Messaging apps are a dime a dozen, so it can be hard to know which one is best for you. Big-name companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, and others are now investing heavily in messaging apps, resulting in a competitive market that’s as fierce as it is confusing — that is, if you don’t know where to look or what you’re doing.
Apple’s iMessage got a substantial face lift with the release of iOS 10, with a greater level of personalization and ease-of-use. Now, Google has entered the fray with a new messaging app that aims to compete. How does Google’s Allo hold up in comparison to the other widely-utilized messaging apps, namely iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp? Let’s take a look.
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The ability to send a message via an app is fairly commonplace in this day and age. To differentiate themselves, iMessage and Messenger have consistently looked to let users better express themselves in their correspondences. Earlier this year, Facebook announced that it would be greatly expanding its emoji library to to better reflect gender and skin tones. Facebook plans on including more variety when it comes to gender roles within its emoji library, including female emojis that depict a police officer, a swimmer, and a surfer. Messenger also supports GIFs and stickers.
At WWDC 2016, Apple doubled down on its commitment to stay ahead of the curve on personalization, in light of the current emojis arms race. Apple’s iMessage utilizes an automatic “emojification” option — simply click the emoji keyboard button and iMessage will highlight all of the “emojifiable” words in your message. By clicking on the highlighted words, you can easily convert the words into emojis. Emojis are also three times as big as they are now, meaning we can finally send emojis in peace knowing that our parents will no longer have to search for their “readers” in order to decipher our unnecessary correspondence of simulacrum. This could also be seen as a direct response to Facebook Messenger’s use of larger stickers.
iMessage also has an array of other new features, too, including handwritten messages and sketches, option to send your location, full-screen effects, as well as so-called “bubble effects.” Furthermore, the company has opened up iMessage to developers, and we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of apps to help people personalize their iMessage.
Google’s latest messaging entry, Allo, also focuses a lot on personalization. Apart from a wide variety of curated stickers, you can scribble on photos, send standard Android emojis, photos, videos, and your location. GIFs are supported, though there’s no effective way to find and send them within the app. You can also make your text larger and smaller.
Many features that would help Allo compete against Messenger and iMessage aren’t available yet, however. Third-party integration, which would allow the user to do things like book a restaurant within the app, hasn’t arrived yet, though it’s expected to come soon.
But the bread and butter of Allo is Google Assistant, which is still in its Preview Edition. Assistant is an artificially-intelligent bot that gets smarter the more you interact with it. It’s the epitome of personalization, because it can remember your name, your favorite color, when you want to receive news and weather notifications, your favorite sports teams, and more. It even learns the way you type and offers up Smart Replies, allowing you to save some time when sending a response.
Still, even with Assistant, which is still a little rough around the edges, Allo isn’t as feature-packed or privy to customization and personalization — at least compared to iMessage and Facebook Messenger. That can change when Google launches third-party integration, and Assistant comes out of preview.
Personalization is one of the many areas in which WhatsApp simply cannot compete. The app may be the most popular messaging app on the face of the Earth, but the extent of message personalization is exceedingly limited. Emojis and stickers are not directly built into the WhatsApp, though emoticon support is available for use on the iPhone if you’re using the emoji keyboard. This is accessible by simply going to your Settings and then adding the emoji keyboard.