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The 6 best texting apps in 2024

By Harry Guinness · June 21, 2024
Hero image with the logos of the best texting apps

Let's make one thing clear: unfortunately, there's no one best texting app. Unless you absolutely require one or two specific features or are a real stickler for security, the best text message app will be the one that the people you want to text also use. Depending on where you are in the world, that can be iMessage, WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, LINE, or even SMS.

But if, for whatever reason, you do have a choice of which messaging app you can use—or you can convince your friends and family to make the switch—these are the six best texting apps to choose from. (Though, if I could rule the world using benevolent AIs, I'd make everyone use Signal.)

The 6 best texting apps

  • WhatsApp for most people

  • Viber for an alternative to WhatsApp

  • Telegram for logging in from multiple devices

  • Signal for security

  • Messenger for contacting anyone

  • Beeper for pulling everything together

What makes the best texting app?

How we evaluate and test apps

Our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. Unless explicitly stated, we spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We're never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.

As a child of the '90s, I've been sending text messages as long as wide-spread, affordable cell phones have been a thing (and, if I'm honest, a year or two before then). I've also used text messaging apps for professional reasons—both to communicate with my remote colleagues and to review the apps themselves.

Especially after testing all the texting apps out there, I believe the best texting app is the one that people will actually reply to you with. If that's SMS or smoke signals, you have my full permission to use it—as long as you aren't talking about anything super sensitive or sharing anything personal. So when it came to putting together this list, that freed me up to be pretty strict about the requirements for inclusion.

iMessage, SMS, and Android Messages didn't make this list. Nor did whatever Google is calling its latest messaging foray. X-formerly-Twitter, despite badly adding end-to-end encryption to its direct messages, isn't here either. The big reason to use any of those apps is that your friends do.

If, however, you're starting a friend group, desert island colony, or fan club from scratch and you get to pick the tools you use, this is what you should be looking for in messaging apps:

  • Availability on both iPhone and Android. And ideally on desktop too. We don't want any green bubble/blue bubble drama here. Text messaging should be about the person, not the device they use.

  • Privacy and security. Do you know who can read your SMS messages? Pretty much everyone, and RCS, the improved messaging standard, doesn't fix that. The best chat apps all have end-to-end encryption enabled by default, or at a stretch, they allow you to quickly turn it on. There are a handful of circumstances where end-to-end encryption isn't appropriate, like with public group messaging and some kinds of business communications; but across the board, I favored services that cared about your security and privacy.

  • No price tag. The best text apps are all free to use. Part of this is because most people aren't prepared to pay for them, but it's also because large corporations actually make surprisingly decent apps sometimes. It also helps that it's easier to convince your friends to sign up for a new service if they don't have to pay. 

  • Support for pictures, video, and other multimedia. Text messages are no longer 140 characters long (at least if you're not using SMS). They can be long essays, but also photos, GIFs, voice notes, YouTube links, documents, and lots of other forms of multimedia. If you want to send something over text message, you should be able to—at least as long as it's digital.

  • Support for group chat. A lot of text messaging doesn't happen one-to-one. For a free chat app to make this list, it had to be able to support group messaging. To be honest, this requirement didn't exclude many apps as it's a very common feature, but I still felt it needed to be stated.

Texting apps use an internet connection to send and receive messages. This is different from SMS, which uses your carrier's own protocols to send and receive messages anywhere with a cellular connection (even a weak one, with no data). While SMS messages cost money—either on a per-message basis or included with your cellular plan—the messages sent through data-only texting apps will all be free (even if the app itself is not).

To put together this list, I tested more than 30 different apps. A lot fell short because they didn't meet the criteria above or because they were just unpleasant to use. I spent time testing and texting in any app that looked like it could be a candidate for inclusion—plus, as I've already said, this is a category I have a lot of experience with, so I'd already spent a lot of time in each of these apps in the past.

And now, on to the apps. 

