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No WhatsApp? Open Windows to Skype, Viber, Line

LiveMint logoLiveMint 21-05-2014 Vishal Mathur

What happens when something you have become habituated to is suddenly taken away? Unfortunately, Windows Phone users may now have the answer, with WhatsApp having been yanked from the Windows Phone app store—arguably, the world’s most popular instant messenger client—this weekend. The development has been blamed on “technical issues” with how the app interacted with the Windows Phone 8 and 8.1 OS.

The indications were there

This development is no surprise though, since a glance through some of the user feedback on WhatsApp’s listing page on the Windows Phone store does indicate a history of performance and compatibility issues with devices. “Horrible battery life and lots of bugs, please fix,” says one user, while another specifically pinpoints one of the issues, “Please update!!!!!! iOS and Android are way better!!!! With 8.1 notifications are not working.” Neither user mentions which particular Windows Phone device they are facing issues on, though.

Last week, WhatsApp users globally faced delays in sending and receiving messages, though the problem was not limited to a particular platform.

No app is better than a crippled app?

Microsoft and Facebook are said to be working on sorting out the issues that have plagued the Windows Phone version of the Instant Messenger. Some reports indicate that it could actually be Facebook’s reluctance to offer a crippled app, which might turn people away from the service, that saw the app getting unpublished temporarily. Facebook, on its part, is desperately looking for a strong foothold in the Instant Messenger ecosystem, which was the main reason behind the WhatsApp acquisition. It can ill-afford to have people turn away from the service for good.

But for Windows Phone users who are unable to download the app, and in some cases unable to use an already downloaded version, there is little consolation. Or is there?

The alternatives

There are alternatives you can consider switching to, and at least stay in touch with your friends. For your convenience, we have provided download links from the Windows Phone app store to get you started. All the apps featured here are free to download and use (unless you wish to use extra features like calling credits). But you’ll have to convince your friends to download these on their smartphones too.


Download: Windows Phone Store

Perhaps the default name that comes to mind for video calls, Skype is also very competent when it comes to text-based instant messaging. Unless you live in Iran, of course! It integrates well with all Windows Phone versions—8.1, 8 and 7.5—but critically, chances are that your friends too will have this app on their iPhone, Android device, BlackBerry and Nokia X phones. This compatibility with all popular smartphone platforms means this is perhaps the best alternative. The ability to make free Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls (across all devices) might just end up saving you some money on phone bills. Perhaps the only stumbling block is that a user needs to sign up for a Microsoft account to use the app—some of your lazy friends may throw up a red flag at this point.


Download: Windows Phone Store

A very good second option to Skype, Viber does pretty much the same stuff. But some things are just simpler. Straight off, the set-up is simple because you don’t really need to create an ID and fill out a long sign-up form. Your phone number automatically becomes your ID, after the one-time auto verification, and all contacts using Viber are added automatically from your contacts list. You can do text chats, complete with stickers and emoticons, as well as share photos, videos and location. Voice calls are free when you call other Viber users, and it works well on Wi-Fi or 3G. Viber is available for Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Samsung’s Bada and Nokia Symbian smartphones. Chances are, you won’t have to spend too much time convincing your friends about the benefits of downloading this app.


Download: Windows Phone Store

Perhaps not in the WhatsApp league yet, but Line has more than 430 million users globally, and is certainly getting there. Within chats, users are allowed to share videos, photos, voice messages and location. Line was one of the first apps that introduced the concept of stickers to add some fun element to your conversation. It is also one of the first apps that introduced the concept of an app and games ecosystem within the app, for the Android and iOS versions. The latest version of Line messenger for Windows Phone 8 and 8.1 allows users to make and receive voice calls as well, over Wi-Fi and 3G. Your friends on Android, iOS, BlackBerry and even Nokia Asha phones can download this app without much effort.

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