12 Google Messaging Apps: A Grand Tour

12 Google Messaging Apps: A Grand Tour

Get this, Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has not one, not two, not three but 12 messaging apps. You would think that a tech giant like Google would be interested in developing a single app that does everything for everyone, but that’s not the case. In fact, the tech giant seems focused on improving each app to be the best at what it does, so that users can choose the service that best suits their needs.

Here’s a quick look at how each app works.

Google Messaging Apps

Google Voice

Launched by Google on March 11, 2009, Google Voice is the tech giant’s oldest VoIP product. The app includes a free phone number for U.S. users and you can instruct it to ring your cell phone, work or home phone, or all three, whenever someone calls your Voice number. You can also instruct the app to send SMS texts and voicemails to Hangouts.

Google Hangouts

This is a unified communications service that allows you to initiate and participate in video, voice and text chats, either one-on-one or in a group. Hangouts is built into Gmail and Google+. The mobile app is available for both Android and iOS devices.

Project Fi

This is a phone carrier from Google that works by giving you mobile data service on three mobile networks that your phone will intelligently switch between. It uses WiFi to send texts and to make calls. Unlike traditional carriers that bill you after you use their service, Project Fi is a “prepaid” carrier, which means that you pay upfront for your service in the trailing month. Fi is currently available only to U.S. users who own either Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 6 or Pixel smartphones.

Google Duo 

Google Duo is a simple video-calling service that allows you to connect with your customers on both Android and iOS. It is one of the two communication apps launched by Google at the 2016 I/O conference. Its standout feature is Knock Knock, which gives you a preview of who is calling by firing up the camera on the other end of the line. 

Inbox by Gmail

Inbox by Gmail is an email service that was developed and launched by Google in limited edition on October 2014 and later released to the public in May 2015.

Inbox intelligently bundles similar messages together, allowing you to dismiss all of them with a single click. It also highlights important events such as trips and clusters together hotel and flight information.

Gmail

One of the most familiar of Google’s messaging options, this is a free, advert supported email service that’s available on the web and also through mobile apps for iOS and Android. Unlike the newbie Inbox, Gmail has an All mail folder, experimental “Labs” add-ons and extensive options in settings that include Blocked Addresses and Filters.

Google Chat 

Before the standalone Hangouts app came, you could still place VoIP calls and instant messages from Google+ and Gmail using Chat. The instant messaging service is colloquially known as gchat, gtalk or gmessage, but they are not Google endorsed. Chat remains embedded on Gmail.

Google Allo

Launched in May 2016, Google Allo is a Smart messaging app for iPhone and Android. Allo works for group chats, allows you to send pictures, share fun stickers and so on. Allo is great for talking to the Google Assistant.

Google Groups

Launched in February 2001, Google Groups is 16 years old! The service provides discussion groups for people sharing common interests.  A good number of people still use Groups because they at some point joined a group and that’s where the conversations still takes place.

Google+

During its first years, Google+ allowed users to send texts, emails, edit and share photos as well as make video calls. A few years ago, Google changed its all-in-one approach, becoming more like a cross between Facebook and Reddit. The platform’s content is organized by “Collections” that make it easy for you to find relevant content.

Google Spaces

This social service by Google is less than a year old. Spaces makes it easier to find and share images, articles and videos without leaving the app as Google Search, Chrome and YouTube come built in. 

Google Messenger

Messenger from Google is a communications app that helps you to send and receive MMS and SMS messages to any phone. The app has a great interface and supports text, pictures, emoji and GIFs. You can make it your default texting app that people can always text you on. Messenger is only available to Android users.

[“Source-smallbiztrends”]

13 SMS Text Messaging Services for Marketing in the Mobile Age

Ninety nine percent of the time statistics can drive you to heavy drinking. In researching this post on SMS or Text Message Marketing, I wanted to find out how many people use text messaging, how quickly they are read, and are business owners using it as a way to reach customers.

More than any other topic that I’ve written about recently, the data is all over the place:

  • Text Messages have a 98 percent read rate
  • Text Messages have a 100 percent open rate
  • Texts are typically read within 15 minutes of being received
  • Mobile phones have reached 100 percent penetration in the United States

Let’s go with something more trustworthy: Do you know very many adults without a mobile phone? How about business owners without one? Have you had a customer without a cell phone? Here’s the leap, but I have pretty good evidence it is true: If they have one, they likely use text messaging on it, too.

