Whether you’ve just purchased yourself a brand spanking new iPhone 5S or iPhone 5C, or whether you’re tied into a lengthy contract on the ageing iPhone 4S, chances are you are going to want to use your iPhone for more than just web browsing or taking pictures.
With Apple’s App store currently populated with over one million apps, there are bound to be some real gems, as well as some duds across all categories. We’ve searched through and picked out what we feel are the best in order to connect with your friends and family, as well as a look to some alternatives.
Obviously, there are some in built options like the Messages app that is tied in so seamlessly with iMessage, Facetime or Apple’s preinstalled email application. There are, however, a variety of apps available on the App store designed to complement or replace these.
WhatsApp (First year free, $0.99 per year thereafter)
There is no way of completely replacing the messaging app within your iPhone. Being a locked down system means that Apple has total control, so completely replacing the SMS app on the iPhone is nigh on impossible.
WhatsApp was designed to replace standard SMS apps across multiple OS’, so is a very comprehensive app and comes with the same features that you would expect from any decent messaging app, with the same features being familiar to anyone that has used WhatsApp before.
Rather than using a username or password, WhatsApp works with your mobile number and uses the web rather than the mobile network, therefore meaning that there are no international messaging charges (as long as you’re on Wi-Fi while abroad).
WhatsApp is very popular across multiple OS’ for a reason. Its highly customisable, and very easy to use to message others on the service as it connects via your mobile number.
If you decide that WhatsApp isn’t for you, why not try Samsung’s ChatON? Now available across multiple OS’ ChatON is a well designed, comprehensive messaging app that even features a built in translator.
Skype is possibly the most well known and popular video calling service that is available on both iOS and across both mobile and desktop OS’.
Now part of the Microsoft family, Skype provides both a comprehensive messaging and calling service that almost renders Apple’s FaceTime pointless.
Being more than just a video and voice calling service, Skype fully supports IM with Skype’s custom array of smileys, albeit without the accompanying fun animations that we love so much. Group messaging is supported, as is the sending of media files and video messages.
Connection to Skype can be done through a dedicated username and password or through an existing Microsoft account, something you might have created to use Windows Live or Windows 8. Since the merge with Microsoft, the Redmond based firm is pushing to connect any existing Skype accounts to your Windows account.
If neither Skype not FaceTime are the apps for you, why not try ooVoo? Also free to download, ooVoo features video chat at its heart, whilst also supporting group messaging, video statuses and a speed dial.
Facebook Messenger (Free)
Facebook Messenger has to be one of the most useful messaging apps that you can get for the iPhone, purely down to the large user base that it comes with. Connection to your Facebook account means that you can easily message your closest friends, family and colleagues.
Unlike the Android version, Facebook Messenger for iOS doesn’t come with Chat Heads. What it does come with is the ability to send voice messages, photos, smileys and the new ‘stickers’ feature, which comes with massive smileys and cute kittys.
Other than that, there is little that can be said for Facebook Messenger.
If you’d prefer something a little less native, we’d suggest trying out ChatNow for Facebook as it comes with most features of the Facebook Messenger app, and a customisable look.
With over 80 million cross OS users, Kik is an app that can’t be ignored.
Kik has more than a few similarities to WhatsApp, such as the ability to send photos, have group chats, as well as being able to search for YouTube links, images and crudely self drawn sketches.
You can also create and send different memes from within Kik, or "Photobomb" your friends. The latter is Kik’s answer to SnapChat, which we will cover later.
Where Kik prides itself over WhatsApp and other messaging services is that it is both personal and private. Basically this means not having to share your mobile number or email address, rather a username that you can create.
If Kik doesn’t take your fancy, why not try BBM? BBM, uses its well known private way of connecting, using a pin rather than username, and supports both group and image messaging.
Continuing the theme of cross OS messaging apps is SnapChat, although it is yet to be available on Windows Phone. Chances are that you have at least heard of SnapChat, not least because of what you can use it for.
Becoming increasingly popular, SnapChat is a way of share images instantly and privately, with the added bonus that the images don’t hang around for long, ten seconds at most.
Once users receive the image or video clip, they sit unopened. Once opened, with a long press, they self destruct and wipe themselves completely off the receivers phone. SnapChat readily admit that whilst there is nothing they can do to stop someone screenshot-ing the image, senders are notified if this occurs.
Images can be saved, and there is also a basic form of editing. A small level of text can be added, and images can be sketched over, so you can show your friends what you look like with a monocle or a superman suit.
Not your thing though? Clipchat works on a near identical basis, though shows a pixellated preview of the image to receivers, so they have a rough idea of what they’re opening.
IM+ (Free, Paid for version available)
Unlike all the previously mentioned services, IM+ is not a dedicated messaging service. Instead, it is an aggregator of various social accounts such as Windows Live Messenger, Skype, Facebook and more.
Like on other OS’, contacts can be sorted by account or name, and there are other nifty features like themes and typing notifications. Within chats, pictures and audio can be sent. These are uploaded to IM servers with a link then being sent on, rather than sending the file directly. Files can also be resized for those on smaller data allowances.
The pro iOS version also comes with a "neighbors" funtion, allowing you to find and communicate with people with similar interests, in your local area.
Should you decide that this isn’t the app for you, why not try eBuddy? Having been around as a desktop aggregator via the web for as long as we can remember, eBuddy also connects to a plethora of messaging services.
To complete our list is an app that might seem a little controversial, as it is not specifically a messaging app. The ever popular, 140 character social media site has a dedicated app for reading and sending tweets available from the App Store.
As we said, Twitter is not a dedicated messaging app, rather it is a social media site. Then again, what is social media for if not for communicating with your nearest and dearest, and in Twitters case, everyone else as well.
Twitter’s mobile app does everything that the Twitter site does, with direct messages and directed tweets being well managed, although the famous hashtags don’t come with the same highlighting that they do on the site.
For those that feel that the official Twitter app just isn’t for them, we’d suggest looking at Tweetbot, although this is a paid app. Tweetbot offers gesture based controls, as well multiple feeds, and push notifications.