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All Things Appy: Top 5 Android Communication Apps

All Things Appy: Top 5 Android Communication Apps

Where would we be without Facebook as we forge into 2013? If Skype is the grande dame of app-based telephony, Facebook is the head honcho of social networking. Facebook Messenger lets you social network fast with its app-based interface. It's proprietary, which we don't love, and it has a few kinks -- but they're likely to be ironed out in due course.

By Patrick Nelson
01/09/13 5:00 AM PT

TechNewsWorld's All Things Appy has been taking a hard look at the apps that are changing our lives.

Some of the best apps available take existing mobile phone functionality to the next level, and all of our Top 5 featured here are outstanding examples.

Following is a snapshot of the five best free communications apps for Android devices.

About the Platform

Google's Android OS apps can be downloaded from the Play Store.

Browse to the Play Store within the smartphone's app drawer by clicking on the app drawer icon. Then search for the app.

No. 1: WhatsApp Messenger

whatsapp screen

WhatsApp Messenger is a text messaging substitute app that claims 100,000,000 to 500,000,000 installs and has an average Google Play Store rating of 4.6 stars out of a possible 5 from 1,958,072 reviewers.

whatsapp screen

The attaching of multimedia to messaging alone is a good enough reason to get this app.

However, you can also chat and group chat as much as you want globally without paying into the mobile networks' SMS cash cow.

WhatsApp Messenger is available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia -- and all of those phones can message each other.

That has helped to propel the app's mass adoption.

Free for the first year and US$0.99 a year after that.

Why the fee? The Whatsapp developers shout from the rooftops that they don't sell ads: "At WhatsApp, our engineers spend all their time fixing bugs, adding new features and ironing out all the little intricacies in our task of bringing rich, affordable, reliable messaging to every phone in the world. That's our product and that's our passion. Your data isn't even in the picture. We are simply not interested in any of it."

No. 2: Google Voice

google voice

Google Voice is a telephony app that claims 5,000,000 to 10,000,000 installs and has an average Google Play Store rating of 4.2 stars out of a possible 5 from 102,859 users.

This app lets you give out one number and have it ring on a mobile phone, at home, at work and so on -- all at the same time.

You can listen in to voicemail, like with an old-school answering machine.

You can block specific callers, and text over a data network rather than costly mobile SMS.

International calls are cheap, and there's tight integration with Android devices, some networks, and Google's Web products. Device-based calling is U.S. only.

No. 3: Skype - Free IM and Video Calls

Skype

Skype - Free IM and Video Calls is a telephony app that claims 100,000,000 to 500,000,000 installs and has an average Google Play Store rating of 4 stars out of a possible 5 from 860,295 users.

Skype, the grande dame of free Internet calling, took forever to migrate to the Android platform cross-network, but it's now here.

Because it works globally, unlike Google Voice, which in many other ways offers superior functionality, Skype is in our Top 5.

Cheap peer-to-peer calls can be made via mobile data to classic landlines and mobile networks -- bypassing mobile voice.

Android's Skype app has the famous, free Skype-to-Skpe calling that has let friends and families connect economically with each other globally -- many perhaps for the first time.

No. 4: Tango Text, Voice, Video Calls

Tango Text, Voice, Video Calls is a video telephony app that claims 10,000,000 to 50,000,000 installs and has an average Google Play Store rating of 4.3 stars out of a possible 5 from 407,271 users.

Tango is highly regarded for its stable free video calling over wireless and WiFi networks, and it includes text messaging and plain old voice.

This app has widespread hardware compatibility across Android devices.

It gets a runner-up position because it doesn't have the landline connectivity options of other telephony apps TechNewsWorld's Top 5.

No. 5: Facebook Messenger

Facebook Messenger is a messaging app that claims 50,000,000 to 100,000,000 installs and has an average Google Play Store rating of 4.4 stars out of a possible 5 from 484,831 users.

Where would we be without Facebook as we forge into 2013?

If Skype is the grand-dame of app-based telephony, Facebook is the head honcho of social networking. Facebook Messenger lets you social network fast with its app-based interface.

A recent update is generating complaints about failed notifications, and that plus the proprietary nature of this app, which TechNewsWorld frowns upon, make it one for the runner-up pile.

However, kinks are likely to be ironed out in due course.


Patrick Nelson has been a professional writer since 1992. He was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication Producer Report and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson studied design at Hornsey Art School and wrote the cult-classic novel Sprawlism. His introduction to technology was as a nomadic talent scout in the eighties, where regular scrabbling around under hotel room beds was necessary to connect modems with alligator clips to hotel telephone wiring to get a fax out. He tasted down and dirty technology, and never looked back.


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