Mobile Apps

Try these great messaging apps for Windows Phone

These popular Windows Phone messaging apps are useful (and fun) ways to keep in touch with friends.

If you're tired of paying for SMS messages, you're certainly not alone. But while everyone with a Google account has access to Hangouts and Apple fans are steered toward the popular Messages app, Windows Phone fans generally lack a platform to rally around. Worse still, iMessages are limited to Apple devices, and Hangouts isn't available on Windows Phone -- you're stuck with the antiquated Google Talk, and there's no official app.

Fret not: there are plenty of popular chat apps on the Windows Phone store, many of which tap into popular messaging services, or have robust worldwide communities of their own. Here are a few of our favorites.


Skype

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Screenshots by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Price: Free

Skype is a nigh ubiquitous messaging option, available on everything from PCs and smartphones to Microsoft's Xbox One. The platform is also all but synonymous with video calling -- there's a good chance you've Skyped someone, somewhere. Skype for Windows Phone still lags behind its peers on other smartphone platforms, but the service is still rather useful. You can make free voice and video calls to other Skype users, and make fairly inexpensive calls to mobile phones and landlines. And there's always instant messaging to other Skype users, if you just want to chat quickly.

What's great: Skype is immensely popular, and the app has an attractive, simple interface. Calling mobile phones and landlines is also pretty cheap.

What's not: Performance can be finicky, even on strong Wi-Fi connections.

Read our full review of Skype for Windows Phone .


IM+

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IM+

Price: Free, $4.99/£2.59/AU$4.99 for extra features

IM+ is something of an old stalwart, and with good reason: it's available for most platforms, and works with a diverse array of popular (and obscure) messaging services. It's a great option if you've got lots of friends who can't seem to settle on a chat platform, as it'll let you keep most of your conversations in one place. The app also offers a live tile, which shows a numeric badge and a text snippet of any missed messages. The pro version of IM+ will set you back $5, but ditches the copious number of ads and lets you store your chat history.

What's great: There's a good chance your friends are using at least one the many services it supports.

What's not: My conversation notifications were often delayed, and the design is a bit dated.


Facebook Messenger

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Screenshots by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Price: Free

If you're reading this, that means you're on the Internet and probably have a Facebook account. Many of you might even use Facebook chat to keep in touch with friends and family, and the Messenger app is designed to let you do just that: it splits the instant messaging functionality away from the standalone Facebook app. You can send text messages, photos, and pre-recorded voice messages or videos, in addition to the group chatting functionality you've come to expect from Facebook -- this is a great option if you're especially active on the site.

What's great: If you chat on Facebook, Messenger is a fast, simple way to do just that.

What's not: You can't place voice calls, and if you don't use Facebook very often this isn't a reason to start.

Read our full review of Facebook Messenger for Windows Phone .


WhatsApp

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Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Price: Free trial, 99 cents after one year

WhatsApp is another juggernaut in the instant messaging space, and was home to about 600 million monthly users around the time Facebook swooped in to purchase it for $19 billion earlier this year. Once you've registered your phone number, WhatsApp will automatically scour your contacts for friends who are already using the service. Things are fairly simple from there: you'll send messages in little chat bubbles to friends or groups, and receive notifications when friends have responded. The app also lets you share contact details and your location, and send pre-recorded voice and messages to your friends.The app is only free for a year, however -- after that you'll need to pay 99 cents a year to keep chatting.

What's great: Basic messaging features are coupled with neat customization tools and location sharing.

What's Not: 99 cents is pretty cheap, but you'll eventually need to convince your friends to pay too.

Read our full review of WhatsApp messenger .


BBM for Windows Phone

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BlackBerry

Price: Free

BlackBerry Messenger on Windows Phone is still something of a work in progress , lacking a few of the bells and whistles you'd find in the iOS and Android versions of the service. There's currently no support for BBM Voice, but BlackBerry promises it will arrive in a coming update. The BlackBerry Video service is still limited to devices running the BlackBerry 10 OS, however, and there's no word on when that might make the jump to other devices. But if you're a BlackBerry fan, it's a great way to get the BBM experience on your Windows Phone.

What's great: The speedy, attractive app is a great option for BlackBerry fans on Windows Phone.

What's not: The app still lacks voice and video chatting, and is best suited for BlackBerry fans.

Read our full review of BBM for Windows Phone .


Line

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Line

Price: Free

Line is immensely popular in Japan, and has roughly 400 million users around the globe. You might feel inclined to rattle off some of its features as reasons for its popularity: Line on Windows Phone offers free voice calls, free instant messaging, and the ability to share videos, recorded voice messages, and photos with other Line users. It also runs on just about every platform under the sun, including upstarts like Firefox OS. But the real reason has got to be stickers. They're basically jumbo-size emoji, consisting of a cast of characters who are all friends, but also coworkers. They exercise, drink heavily, play sports and generally lead exciting lives -- all in bite-size sticker form. It's the perfect way to punctuate any conversation -- provided you can get your friends on board. You'll also need to register your phone number to sign up -- the app can trawl your contact list for folks who are already using Line, to help you get started.

What's great: Simple instant messaging gets a solid dose of fun in the form of colorful stickers.

What's Not: Video calling isn't available on Windows Phone, and $2 sticker packs seem a bit pricey.