What’s WhatsApp? The Spanish Alternative to Texting

Let’s face it—cell phone service providers aren’t exactly the most beloved companies, and with good reason: two-year contracts, intentionally feature-crippled phones, and limits to how often you can call or text your friends. Many people, however, are finding a way around a maximum of, say, 300 texts a month, by dipping in to their data plan and using alternative messaging services like Facebook, Twitter, or even chat.

WhatsApp icon on an iPhone
apps by Simon Q on Flickr
One service that has a huge following here in Spain is WhatsApp (pronounced variously as ['wat.sap] ['ɣwas.ap] or even just [ɣwas]). It’s available on Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Nokia, Symbian, and Windows phones; i.e., most smartphones on the market.

Essentially, it gives you unlimited texting through your data plan. The program automatically reads your address book/contacts information and will tell you who is also using WhatsApp. When you send them a message via WhatsApp, instead of going through your cell phone company’s SMS service, it will bypass that for the data service. For me, this is great because I have only 50 texts a week on my pay-as-you-go plan but 100 MB in data. I can’t imagine one message being more than a few kilobytes, so percentage-wise, communicating via WhatsApp is a lot more economical. And if you happen to be connected to WiFi, it doesn’t cost you a thing!

I hadn’t heard of WhatsApp before moving to Spain, but apparently it’s used worldwide.

Do you use WhatsApp on a daily basis to keep in touch with friends? Or do you use another service, or simply have unlimited texting? Comment below!

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