The best texting apps at a glance

Best for

Pricing

WhatsApp

Most people

Free

Viber

An alternative to WhatsApp

Free; premium from $1.99/month

Telegram

Logging in from multiple devices

Free; premium from $4.99/month

Signal

Security and simplicity

Free

Messenger

Contacting anyone

Free

Beeper

An all-in-one messaging app

Free (for now)


Best texting app for most people

WhatsApp (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Web)

WhatsApp, our pick for the best texting app for most people

WhatsApp pros:

  • One of the most popular texting apps in the world

  • Nice to use

WhatsApp cons:

  • Meta intends to monetize it at some point

WhatsApp is the undisputed ruler of free mobile messaging in much of the world. Launched in 2009 as a way to send messages over a data connection rather than SMS, WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook (now Meta) in 2014. Since then, the service has grown both its feature set and user base. As of 2024, it has around two billion users, and it's easy to see why: it's a shockingly decent service.

WhatsApp is a fully-featured texting platform: you can send every kind of message, make voice and video calls, and do all the things you'd expect of a top-notch texting app. Despite being the most popular messaging service in the world and being owned by Facebook parent company Meta, WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption enabled for all conversations. Everything you send, including file transfers, is fully encrypted. Encrypted messages are even removed from WhatsApp's servers once they're delivered. 

Meta has also aggressively rolled out new features over the past year or two in an attempt to make WhatsApp even more essential. Communities allow organizations like HOAs and clubs to manage multiple groups in one place, and Channels allow for one-to-many broadcasts. It even integrated Meta AI so you can chat with a bot or use it to generate AI images. These features are all basically lifted straight from Telegram, Viber, and other apps where they're incredibly popular, but I won't say no to a good thing.

Another major change is that WhatsApp now lets you sign in on multiple smartphones, though one of them will have to be on if you want to use the desktop apps for Windows and Mac, and the web app at web.whatsapp.com.

All in all, WhatsApp continues to tick pretty much every box. They could turn around and ruin it in the next few years, but at least to me, the outlook is still pretty sunny.

WhatsApp price: Free

Best WhatsApp alternative

Viber (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows)

Viber, our pick for the best WhatsApp alternative

Viber pros:

  • As feature-packed a texting app as you could ever need

Viber cons:

  • Busy

  • Public groups can be wild

Viber is another solid all-around messaging app, with millions of users across the globe. It's a touch more chaotic than WhatsApp, but it offers the same core messaging features. It wouldn't be my first choice of app to use personally, but it does the job it sets out to do.

End-to-end encryption is standard in all Viber one-on-one and group chats. Channels and Communities, however, aren't end-to-end encrypted (as it would then be impossible for new members to see the chat history). It's a small security sacrifice in the name of offering a better service. In addition to free voice and video calling to other Viber users, a service called Viber Out enables you to call any mobile or landline in the world as much as you like for $5.99 per month. It's like Skype, except with better security practices and a nicer smartphone app.

One mature feature that Viber has that WhatsApp has just introduced is Communities—essentially large group chats with strangers that you can join or start. These public chats can have an unlimited number of members and feature robust controls for admins to moderate their chats. You can find Communities based on things like location, hobbies, and favorite teams. Think Reddit, but more like a group chat. (Fair warning: if you live somewhere where Viber isn't the dominant chat app, expect these groups to be filled with conspiracy theories, scams, and other wildness.)

Where Viber falls a touch short is in the busyness of the whole app. With sticker stores, all the different kinds of chats, some AI bots, and even the occasional ad, it's a less fulfilling experience than WhatsApp—especially if you aren't making use of its unique features like Viber Out. 

Viber price: Free; Viber Plus costs $1.99/month and removes ads, adds a few non-essential features, and includes live chat support

The best texting app for logging in from multiple devices

Telegram (iOS, Android, Web, Mac, Windows, Linux)

Telegram, our pick for the best texting app for logging in from multiple devices

Telegram pros:

  • A solid, fully-featured texting app

  • You can use it on multiple platforms without workarounds

Telegram cons:

  • Encryption situation isn't as good as end-to-end

Telegram was one of the original messaging apps that emphasized the importance of security, although it takes a slightly different approach to encryption so that it can store your conversations on its servers. While security experts have expressed their concerns with it if you want to keep your communications safe from governments and espionage agencies, it does allow you to log in from multiple devices including through the desktop apps, without the workarounds that WhatsApp requires.

Otherwise, Telegram offers the features you'd expect: you can use it to make voice and video calls, and send text messages, photos, videos, and files to other Telegram users. You can even create group chats with a whopping 200,000 participants or channels with an unlimited number of subscribers. If you want end-to-end encryption, you can use secret chats for one-to-one conversations—but you have to enable this for each chat.

