that little app: “WhatsApp me!”

Handling over 1 billion messages a day, the incredibly popular WhatsApp Messenger is a “cross-platform mobile messaging app” which allows registered users with just a single mobile phone number to “exchange messages without having to pay for SMS”.

Available for most smartphones – iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows, Android and Symbian – WhatsApp is a free, fast and cheap texting tool that’s a notch above regular texting.

As an alternative to SMS, WhatsApp is accessible via 3G or Wi-Fi, thus sends messages over the Internet. This lowers the cost of sending texts, unlimited ones at that, which would be pricier via a mobile service provider.

I’m not an avid user of the app, but the few times I’ve logged in, there are things I’ve liked about it, and others that I haven’t.

★The likeable:

Simple interface – It’s straightforwardness in navigation is trouble-free for both novices and advanced users.

Global user community – Users can text cheaply locally and overseas, saving folks exorbitant SMS charges.

Alerts a user immediately when a message is received – In comparison to regular SMS, WhatsApp is pretty sneaky. Two green arrows show that your message has been read, and spun tales of “I didn’t get your text!” won’t fly when those arrows are showing in a conversation.

Users can turn this alert option on or off.

Sharing of multimedia files more easily (than regular MMS) – I may not regularly use WhatsApp but I find it rather useful on this front.

In comparison to my phone’s in-built multimedia texting tool, which has never succeeded in sending out MMS texts when I want it to, WhatsApp is pretty good with bulky files (photos, video and audio files) that I want to view and download quickly.

Customization – Just like an online chat application, users can change and edit their status to whatever they want.

You can also share your current location on Google Maps, upload a profile photo, use emoticons in your chats, or change the appearance of your conversation.

The Group Chat option allows users to chat with up to 10 people in a single conversation.

★The unlikeable

WhatsApp, however, is not a perfect tool.

No verification – WhatsApp did not request for a verification of my phone number or identity when I signed up. For my own piece of mind, I would much prefer receiving an SMS or email asking me to click on a link to confirm my identity/mobile phone number.

Breach of privacy – WhatsApp automatically picks up on ALL the existing contacts in your address book without your authorization.

I find this quite the security risk.

It’s invasive, and non-WhatsApp users are at a disadvantage: the fact that their phone number is uploaded to the WhatsApp servers leaves them vulnerable, taking into consideration that they haven’t given WhatsApp the authority to access their information.

It would suffice if the contacts viewable on a user’s WhatsApp account are just those already registered on WhatsApp, not those that have not given their consent.

No complete exit – I use the Symbian OS, and I am unable to completely log off from WhatsApp.

I don’t know whether it’s a bug or the developers intended it to perform that way but it often prevents me from logging in.

My phone is always connected to the Internet, which means that it’s using up my credit when I don’t want it to.

Changing my phone profile to “flight” mode disconnects me from the app, but that also means that I am unreachable for phone calls or regular texts.

For me to actually exit WhatsApp, I have to play around with copying the app to my external memory card, and then deleting it from my phone’s Applications folder.

Sometimes this doesn’t work, and I have to keep moving it around until that Internet connection sign is completely gone. In the end, I find all that hassle not worth me logging in.

However, when your Nokia phone is Roaming, you can disconnect from the app by configuring the settings  so that WhatsApp only connects to Wi-Fi networks.

Do you use WhatsApp? What do you like or dislike about it?