Cellphones are an integral part of many people’s lives and can be seen as a permanent extension of their hands at home and abroad. Cellphones can be used as a camera and a GPS. They also serve as a way to keep in touch with family and friends.
Connecting with loved ones overseas used to be a difficult and expensive task. And in some cases, it still is — many major service providers charge as much as $10 per day to access data and texting internationally, or even $50-70 per month with additional charges.
This is where international texting applications come in. Although they may still require users to activate their international data plan on their cellphones, patients can always wait for WiFi access to make full use of these apps.
These are the best international text-messaging applications available today.
Though not as popular on an international scale, Facebook Messenger is ideal for many U.S. travelers as an alternative to WhatsApp. Most people downloaded Facebook Messenger as the only way to access their messages on a cell phone. This means that most of your family members and friends will have it. It’s easier to find the majority of your friends and family members through the app, as they are all based upon your Facebook friends (and now Instagram followers). The Facebook Messenger system functions just like regular text messages. You can drop your friends a message and they will receive a push notification to their phones, even if you aren’t actively using Facebook. You can also use the text messaging app to make group calls, audio and video calls as well as group messaging. Facebook Messenger is available for both Android and iPhone.
Launched in 2010, KakaoTalk is the most popular text-messaging app in South Korea; in fact, 2018 data from various Korean government agencies estimated that KaokaoTalk made up 99.2% of the country’s message app usage. As of June 2020, KaokaoTalk brings in close 52 million active users per month on a global scale and can be found in 15 different languages.
Kakao allows you to share videos and photos with your friends, create group text messages and send SMSes to anyone around the world who has the app. The app can be downloaded and synchronized with your existing contacts so you can find other users. You can search the app to find someone’s phone number if you need to send a message.
Kakao allows users to chat and text for free. It also offers fun features like voice filters, emojis and games.
Line was first launched in Japan and quickly became popular on a global scale, but especially in Asia. Line is available on Apple, Android, and Windows devices. It allows users to send text messages for free and make international voice or video calls. Like KakaoTalk users, the person you are messaging must also use Line. However, you can also message anyone without the app.
Originally created to allow users to communicate with one another, Line has evolved to do more. Line can send out news updates and offer medical consultations to users. It can also be used for online payments.
Known for its higher standards of privacy and message encryption, Signal is also gaining popularity as an international text-messaging app. Signal offers similar functionality to WhatsApp. Signal allows travelers to send voice and text messages, make group chats, and make video calls. Signal offers fun GIFs, stickers and other messaging features that allow users to express themselves more creatively.
Signal can be downloaded for free by an independent non-profit organization. It is available for both Android and Apple smartphones. You can also download the desktop version for Macs.
Popular in Asian and Middle Eastern countries, Viber is another great option for people looking to text and chat for free. Viber isn’t like other apps. You don’t need to create an account. Viber uses your phone number to identify you. It will also automatically identify Viber users in your contacts list. Viber now has a Communities feature that allows users to connect with one another based on common interests.
It works with both Android and iPhone users. You can send and receive messages as well as make calls to each other.
The most popular messaging app in China, WeChat boasts more than 1.1 billion accounts at last published count. WeChat functions more like a Web browser than a messaging app: The app connects its users to 10 million other apps that provide services such as calling a taxi or managing finances. These “apps”, which are third-party apps, look like websites and offer customer service and direct payment. WeChat is basically an all-in-one messaging app with a free messaging platform.
WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging apps worldwide and is supported by most mobile systems, including iPhone, Android and Windows. Since 2016, WhatsApp stopped charging subscription fees for messaging other WhatsApp users, further solidifying its position as one of the best international texting apps.
WhatsApp offers group messaging, group videos calls, and audio calls as well as voice messaging.
I’m Michelle, and I love to travel. As a former hotel expert for one of the world’s largest hotel chains, I’ve stayed in nearly every type of room imaginable (including many that were not so desirable!). Nowadays, I am fortunate enough to be able to explore the world on my own terms. From international flights to learning different languages, there is nothing too far out of reach!