Telegram's supergroups (the ones with up to 200,000 members) and channels, where you can broadcast one-way messages to an unlimited audience, are, in my experience, a lot more popular than Viber's alternatives. Some channels have millions of members. Though with that said, the same caveats as with Viber apply: if you aren't in a region where Telegram is the dominant messaging platform, the public groups can be wild and unusable.

Telegram also has an open API, which means users are free to build their own unofficial apps for use with the service. This has given birth to projects like Unigram, a Windows 10-optimized third-party client, and a command line version of Telegram for Linux users. It also means you can integrate Telegram with Zapier. Here are some examples of how that works.

Send Telegram messages every day with Schedule by Zapier

Send Telegram messages every day with Schedule by Zapier
  • Schedule by Zapier logo
  • Telegram logo
Schedule by Zapier + Telegram

Send messages on Telegram for new Jotform submissions

Send messages on Telegram for new Jotform submissions
  • Jotform logo
  • Telegram logo
Jotform + Telegram

Send messages in Telegram for new items in RSS by Zapier feed

Send messages in Telegram for new items in RSS by Zapier feed
  • RSS by Zapier logo
  • Telegram logo
RSS by Zapier + Telegram

Finally, Telegram has a paid plan called Telegram Premium for roughly $4.99/month (it depends on your location and mobile app platform), which removes the few non-intrusive ads, doubles limits for things like file uploads (from 2 to 4 GB) and the number of groups you can join (from 500 to 1,000), and adds a few features. It's not essential at all, but if you use Telegram all the time, it might be worth considering.

Telegram price: Free; Premium from $4.99/month

Best texting app for security

Signal (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux)

Signal, our pick for the best texting app for security

Signal pros:

  • The nicest, most secure, best overall texting app (can you tell I love it?)

Signal cons:

  • Convincing people to switch is still a challenge

Signal is one of the cleanest-looking and most functional texting apps—almost everything is kept to a single screen. Other than selecting from one of three themes or choosing a background, there's little in the way of customization available. It's frequently recommended as a WhatsApp alternative; while chatting, you'll even notice WhatsApp-style double ticks to denote message status. Signal also includes voice and video calling with other Signal users. These chats are end-to-end encrypted just like other messages sent via the app.

You can send text, photos, videos, documents, and voice messages to individual or group conversations. The app uses end-to-end encryption to secure all messages sent via the service (in fact, the encryption protocol it developed is also used by WhatsApp and Messenger), with the option of setting expiration dates for each conversation. Once your messages expire, they're no longer recoverable. There's also a handy "Note to Self" contact for you to store your thoughts.

Signal recently added Stories (end-to-end encrypted, of course), but it doesn't really change the overall experience of using the app.

While you need a phone number to sign up to Signal, you don't have to share it with other users, which offers another bit of privacy. You can download a desktop app for Windows, Mac, and Linux to bring the full suite of Signal features to your computer too. And on Android, Signal can even replace your stock SMS app. This allows you to send Signal messages and regular SMS messages to non-Signal users from a single interface. (This doesn't work for iOS users on account of how messaging works in the Apple ecosystem.)

Signal is great if you want security and simplicity. There are few bells and whistles—it's just industry-standard encrypted texting and calling. (And I absolutely love it.)

Signal price: Free

Best texting app for contacting anyone

Messenger (Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Web)

Facebook Messenger, our pick for the best texting app for contacting anyone

Messenger pros:

  • Facebook is ubiquitous around the world—and Messenger is too

Messenger cons:

  • Dialed back but still a bit chaotic

Contrary to popular belief, you don't need a Facebook account to use Messenger. The company only requires you to sign up with a phone number to talk to anyone else using the service. If you do already have a Facebook account, you can jump straight in and message any of your Facebook friends (and other Facebook users) who've signed up for Messenger.

The app includes all the basic messaging and calling features you'd expect—and some you probably won't. Send texts to individuals or groups of up to 250 people, and react to messages with stickers, GIFs, and emoji. Make voice and video calls to your friends and family. You can send voice messages, photos, and videos, or capture your own media using Messenger Camera and its fun Snapchat-like filters. You can post photos to your Messenger Story (or crosspost them from your Instagram Story). There's also Meta AI, should you want to chat with the company's bot or get it to generate any wild AI images. There's a lot there, and this is actually a leaner, more stripped-down version of Messenger than it was a few years ago.

