Mobile Instant Messaging

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The Power of Cheap Chat 

 Mobile Instant Messaging

The 2go app started as a mobile timetable for students. Although of South African origin, it is especially popular in Nigeria. 2go is simple to use and is aimed at lower-end feature phones, although Android and BlackBerry OS versions have also been released.

Tango mobile messaging service got a $215 million investment from Alibaba in March 2014 (plus some more money from some other sources). This is believed to be the biggest single investment by a Chinese company into an American company. Tango offers text and video chats, as well as games and music.

eBuddy Chat hails from the Netherlands. It is a line of multi-protocol instant messaging clients, allowing users with Facebook Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, Google Hangouts, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ and AOL accounts to chat free of charge in one aggregated interface. eBuddy Chat supports a web interface and also supports iOS, Android, J2ME and mobile web-enabled devices.

Google Hangouts was launched in 2013 and is integrated into Gmail.

MSN / Windows Live Messenger is connected to the Microsoft Messenger service and is compatible with Yahoo! Messenger and Facebook Messenger.

Yahoo messenger was also the first major IM client to introduce Buzzing: a user can buzz someone and both parties will hear a buzzing sound.

MySpaceIM is the official instant messaging client for the social networking site MySpace.

Facebook Messenger is here to stay, say the Facebook people, the acquisition of WhatsApp notwithstanding.

Snapchat is growing in popularity in South Africa and elsewhere, largely because it allows users to send images and videos that “self-destruct” from servers after 10 seconds of viewing. However, users should know that experts can retrieve “destroyed” content; besides, nothing prevents a recipient from capturing screenshot images and saving them before they self-destruct.

So, the first privacy cyber-rule still applies: if you wouldn’t want your Mom to see it, don’t send (or post) it.

 Mobile Messaging

While users around the world are happily messaging away at low rates, the doctors are sounding an alarm. They are warning about WhatsAppitis. The symptoms are pain and swelling in the wrist and / or finger joints, and the treatment consists of taking anti-inflammatory drugs – and complete abstinence from using one’s phone to send messages.

As if that’s possible!


South Africans love their cell phones. More than 90% of the population owns a mobile, and many of them are able to foot the not-negligible bill with the help of messaging apps.

These days (to the joy of consumers) several free (or so-cheap-they’re-almost-free) messaging apps are fighting it out for dominance on the local (and international) market. Most are suitable not only for smartphones, but also for feature phones and even semi-feature phones, an important consideration for South Africa, where there are about 12 million smartphones and 20 million feature phones.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the mobile messaging apps available to South Africans.

WhatsApp, a cross-platform mobile messaging app, works on Android, the old BlackBerry OS, the new BlackBerry 10, Apple iOS, Microsoft Windows Phone, Symbian, as well as on selected Nokia Series 40 and selected Nokia Asha platform. In addition to text messaging, users can send images, video and audio media messages.

WhatsApp became popular among South Africans even before it was acquired by Facebook in February 2014 for $19-billion, in what was the most talked-about purchase at the time. For the time being, WhatsApp makes its revenue from subscription fees. The service is free to use for the first year; thereafter, subscribers are charged $0.99 a year (in theory at least – most users, it seems, never receive a bill). Users love it because it’s not weighed down with ads, but many have expressed worries that the Facebook take-over will mean introduction of advertising and diminished privacy.

Mxit is a local free messaging solution with a significant spread in several Latin American and Asian countries. It runs on more than 8000 devices, including feature phones, Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone and tablets. Mxit does serve ads to its users.

 Mobile Messaging

WeChat is a Chinese service with big ambitions. It was launched in South Africa mid-2013. This free app allows users to share text, voice messages, photos and videos with individual contacts or groups. WeChat does not feature ads and makes most of its money from selling games, stickers, gaming avatars and add-on services. In China, WeChat has a payment add-on, enabling users to pay for a taxi, buy movie tickets, and, in selected malls, almost anything.

BBM, the BlackBerry Messenger is the forerunner of the phone instant messaging apps. It was originally only available for sending messages between BlackBerry users, making them extra secure. From end-2013 BBM was released for both Android and the iPhone, making it cross platform for the first time.

Viber started out as a Skype competitor for free voice calling and later expanded into a cross-platform messaging app. It was recently bought by the Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten for $900m. While voice calling and some other features are limited to the iPhone, Android and Windows Phone, Viber text, pictures and video messaging works on other platforms as well: BlackBerry, Samsung’s Bada, Nokia’s Symbian and Series 40, plus the desktop.

2go is a Cape Town-based recent entrant into the mobile messenger apps arena. It offers both anonymous chat rooms and instant messaging services. The chat room facilities are paid-for.



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