all my non-BB user contacts to my BBM is a no-brainer for me. Getting a "D" for delivered is enough. The "R" is a bit intrusive and stalker-like IMHO.

Sadly enough, instant messaging is one of my least favourite things about my BlackBerry. True, BBM really shines for messaging my BlackBerry equipped friends, but for my other IM needs, I prefer XMPP/Jabber, which, imho, is a pretty awesome protocol for cross platform messengers (even Facebook and GoogleTalk use it!)

Unfortunately, a decent (generic) XMPP client is hard to come by on a BlackBerry these days. Apart from the aging Vayusphere client the only ones I could find (in App World and elsewhere) are such that they require you to sign up for their service and expect you to hand over your credentials to them. That's something I'm not even remotely considering, so I'm a bit out of luck...

Yea I can't justify battery life or app memory space for an instant messenger app. I have unlimited text, it's included in my plan and somehow another I'm being charged for it. I have no problem with being limited to a certain amount of words, I don't plan on writing a letter with my BB.

I'm glad my chart could be of some assistance, I had a lot of fun talking to the different devs of the reviewed messengers.

Thanks for the mention Ryan!

I can't help but notice the false advertising of whatsapp having "Read" notifications in your article and comparative chart. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Most users of whatsapp mistake the double checkmark as read, but it only means delivered.

From the whatsapp site (http://www.whatsapp.com/faq/#g4):

What are those green checkmarks next to my messages?
We are glad you asked. These green checkmarks are actually very important since they function as message delivery acknowledgement indicators. Here is what they mean:

- message successfully delivered to the server.

- message succesfully delivered to the device of the chat partner. (note: this does not indicate that message was read, just that it was delivered)

While you make a good point, the chart was in fact completed by the creators of the apps. Only the 2 apps within the red lining are filled in by me.

So WhatsApp itself created that entry. It may be that their FAQ is outdated. I find that when that double checkmark hits the read/response time of the other party is in the 1-5 second range.

I believe it's in the wording of the field. "Send/Receive Notifications". On the Whatsapp site they say the double check mark means that the phone has received the message, but are quick to differentiate between received and read. So by their logic, it does have send/receive. This is the main reason why I choose touch and kik over whatsapp.

I bet if the field was changed to send/delivered/read, then whatsapp would need to answer the question differently.

Thanks for the article it was very informative.

Regarding WhatsApp, the chart indicates that message encryption is "Coming Soon".

My question is, is this directly from WhatsApp because I went to their site to see if I could find out any additional details on this including a timetable and I could not find a thing. Since you talked to the developer directly, can you provide any additional information? I committed to WhatsApp and talked my circle into getting on WhatsApp before I realized that messages were not encrypted (I kinda assumed that an IM app with such high ratings and that many users had to have encryption), so this is a pretty big deal to me and I would like to know more. If message encryption is really coming soon I will hold off on committing to undertaking the massive effort and consequent crow eating that I will have to endure to get the folks I asked to use WhatsApp onto another cross-platform messenger.

Thanks.

It's straight from the WhatsApp developers. I suggest you contact them directly to get more details.