SingTel Wants To Charge You For WhatsApp? Screw That. Here Are 3 Alternatives

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It would appear that Mark Zuckerberg may have gotten more than he bargained for when he bought WhatsApp for $16b billion. After a serious of unfortunate incidents, there’s a new twist in the tale back home in Singapore. Here’s what has happened and our take on 3 alternatives to consider:

Singtel CEO Chua Sock Koong. Photo: Bloomberg

First, it was the WhatsApp crash, which rendered the service useless for more than 2 hours. This coming a few days after the announcement of the $16 billion acquisition by Facebook. How coincidental. Then on Tuesday, SingTel’s CEO Chua Sock Koong called on regulators to give telecommunications carriers the license to charge for FREE services such as WhatsApp and Skype, or risk a major decline in investment from the networks. Boo-freaking-hoo!

SingTel decided to come up with a plan for users with no data in their contracts that includes WhatsApp… for a monthly service fee. While this sounds fine and dandy, it’s a huge step towards charging everyone for WhatsApp’s services, given its huge popularity. But this isn’t the first time SingTel has made business decisions without any concern for the costs to the consumer. Remember the 2010 World Cup television rights fiasco? And that cut in data from 12GB to 4GB?

Wow, thanks for looking out for me SingTel!

Since we’re sick of this big corporate if-you-are-not-happy-then-suck-it-up sort of attitude, here are 3 alternatives to WhatsApp you can consider:

1. Viber

These guys are clearly doing something right. Recently acquired by the Japanese giant Rakuten for $900 million, this Internet messaging and calling service has grown despite the incumbent success of Skype and WhatsApp. Boasting 300 million users worldwide, Viber has features similar to Skype.

Interestingly enough, the announcement of the acquisition caused the share price of Rakuten to drop by 9.5%, which was the same effect that the WhatsApp acquisition had on Facebook stocks (dropping by 5%).

Key Features:

  • Messaging, calling, and photo sharing features (free of course, apart from data usage)
  • Group chat functions (similar to WhatsApp)
  • Available for Windows Phone, iOS, Android, and Blackberry platforms
  • Desktop app also available

From personal experience, we’ve had much better connection stability when making overseas phone calls with Viber compared to Skype, but of course connectivity may vary between users.

2. Telegram

This previously unknown app shot to the top of the Apple Store charts in 48 countries within a matter of days! It was reported that it hit 5 million new user signups within a day during WhatsApp’s downtime.

Originally launched as an application to provide a means of communication that could not be accessed by Russian intelligence agencies (what?!), this app prides itself on its security and independence. In fact, it makes many bold claims (such as that they’ll never sell out) on their webpage.

Key Features:

  • Ability to create message threads that self-delete (similar to SnapChat)
  • Cloud functionality that lets users access chats and shared media via any Internet-connected device
  • End-to-end encryption that makes it one of the safest messaging platforms available now (something that Blackberry had been trying to promote with BBM. We all know how that turned out for them)

3. Wechat

Wechat has developed something of a dubious stigma recently, with Asiaone running an article on how the platform is increasingly being used by people to initiate affairs. So much for protesting against Ashley Madison. Owned by Tencent Inc., China’s largest Internet service portal, the application is a casual, almost funny communication app that has features such as “Drift Bottle” and “Shake.”

Key Features:

  • Messaging, group chat, and video call functions
  • Shake – just shake your phone and you’ll be able to see other people shaking their phones in an area around you. Weird way to meet a stranger but hey, what do we know?
  • Look Around – this is just a location based function that allows you to see other people in the area who use Wechat as well.
  • Drift Bottle – this has to be the funniest feature of them all. It basically allows you to send out a voice or text message and then see who picks it up. The website says “Select ‘Pick’ to pick a drift bottle from the sea. You can reply to it or throw it back to the sea. Sometimes you may get a starfish. Just try again.” – WHAT??

Notable Mention:

Line Messenger – Japan’s biggest messaging app has to be the cutest communications app on earth. Just check out their webpage and you’ll see what we mean. Prepare for lots of stickers, cartoon characters and animations. One minor annoying part is they tend to send you weird marketing SMSes.

Final Word

While it’s not a very bright decision to implement this right after the announcement of their acquisition and upcoming free voice calling features, this could be a very slight indicator of the financial impact free messaging and calling apps have had on the major telcos.

If it does get to a point (and we won’t be in the least bit surprised if it does) where SingTel starts charging for free voice calls made with WhatsApp and Skype, we firmly believe that no consumer should have to stand for that sort of corporate bullying.

So whether you want to just have a casual chat with a group of friends, catch up with loved ones overseas, or have an affair (please don’t), you can still do it for free and stick it to SingTel at the same time. What could be better? Stay tuned with us on Facebook (now owners of Whatsapp) as we follow this saga.

What are your thoughts on SingTel’s announcement to charge for WhatsApp? Do you think it could lead to further charges for all subscribers? Share your thoughts here!