Text message marketing is a permission-based approach to sharing short updates or specials with your customers. It lends itself to point of sale or retail offers, but not entirely. My gut or intuition tells me that it’s a good way to share news, updates, ideas, and special offers with customers with whom you have a relationship and who express interest in signing up.

Here are services that can make it easy and affordable; some are completely free if you keep your efforts small and focused:

TXT180 offers 500 messages for $19.95 per month. Discounted to only $16/month if you prepay for a 12-month contract. Other plans are available for other volumes of messages sent each month. Includes “text 2 win,” text 2 vote” and similar services. You can try the service for just $1.

TellMyCell is useful if you want to give your customers a specific keyword to text in and receive a special offer (or any response really). You can have unlimited contacts and unlimited groups, but you pay on a per message basis. You can pay-as-you-go for five cents per message or plans start at $29/month.

Simple Texting has one of those sites that is just clear and easy to grasp and the main screen calls out to business owners. I like that. You can integrate with social media like Facebook and Twitter. Free 14-day trial, then prices start at $45/month for up to 1,000 messages.

CallFire offers a variety of telephone-based services like IVR (interactive voice response – you know those automated attendant types) and a virtual call center service. But their pay-as-you-go SMS plan is a basic flat rate of five cents per message. Or you can go for a monthly bundled package starting at $99 per month.

Mozeo is another text platform with flat message pricing – three cents per message. Unlimited contacts, unused messages roll to the next month. You pay a one-time charge for keywords (as in your customer texts in the word PIZZA to your number to get a special offer). You get 10 free text messages to trial the service.

TextMagic is a text messaging service that you don’t even need a phone to use. You can forward your emails to this SMS service, too. You buy credits in 100 pack increments starting at $4 (4 cents per text message). I discovered this UK-based service via a terrific post at the Content Marketing Institute: Why SMS is a Must for a Younger Audience.

Betwext is one of the few text message marketing companies that had unlimited keywords (which could be important if you intend to do a lot of different campaigns) and a low rate of only two cents per message. Monthly plans start at $9 per month for 3 keywords or $19/month for unlimited keywords.

Trumpia sells texts in packaged units (i.e. 10,000 or 25,000) and they don’t expire. You can use them in your text message marketing in a variety of ways, from appointment reminders to event coordination to standard marketing messages. Plans start at $142/month – provided you prepay for 2 years. The lowest monthly plan is $285/month.

Groovv Offers is a text, email and social marketing solution by Total Merchant Services. Groovv Offers acquired Fanminder, one of the SMS text messaging services included on this original list. Groovv does not make pricing public on its website.

Editor’s note: Since this original article was published, the following five SMS text messaging services no longer appear to be operational. We’ve left them in for historical reference purposes.

SnapGiant knows that many small businesses (including restaurants and food service businesses) use text message marketing and their page gently reflects that. You only pay for outgoing messages, not incoming, and unused messages roll over to the next month (that’s kind of cool). Plans start at $19.95/month after free 30-day trial.

Signal is pretty robust and lets you send text messages, QR codes, barcodes, and mobile optimized web pages. You can do coupons, sweepstakes, polls and plans start at $29/month with a free trial.

ReachPeople charges by the number of contacts and number of messages. They have a full free plan with up to 25 messages and 100 contacts. Paid plans start at $29/month. I like that they had a voice broadcasting option if you wanted to leave a voicemail for a group.

SMS Marketing has a one-time flat rate of $35 to setup your web-based text messaging account, then a per message fee. You get unlimited autoresponders and can schedule text message offers with ease. It even comes with one free keyword.

Notifo is another that handles notifications to the iOS platform.

Bonuses:

If you simply want to replace your mobile phone text plan for something less expensive, these five options are worth a look:

Go SMS Android App. Free texting. Handcent is another.

JAXTR MOBILE (Formerly JaxtrSMS) is sort of like Skype but just for texting. If you text another Jaxtr user, it’s free. Otherwise a low message fee based on destination country. Makes international texting pretty easy.

Kik Messenger is texting for smartphones. Or more like texting with an instant messenger feel. Free.

Google Voice is a free voice-over-IP phone (like Skype) but offers free texting, too. You can send to up to five people at one time.

GroupMe is part of Skype and is a novel way to text a group of people. Totally free. Might not work in a business situation with a group of customers, but might be good for internal teams.