Facebook is rolling out end-to-end encryption, which is great, as it means that your one-on-one conversations will now be a lot more secure. Community chats, Marketplace chats, and other professional chats still won't be encrypted, but all your other messages will be. In the past, Facebook was able to scan all the images sent through Messenger to see if they had been flagged as child abuse materials, and Facebook has used message scanning in the past to quell sensationalist messages designed to incite harm or unrest. The company claims they don't scan your private conversations for advertising purposes. It's unclear if this will still happen with end-to-end encrypted conversations as there are ways to scan messages on-device before anything is encrypted.

What Messenger has lacked in security and privacy, it's always made up for with its ubiquity. More than a third of the world's population uses Facebook every month. That's wild. If you want to contact an old school friend, a local business, or your partner's parents, you can probably do it using Messenger. It's a serious feature that no other texting app can match. 

You can do more with Messenger by connecting it to Zapier, so you can automatically reply to messages with the help of AI, or send messages to your team wherever they already spend their time. Learn more about how to automate Facebook Messenger, or get started with one of these pre-built templates.

Send Slack channel messages from new Facebook messages

Send Slack channel messages from new Facebook messages
  • Facebook Messenger logo
  • Slack logo
Facebook Messenger + Slack

Create Google Sheets rows from new Facebook Page messages

Create Google Sheets rows from new Facebook Page messages
  • Facebook Messenger logo
  • Google Sheets logo
Facebook Messenger + Google Sheets

Send emails for new Facebook Page messages

Send emails for new Facebook Page messages
  • Facebook Messenger logo
  • Email by Zapier logo
Facebook Messenger + Email by Zapier

Facebook Messenger Price: Free

Best texting app for an all-in-one messaging app

Beeper (Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux)

Beeper, our pick for the best all-in-one messaging app

Beeper pros:

  • 14 different messaging platforms through one app

Beeper cons:

  • A bit more hacked together than some of the other apps

Beeper is a universal texting app that combines 14 different messaging services into one user interface. While this sounds like it could be busy and chaotic, Beeper pulls it off nicely, and the whole app is pretty seamless. 

The 14 services it supports include other texting services, like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, SMS, RCS, Telegram, and Signal, as well as a few other platforms like Slack, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Discord. If the name Beeper seems familiar, you probably saw a news story or two about its back-and-forth with Apple trying to get iMessage to work on Android devices.

Of course, supporting all these different services means that there isn't quite feature parity between all your chats. Reactions work with WhatsApp but not SMS, for example. And while its servers simply pass end-to-end encrypted messages along without unencrypting, the very nature of having an additional service in the middle makes things a bit less secure. 

But for that tradeoff, you solve one big problem—how to have an awesome texting app without getting your friends to switch to Signal. 

Beeper Price: Free (for now)

Other messaging options

Text messages are just one way to stay in contact. Here are some other options:

  • If you're looking for a more community-driven chat, check out Discord. It's a lot better for large groups than a single very active group chat. 

  • Similarly, while social media has a mixed reputation, Instagram, Snapchat, and even TikTok are all good ways to keep in contact with friends and family. All these apps have some kind of messaging built in. It's just not as useful or simple as the picks above.

  • Matrix is an open source alternative that's possibly gaining some very quiet traction. It's way too niche to make this list and doesn't really have a single specific client app, but if the idea of an open, interoperable texting standard sounds like your jam, give it a look. 

Which texting app should you choose?

Text message apps aren't really about the app—they're about the people you're connecting with. If you can convince your friends and family to use one of these picks, like WhatsApp or Signal, go right for it. Lay out the reasons that you—and I—feel it's safer, more secure, or more convenient than whatever they're already using, and see if they'll make the switch. 

But if they insist on only using iMessage, I'd suggest you park your interoperability concerns and stay in contact.

Related reading:

  • How to text from a computer

  • Beeper vs. Texts: Which should you use?

  • I let AI write my texts for a week—here's how it went

This article was originally published in June 2019 by Timothy Brookes. The most recent update was in June 2024.

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I let AI write my texts for a week—here's how it went
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