Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
Yet, all of those good points apply only if you have friends who use it. If not, you'll be in a messaging graveyard.
With roots dating back to 2010, Kik has been through a lot of changes over the years. Still, between iMessage and rivals like WhatsApp, it's in a crowded space. That's why even with 120 million users, it still has a long way to go if it wants to compete with the major messaging players.
Initial setup for Kik is fairly easy. Instead of authenticating your phone number similar to what iMessage or WhatsApp requires, you're asked to setup an account with a username. The username is how friends will contact you.
In order for you to get the most out of the service, Kik requests access to your address book. Your contacts are then matched with those on Kik's servers to find and alert you of contacts who are also using the service.
With Kik's long run in the App Store, I expected to have quite a few friends who were using the service. But after allowing Kik to scan my address book, the service only found five contacts who use it. Out of those five, I attempted to send a message to three, all of which returned a message stating the user hadn't used Kik in a long, long time. The lack of friends on the service was disheartening, to say the least, but your mileage may vary.
Should you opt to forgo sending your contact list to Kik's servers, you can manually add contacts so long as you know a username. It's a bit more tedious, but works nonetheless.
Once I did find some friends who use the app, I was able to strike up a conversation just as quickly and easily as I would on iMessage or WhatsApp. Kik offers an iOS, Android, and Windows Phone app, making it possible to chat with nearly any mobile user.
In the conversation view, a text field sits just above the keyboard, flanked on each side by a button that reveals various embeddable items (more on these later) and a send button.
A sent message is accompanied by three different status letters. The first is an S, signifying the message was sent. The sent indicator then disappears, being replaced by a D and then an R; for delivered and read. Indicators such as this are common place among messaging apps and nice to see in Kik.
One thing I wasn't able to figure out on the iOS app was how I can disable marking messages as read. Sometimes I realize only after reading a message I don't have time to fully reply. When a message is marked as read, it creates a feeling of having to reply, due to not wanting to offend the other person in the conversation. iMessage includes the option to turn this feature off, but WhatsApp does not. I wish it was a standard feature among messaging apps, as not everyone wants the read status of a message to be known.
Group chats are also possible with Kik. You can add contacts to an existing thread, or create a new one with just a few taps. I suggest creating a new thread, instead of adding someone to one for one reason: you can't remove people from a group conversation.
Instead, you have to leave the conversation on your own accord. Doing so will eliminate any chat history you had before turning the conversation into a group thread. Also lacking is the ability to mute a thread; an important feature to have for those noisy group conversations we've all been a part of.
The thing about modern messaging apps is they do more than just let you send text messages.
Kik allows for users to send content from various sources, with a tool bar you can open up by touching the plus sign to the left of the chat field.
Here you can share photos (like other apps), along with stickers (you get a couple for free, then you have to buy Kik points in order to purchase more stickers), YouTube videos, Sketches, Image search, Memes, and Top Sites.
Oddly missing from the list is the ability to send videos (unless you take the time to upload a video to YouTube before sharing it with a Kik contact), and an option to share your current location.
In addition to the services I just mentioned, third-party developers can integrate their respective services with Kik. Integration allows for users to send content from a particular service to another user. You can discover new services by sliding out the main menu within the app, and using the search bar.
If a service isn't optimized for Kik, you're able to visit its website directly within the app and share the webpage inside a conversation.
With this approach, Kik is able to offer limitless integration with third-party services. Assuming developers are willing to take the time and integrate their respective services with Kik. This is something neither iMessage or WhatsApp offer, but the approach of controlling the entire experience in either app has been a beneficial one. When Kik opens up its service to developers, it runs the risk of not having complete control over content.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of Kik isn't that it allows developers to integrate with it (which can sometimes clutter the user experience) but that it works across multiple platforms. This is a huge advantage over something like iMessage, (which charges you for chatting with Android users) and something that's helped WhatsApp continue growing.
Even with the added platforms, finding friends can be a bit discouraging. (Although, a Twitter search for "Kik" returns plenty of teens looking for friends.) And convincing friends and family members to download and install yet another messaging app is a chore in and of itself.
For those with a lot of friends on Kik, odds are you're already using it and love it. For those without, however, it's a tough sell. There's nothing that truly sets it apart from the competition, providing little incentive to get other people on board.