If you just want to be able to get Twitter or Facebook updates on a mobile device, but not cell phone type text messages, then Boxcar for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad is a notification app that allows you to get updates from many different web services (Curdbee, FourSquare, GitHub, Google Voice, just to name a few more). Free for the iOS world. Android and PC versions coming.

If you’ve been contemplating how to offer your customers a way to get special marketing offers, via cell phone, then one of these text messaging solutions will help.

Like all services we review, I try to pick ones with transparent, affordable pricing and that make it easy for a busy small business owner to figure out. Let us know what services you’ve been using in the comments below.

For additional reading, please visit:

14 Android Texting Apps That Should Be On Your Smartphone
11 Best Practice Tips for Professional Text Messaging
How to Create the Perfect Marketing Text Message

UPDATED: MARCH 14, 2016

Text Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

ISIS Tells Supporters to Quit Messaging Apps for Fear of US Bombs

ISIS Tells Supporters to Quit Messaging Apps for Fear of US Bombs
ISIS has told its members to stop using internet-based communication apps like WhatsApp and Telegram on smartphones, suspecting they are being used by the US-led coalition to track and kill its commanders.

Until recently, the hardline group used such apps to chat with members and supporters outside its main areas of control in Syria, Iraq and Libya – including, say French officials, the assailants who staged attacks across Paris a year ago, killing at least 130 people.

A US-led military coalition has been bombing ISIS positions since 2014, when the group proclaimed a caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Twenty commanders of the group were killed this year, including spokesman Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani.

“If you get onto the programs like WhatsApp and Telegram or others from Mosul, and get in touch with a person being tracked, the crusaders will start thinking about you … assessing your importance and identifying the locations of the (ISIS) centres by following you,” said an article in the group’s weekly newspaper, Al-Naba, published online.

The new instructions came as the group tries to fight off a US-backed offensive on Mosul, its last major stronghold in Iraq, by far the biggest city it controls.
ISIS members already avoid communicating directly with each other on Twitter, which they used 2-3 years ago to spread their ideology and attract new followers.

The group has used Telegram, a messaging service, but its account has become a lot less active. While Telegram offers private messaging, its main use to Islamic militants has been as a distribution tool to share propaganda with backers to repost on Twitter for the wider world.

Pro-IS sites on Telegram frequently remind readers that Telegram is for sharing messages only among supporters, and “not a media platform for (preaching) to all Muslims and the West”, in other words for recruiting sympathisers to join their cause.

(Also see: Telegram Responds to Report of Massive Hack)

Dozens more alternative messaging apps exist, offering various degrees of anonymity and security, but the phones required to use them are seen as increasingly risky possessions.
Al-Naba called on the militants to shut down their mobile phones before entering any of the group’s bases to avoid exposing them to air strikes by the US-led coalition.

“Switch off your phone after you finish your communication and beware of the greatest disobedience of all – switching it on when your are in one of the offices,” it said. “As long as it has power, the phone is spying on you.”

In Mosul, ISIS is cracking down on communication with the outside world to prevent residents from helping the forces advancing on the city, executing people for using mobile phones. Earlier this year, it confiscated satellite dishes to prevent people from seeing the progress made by the Iraqi army.

ISIS has executed 42 people from local tribes, caught with SIM cards, Iraqi intelligence officers said last month. This could not be independently confirmed.

(Also see: Curbs on Extremist Online Content Threatens Free Speech, Say Tech Firms)

WhatsApp bars ISIS supporters for a litany of violations of its terms of service. But identifying violators in private conversations is difficult since the Facebook-owned company implemented strict end-to-end encryption earlier this year.

Telegram, which has a long history of anti-censorship battles with governments around the world, says its policy is to block terrorist channels open to the public, and other illegal public content. Private communications between individuals are not blocked on the service, as these conversations are also encrypted.

Despite the company’s ban, this week pro-ISIS Telegram channels claimed responsibility for a knife attack at Ohio State University and detailed ISIS fighters’ plans in the Philippines to expand into southeast Asia.

© Thomson Reuters 2016

Tags: Islamic State, Messaging Apps, WhatsApp, Telegram, Social, Apps, Cyber Terrorism

[“Source-Gadgets”]

‘Facebook for the Workplace’ the Next Big Thing for Messaging Apps

'Facebook for the Workplace' the Next Big Thing for Messaging Apps

‘Facebook for the Workplace’ the Next Big Thing for Messaging Apps
Looking to break out of a “messy” email situation, the nonprofit group dosomething.org recently switched over to a new way of communicating among its far-flung teams.

