Being a phone enthusiast, and working at t-break gives me access to a reasonable number of phones. While I do have my favourites, I keep switching between different phones to make sure I am providing a fair comparison. At the moment, my arsenal includes the iPhone 5S, the Nexus 5, the Lumia 925 and the BlackBerry Z30. In an ideal world, I would like to keep these devices in sync all the time and as far as mail, calendar, contacts and notes are concerned, I’m pretty much all set thanks to Google Apps and Evernote. Where I do get frustrated is when it comes to messaging- the quick one liners you tend to send over iMessage, Hangouts, WhatsApp, BBM or just plain old text messages.
I find the messaging space very interesting but even after all these years, don’t see any clear winners emerging. I’m not saying they’re bad- on the contrary, there are some excellent solutions, but, in parts. I would love to see this space evolve to an extent where I don’t have to worry about which or how many devices I’m using to see my messages. For that to happen, here’s a list of my suggestion that organisations in the mobile messaging space need to read- and hopefully implement in their solutions.
1) Don’t restrict to mobiles
Within the course of a day, I’m on a desktop, a laptop, a tablet and a phone. In the future, I’m sure a wearable device will also be in the picture. I want all my messages to be accessed from any of these devices. Since I use OS X, iMessage does that for me but not everyone is tied to Apple’s eco-system. Apple also does not allow you to view your messages on the web – maybe something you might want to do while travelling and your iPhone is out of charge. Google allows that with their Google Talk or Google+ service and it is accessible across multiple devices but it comes with it’s own set of issues.
2) Have it available on as many platforms as possible
I want a messaging platform that works across all sizeable platforms such as iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry (7 and 10) and Symbian. WhatsApp actually does this really well – working on not just these platforms but also on Nokia’s Asha. But WhatsApp does not work on computers, tablets or the web. I want a service that has native clients on all these mobile platforms along with being able to access it across computers, tablets and the web. Again, Google Talk somewhat does this but Google is not making impactful apps for mobile platform other than iOS and Android. I’ve used 3rd party products on Windows Phone but they’re not the best, often times delaying delivery of messages, which is not ideal for instant messaging .
The one thing I love about BBM is that I know if/when a message has been delivered and or read. With iMessages, Apple allows you to select if you want others to find out if you have read the message or not but iMessage is restricted to Apple’s products. Another aspect of Notifications that is desperately needed is syncing them across multiple devices. Again, Apple’s iMessage does this well – if I have read a message on my Mac, it doesn’t appear unread on my iPhone. Google Talk somewhat works if you are using Android and Web based Gmail but often times, I come home in the evening to find unread chat message windows flashing on my Gmail client – one’s I’ve already read on my BlackBerry.
4) Simultaneously work on multiple devices
With BBM or WhatsApp, you are restricted to getting your messages on a single device. I have more than one phone and a tablet and I want my message delivered across all my devices. I also want my message history available across all devices. Again, if you’re on iMessage, you have this facility on Apple products. With Google, I do get a history of chat on the web or Android but most other devices only show messages sent from that particular device.
5) Decent Group Messaging
One area where iMessage falls flat is with group messaging, even if all your group members are on iOS or Mac. WhatsApp does this ok but I hate it when I am added to a group without my consent. BBM handles this really well and in its current state, offers pictures, notes and calendars to be shared across groups. But BBM is mobile-only, and active on one device at a time with no syncing of history. I like Microsoft’s concept with Windows Phone and creating rooms of your contacts regardless of the platform they’re on – maybe something worth exploring further. Google is also starting to work well in this space with Hangouts but there is no clear winner.
So there you have it. You might think that I’m asking for too much but for a clear winner to emerge in the messaging space, I think the above five requirements should be met. Is there anyone from the above that is in the best position to make all this happen? I think Google is very capable of doing all of this but it ignores platforms like Windows Phone and BlackBerry. Or maybe a newcomer like Evernote that is present on all platforms and has good syncing experience. You also have companies like Facebook and Twitter which do a fair amount of messaging and are present across multiple devices but they’re not ideal – Twitter has a character restriction while Facebook doesn’t do group chatting on mobiles. Is there one that I’m missing out on?