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Why Do People Use WhatsApp?

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You've been texting with your friend when she asks you if you'd be willing to swap your conversation over to WhatsApp. You might wonder why, since text messages seemed to be working pretty well for you both. But WhatsApp has a few key features that set it apart from the rest of the crowd.

Used by over 2.8 billion users each month, WhatsApp takes the crown as one of the most popular messaging apps worldwide. It's pretty impressive when you consider that it's a third-party application, meaning it was not developed by either Samsung, Apple, or another phone manufacturer.

But why would people choose WhatsApp vs. texting, or any other messaging app? The short answer is that it's wallet-friendly, very secure, and has some other nifty features to make it fun to use.

Let's address the big question in a little more depth: Why do people use WhatsApp? 

What Is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is a third-party communication app. "Third-party" means that it's not native to a specific device manufacturer or operating system (like, say, iMessage is for Apple's iOS). You can download it on any mobile device, whether you have an iPhone or an Android, as well as your computer. You can also use it through an Internet browser like Safari or Chrome. Once you have a WhatsApp account, you can do most of the same things you're used to doing with other communication apps like iMessage and FaceTime:

  • One-to-one private messaging
  • Group chats
  • Individual or group video conferencing 
  • Voice calling 

WhatsApp really shines when it comes to conversation security. In fact, one of its primary product taglines is "Message Privately." It comes with privacy and security-oriented features like chat lock, which password protects personal chats, disappearing messages that auto-delete chats after a preset period, and silencing calls from unknown or spam callers. 

Most importantly, however, WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption in its messaging services. How does that affect you as a user? It means the developer has placed controls that ensure only you and the person you're chatting with can see or hear the conversations — no need to worry about eavesdropping or man-in-the-middle attacks. Not even WhatsApp has access to your conversations.

A Quick WhatsApp History Lesson

WhatsApp's journey began in 2009 when two Yahoo! programmers founded the company. It stayed independent until 2014, when Meta (called Facebook at the time) purchased it for $19 billion. End-to-end encryption wasn't added until shortly after the acquisition—after Facebook was hit with a $122 million penalty by the European Commission for social media privacy violations. 

Why Use WhatsApp?

Why would users select WhatsApp vs. iMessage or another communications app? Well, several reasons: 

  • You get multiple communication options and features, including personal messaging, group chats, voice, video chat, polling, and contact management, all in one app. 
  • It's free since all calls and messages are delivered through the Internet — no need to pay a higher fee for messaging friends and family overseas. All you need is an Internet connection, whether through WiFi or a data plan.
  • WhatsApp is a third-party app you can download or access through the web using WhatsApp Web, so you can use it on any device – including a laptop. Think of how complex it is to FaceTime on Android, for comparison!
  • The developer prioritizes your privacy through features like end-to-end encryption, disappearing messages and images, chat lock, and password-protected chats. 

Let's compare WhatsApp to other communication platform options. 

  • iMessage: It's native to Apple, so you need an iPhone, Mac computer, or iPad to use it.
  • Standard texting: While most cell phone plans include unlimited domestic texting, international texts can get expensive. Plus, SMS texting doesn't include the other features like video calling.
  • Facebook Messenger: It requires a Facebook account and doesn't offer the same privacy guarantees as WhatsApp. 
  • Signal: It has the security benefits of WhatsApp but without the popularity, giving you a smaller user base of friends and family to connect with. 

WhatsApp does have some limitations as well. For example, it's prone to scams due to the ease of accessibility of mass messaging and calling tools. Some users also find video and image quality diminishes after being sent. WhatsApp, however, is constantly working to fix these issues and adding controls to help combat spam or unwanted messaging, allowing it to remain an excellent communication tool.  

Is WhatsApp Safe? 

As we've touched on, WhatsApp's encryption makes it very safe to use.

When you send and receive WhatsApp messages, you'll just notice seamless, easy communication. Behind the scenes, it uses cryptography while sending messages or files and during calls, making them inaccessible to anyone other than the sender and receiver. Before content leaves the sender's device, it gets encrypted (jumbled to make it non-legible) and comes with a unique key only the receiver can unlock. Even if a third party somehow intercepted a text, they wouldn't see the message because they don’t have the key. All this is done automatically in the app, so there's no need for additional steps on your end.  

The only safety risk to keep in mind is that WhatsApp isn't just used to connect with friends and family. Because you can mass-send messages for free with little effort, scammers commonly use the app for phishing and data theft. For example, they’ll commonly send WhatsApp messages pretending to be a family member or person in need and ask you to send money. It's a good thing it comes with spam silence features! Nevertheless, ensure your safety by:

  • Enabling 2-step authentication for account access to add layers of security.
  • Updating the app with the latest version to patch all security vulnerabilities and system flaws.
  • Staying vigilant of suspicious messages and unrecognized senders.

How Many People Use WhatsApp? 

As we mentioned, WhatsApp is closing on nearly 3 billion users worldwide. Of those, 91.3 million are American, making the US the country with the third-largest WhatsApp-using population. This number might be higher one day, but most people in the US have iPhones and have use iMessage instead due to its convenience and similar functions.  

WhatsApp has really left its mark, however, in other areas of the world. Below, we break down the number of WhatsApp users by country: 

  • India: 535.8 million 
  • Brazil: 139.3 million  
  • Indonesia: 86.9 million
  • Mexico: 69.7 million
  • Russia: 66.7 million   

Why so popular? Because of its free plans and broad accessibility, it lets anyone, regardless of device, chat with their friends and family. Despite being a major global power, we should note that China did not make the list. The Chinese government banned the app in 2017 to support its censorship and content moderation goals.  

How Does WhatsApp Make Money?

By now, we've all heard the dire warnings: "If you're not paying for the product, you are the product." In other words, if WhatsApp is such a great app, how come it’s free?

Before Facebook purchased the app in 2014, WhatsApp made money using a subscription model — charging $1 per user per year. After the acquisition, however, WhatsApp went completely free for most casual users and instead made money via its WhatsApp Business Account product that delivers communication features for companies to:

  • Provide customer support 
  • Engage leads and customers through outreach campaigns 
  • Send customer notifications 

The service uses custom pricing based on the number of users, conversation categories, number of customer conversations, and the business location. This approach provides a straightforward revenue stream for the company.

The Bottom Line

WhatsApp gives you a no-cost, easy-to-use way to connect with friends and family on your mobile phone while ensuring robust security measures that protect your conversation privacy. All you need is a cellular data connection or WiFi. Its popularity will only continue growing and ultimately expand the number of users you can chat with. 

Nearly all smartphones can use WhatsApp through a web browser or by downloading the app. Older phone models, however, may be out-of-date and no longer support WhatsApp's excellent features. So, if you're in the market for a new smartphone, check out our free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder to find the best phone deals on smartphones today.

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