Moving most internal communications to the messaging application Slack with its “channels” for various teams made it easier to coordinate the group’s social change projects across 131 countries, said software engineer Joe Kent.

“All the teams have their channels and anyone can jump in and see what the others are doing,” Kent told AFP. “You can follow the conversation a lot more quickly.”

Slack, created in 2013, has become a leader in a crowded field of new applications aimed at helping workplaces move away from email.

Facebook this month jumped headlong into this segment with its Workplace application, aiming to leverage the popularity of the leading social network used by some 1.7 billion people.

Facebook is among an array of competitors vying for a slice of this market, including several startups and Microsoft.

San Francisco-based Slack has raised some $500 million (roughly Rs. 3,342 crores) at a reported valuation of some $4 billion (roughly Rs. 26, 742 crores), making it one of the most prominent venture-funded tech “unicorns” worth over $1 billion (roughly Rs. 6,685 crores).

With some three million active users, including nearly one million paying for “premium” service, Slack has become one of the fastest-growing business applications.

Craig Le Clair of Forrester Research said these services are growing because younger “millennials” have different ways of working.

“They want to work when they want to, they want chat sessions that better integrate with their social media lives,” Le Clair said.

Le Clair said many workplaces are facing “information overload” due to the volume of emails that need to be sorted and prioritized.

“The goal is to get out of email hell,” he said.

‘Just sign up’
Small- and medium-sized businesses find Slack especially appealing because of its ease of use on both mobile and desktop devices, says Mark Beccue, an analyst who researched the market for Compass Intelligence.

“There’s no friction. Companies don’t have to go through a major software license process, you just sign up,” Beccue said. “It’s the consumerization of an enterprise product.”

The global enterprise chat and messaging market is set to reach $1.9 billion by 2019, according to Beccue’s report.

Slack came at the right time for companies seeking new ways to improve workplace efficiency, Beccue said.

“I think they are major driver of innovation for business productivity,” he said.
Slack and rivals like Atlassian’s HipChat and Microsoft’s Yammer offer social media-style interfaces for messages, and some integrate with business applications to enable voice calls, video and other services.

Slack recently teamed with cloud computing group Salesforce to broaden its offerings in services such as customer relations management.

Slack also allows organizations to create channels for communicating outside the enterprise, powered by artificial intelligence “bots.”

“Slack is moving away from just being a messaging tool, they want to be the home base for enterprise applications, and that’s a different ballgame,” said Raul Castanon-Martinez, an analyst at 451 Research.

Castanon-Martinez said that “Slack’s success took a lot of people by surprise” but that it may be difficult to sustain momentum in the face of deep-pocketed rivals like Facebook and Microsoft.

Microsoft earlier this year announced that its Yammer messaging platform would integrate with its Office 365 groups, while also offering easy connections to Outlook email and Skype, aiming for a broad set of business tools under its umbrella.

“Microsoft hasn’t made a lot of noise, but they have been aggressive in remaining the dominant place in productivity applications,” Castanon-Martinez said.

Aggressive pricing is also being used as a way to woo businesses away from Slack. Microsoft offers its suite of services for $2 to $4 per user, and Facebook $1 to $3 per user compared with Slack’s standard $6.67 per user.

The Facebook model
Facebook meanwhile is seeking to use its advantage as “the social media world that millennials grew up with,” Le Clair said.

But the analyst said it is not clear if companies and network managers will move to the Facebook platform.

“Most of the employers and managers didn’t grow up in that world,” he said.

“They associate Facebook with something their kids are doing, it’s not associated with productivity and getting work done. Some companies even restrict the use of Facebook in the workplace.”

Analysts point out that Slack and similar platforms may increase the burden on employees, becoming an additional “feed” to manage, and that email is still necessary for external contacts and other functions.

Le Clair said artificial intelligence may be the tool that helps sift through messages to stay on track.

“You’re going to need emerging analytics to go through those streams,” he said.

“Facebook has done a lot of investment in AI so they could be well-placed to do that.”

Tags: Workplace by Facebook, Facebook at Work, Workplace, Apps, Social

[“Source-Gadgets”]