No matter what your reason for leaving WhatsApp, here are a bunch of ad-free alternatives to choose from. Unless otherwise stated, all of these can do messaging, voice calls and video chat worldwide for free using Wi-Fi. These will not incur you any SMS or MMS fees. Like WhatsApp, all of these will use data if you’re not on a Wi-Fi connection. They have no ads unless otherwise stated.
Signal is a secure and private messaging system. We found it’s great – super-easy to use, no ads.
Why it stands out: Of all of the WhatsApp alternatives, this is the cleanest and simplest. It’s also the most secure, with full end-to-end encryption, something that very few others support. We love the no-mess, no-fuss setup; it’s straightforward to get started.
LINE is another great option. Be aware that unlike the other options listed here, the fully-featured version of the app does allow ads, so if you want an ad-free experience you’ll either want to go with LINE Lite (the simplified version of the app), or choose a different messaging system. One particularly awesome feature of LINE is that if you want to call your mother overseas for free and she doesn’t have LINE, no problem! – check out the LINE OUT feature.
Why it stands out: This one is available on a huge range of platforms: Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and PC. Also, the LINE OUT feature is impressive: you can call people anywhere in the world for free for up to 5 minutes even if they don’t have LINE, and even if they’re not on Wi-Fi.
The Stars messaging app is a favorite of ours for privacy reasons: it ensures that only people you specifically invite can ‘see’ you, not everyone on your contact list that has Stars. It does group messaging very well indeed, and you’re able to upload pics and videos. Unlike others on this list, it does not yet have video chat or voice calls. Because it’s a newer app at the time of writing, it’s possible that Stars may add these features later.
If all you want is super-private messaging that doesn’t require a data plan or mobile, and works between tablets and phones, then this is what you want. It’s by far the most family-friendly of all the options listed here. If you’d like more info, you can read a balanced review of Stars here.
Why it stands out: You don’t need to have a mobile number to use it, so it’s perfect as a family messaging app for the kids to use on a tablet or other non-phone device without needing a data plan. Wi-Fi access is all you need.
Kik is a versatile option for messaging, but we would never recommend it for children or teens. This is because the app has been used by child predators to target kids (reference 1). While the app itself claims to uphold online safety (reference 2), Kik usernames may still be guessed by others, allowing incoming communications from strangers. There does not appear to be a way for Kik users to restrict communication to their phone contacts or pre-approved contacts in any way.
Why it stands out: It doesn’t actually require you to have a mobile number to use it. This is ideal if you want to use it on your tablet or other non-phone device.
TamTam is a little newer than the other options. It’s owned by Mail.ru. While it can be used anywhere in the world, you’ll notice it’s geared more toward Russian language users. We signed up with it to try it out (you can log in via Google, OK, or via your phone number) and it’s a very nice alternative to WhatsApp. TamTam’s interface is similar to what you’ll be used to, and there were no ads. The privacy options are good too: you can choose to restrict who can message or call you. It defaults to “everyone” but you can easily switch that to “my contacts”, making it much better than Kik in that regard.
Why it stands out: Besides messaging, voice calls and video calls, there are also channels, which are kind of like separate feeds you can browse. You’ll only see channel content if you join a channel (by default you’re not signed up for any when you join TamTam), and you can subscribe and unsubscribe from channels as often you wish. Everything is clean and uncluttered: channels are kept separate from your main chatting area, and you do not have to use the channel feature at all on TamTam if you don’t wish to.
The good news is that there are are several ad-free alternatives to WhatsApp. Use any of the above to get in touch with friends and family. Each option has its own pros and cons, so there is no right or wrong answer here; it ultimately comes down to what features are important to you and to the people you communicate with.
1. Andrew Liptak, Aug 2017. Kik has become ‘the defacto app’ for child predators, according to an investigative report The Verge.
2. Kik. Keep your Kik account private Kik Help Center.