WhatsApp needs no introduction. The multi-billion user messaging platform is considered Too Big To Fail. But, apart from its sheer size, is there any other reason to use WhatsApp? We've collected arguments for and against the chat app.
Reasons for WhatsApp
1. I'm on WhatsApp because all my friends are.
The most common argument in favor of WhatsApp is the number of active users. When you ask someone why they use WhatsApp the answer is invariably, "How else would I contact my friends?" Look around! We all have at least one alternative. Whether it's texting (which usually doesn't cost extra anymore), or email (which every adult has), or another messenger, everybody has an alternative to WhatsApp already on their smartphone! Phone calls might be old school, but it's a cell phone. That's what they're for.
2. All my group chats are in WhatsApp.
Once you start group event planning on WhatsApp, good luck moving away from the app. Is WhatsApp even the right tool for the job?
Group chats on WhatsApp are noisy, confusing and you aren't able to set member permissions or a topic. New users get access to the whole contents of the chat, which can be more than a little problematic. You also can amass a large number of inactive groups after time, which can't be deleted by the admin until all participants leave the group.
Group chat in WhatsApp is basic. Try Facebook Messenger for large groups and you'll get more features. Before you start complaining - no, you don't need a Facebook account to use Messenger. Just register with your cell phone number like you did in WhatsApp, and you're good to go.
3. WhatsApp is secure and encrypts messages.
End-to-end encrypted chats are great, but they aren't a full guarantee of privacy or security. Metadata is still stored by WhatsApp, in addition to your phone number and all your friends'. WhatsApp is also now owned by Facebook, so there's a strong chance they may have your data as well.
The best way to stay anonymous is with Threema. The Swiss company doesn't even require your cell phone number or email address. If you want to give them your email or phone number, though, they will help you find your friends on Threema without saving your data on their servers. Or you can just ask your friends directly for their Threema IDs.
4. WhatsApp is free.
The catch with Threema is that most aren't willing to pay a few bucks when WhatsApp is offered for free. There are even free alternatives to WhatsApp. Telegram has a huge user base, Signal has better encryption, and Facebook Messenger is technically superior and just as big, so why use WhatsApp at all?
If WhatsApp is free, we must ask why. How are they making money? Telegram claims they can use investor money for now. WhatsApp and Facebook, on the other hand, are financed through targeted ads. They have a lot of personal information about their users which is supposedly anonymized, and that is the product they sell to marketers. Some people may be more than a little uncomfortable with this.
Reasons against WhatsApp
1. Verification by phone number
WhatsApp is tied to the mobile phone number you signed up with. Why would any chat service provider require you to give them the phone number of your SIM card? This is an unnecessary link. The key to anonymity is to avoid such links.
You can't use the argument that WhatsApp needs the number to help you find your friends. Threema does the same thing, but without saving your info. There's no reason to allow apps to access your private address book full of other people's contact information.
2. WhatsApp is limited to one smartphone
You can only use WhatsApp on one device, which must be a smartphone. In this day and age, why do people accept this limitation? When you want to use your desktop, you still have to have your cell phone on and connected to the internet. It's madness. Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and Hangouts all allow you to use a tablet, smartphone, or PC.
3. WhatsApp doesn't do backups well
If you switch phones, all your chat data is gone. There are backups in Google Drive or iCloud, but you have to set them up manually. Then it's a matter of luck whether they are restored properly to the new device or not. If you switch from Android to iPhone, or vice versa, restoring your chat history is impossible.
With Telegram, Facebook and Hangouts, everything is in the cloud and immediately available across all your devices.
4. Switching cellphone numbers is problematic
Once again, WhatsApp is tied to your phone number. So when you change it, it can be a huge pain. Use the migration assistant in WhatsApp to move things over, but be warned, your contacts won't be notified automatically about the change of number unless they're in a group what with you. So, you have to send your new number manually to all your friends. Not very well thought out.
If I've alienated any WhatsApp devotees, I apologize. I, myself, am a WhatsApp user due to social pressure, and have to install the app everytime I get a new phone. In addition to WhatsApp, I've also loaded up all of my favorite alternatives to run in parallel, including Skype, Facebook Messenger, ICQ, Telegram, Hangouts and Threema.
Are you a fan of WhatsApp? Or are you now looking at other available alternatives? Let us know in the comments below!