WhatsApp – a cheaper sms option

Mobile phone usage in Zimbabwe is at an all time high, but many are still using costly text messages when a cheaper alternative exists.

Last year, mobile usage in Zimbabwe rose to 75% in 2011 from 67.5% the previous year and just 5% in 2005, while the price of mobile SIM cards is at an all-time low.

Though Zimbabweans are getting connected, sending an SMS message with the country’s three mobile operators, Econet, Telecel and NetOne, is still too expensive for most. This is because SMS is an old messaging system with limited functionality and high cost. Developed in the 1980s, a single SMS can only hold 160 characters.

WhatsApp is a cheaper and more modern alternative to SMS. Originally created for the smartphones of technology gurus in Silicon Valley, WhatsApp now works on iPhones, BlackBerries, Androids, Windows Phones, and Nokia Symbian60 & S40 phones. Nokia has sold over 1.5 billion S40 phones, while Androids and BlackBerries are increasingly popular across Africa, so billions of people around the world now have access to WhatsApp.

WhatsApp works through the existing internet data plan of your device. A recent report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development found that in Africa 84 million mobile handsets are already capable of using the Internet, and 7 out of 10 are expected to be internet-enabled by 2014. If your phone doesn’t have internet yet, it will soon.

So, why should YOU use WhatsApp? Two words: price and features. Because WhatsApp uses the internet to send messages, there are no costly network SMS fees. WhatsApp is around 1000 times cheaper than SMS, and the more you use it the cheaper it gets because you are not charged per-message.

With WhatsApp, sending a message internationally costs the same as nationally, and you can easily attach photos and sound files. You can even use the status functionality of WhatsApp to inform your contacts about your mobile availability, just like instant messaging from a computer.

The Zimbabwean has been testing WhatsApp for a few months now, and has found it to be quick and easy to use. Successfully delivered messages are marked with two ticks in your sent box, so you can easily see when the network is down, unlike with SMS.

We also found WhatsApp to be great for sending images. WhatsApp creates a folder on your device in which it stores all WhatsApp sent and received images so you can easily find them later. Probably the best feature of WhatsApp is the global coverage. Sending a message anywhere in the world for almost nothing is incredible, and shows how the internet is changing the way the world communicates.

WhatsApp use is already on the rise in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean sent out a recent tweet asking if our followers thought WhatsApp will replace SMS in Zim, and Michelle Connor tweeted back, “yes I do. It’s fast and efficient and sends photos and sound files very quick, plus its cheap!”

For those who don’t already have it, getting WhatsApp is simple. Visit www.whatsapp.com/dl from your mobile device and follow the on-screen instructions. If your mobile device doesn’t yet have an internet connection, ask your provider. If you have any problems, visit www.whatsapp.com/faq/ or send a tweet to @thezimbabwean and we will be happy to help.

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Post published in: Tech

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