The Most Useful New Messaging App Features for 2019
Social networks have had their most challenging few years to date as concerns over online privacy and data security constantly made headlines throughout 2018.
In part, these incidents and growing concerns have led to changes in how we all use social media. One of the most striking areas of growth in the past 12–24 months has been the use of messaging apps and private chat groups. It feels like we have reached a pivotal moment in the evolution of social media, where users and also companies — as MessengerPeople explains here — are switching up how, when, and where they share their interests, opinions, and activities online. Sharing one-to-many is rapidly transitioning to a one-to-few sharing preference.
In response to this seismic shift in social media behaviour, it seems like social networks have ramped up development of their messaging apps. WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, and others have churned out new features and functionality at a lightning pace in 2018. However, some changes have been more important or useful than others.
Here’s a quick round-up of what I think are the top three new features launched by some of the world’s most popular messaging apps this year:
WhatsApp for Business (Launched in January 2018)
WhatsApp finally revealed its plans for a business version of its messaging app back in September 2017 (pilot). Subsequently, it rolled out an official WhatsApp for Business app on Android in January 2018 in a small number of countries.
Businesses using the app benefit from features such as a verified business account marker, quick replies, labels, ‘away’ messages, messaging statistics tools, and more.
For larger businesses, there’s an enterprise solution with an official WhatsApp for Business API. So far, this feature can only be used via service providers, like MessengerPeople.com. It offers many possibilities that you can read more about here.
WhatsApp will be a core communication channel for many brands in 2019 as it gets rolled out to more countries and once it lands on iOS.- Group Video / Voice Calls (Added July 2018)
WhatsApp added the ability to make group video or voice calls with up to four participants. The impressive bit is the calls maintain end-to-end encryption. Something rival privacy conscious messaging apps like Telegram were still yet to implement.
With the increasing concerns over privacy and the growth in use of messaging apps, this feature addition was unsurprisingly a popular one. A guide to making group video or voice calls on WhatsApp can be found here.
Private Replies in Group Chat (Added October / November 2018)
WhatsApp private replies were a handy tweak to how group chats worked. You can now tap an individual message in a chat to select a private reply option. This maintains your presence in the group chat, but only shows your reply to the mentioned person, all with end-to-end encryption.
This feature is very useful in larger and more active group chats where members want a simple way to respond directly to another member. Sometimes it’s the simple tweaks that make all the difference.
NEW Group Chat Admin Controls (Added May / June 2018)
WhatsApp introduced a number of useful new group chat features in the first half of 2018.
The new features added included the ability to add a group chat description, search for chat participants, new admin controls, and more. A month later, WhatsApp enhanced group chats even further by adding the ability for Group Admins to restrict group chats to messages sent from the (admins) only. A great feature for clubs or organisations to keep members up to date with important messages only.
AR for brands in Messenger (Launched in May 2018)
Facebook followed Snapchat’s lead by adding Augmented Reality (AR) filters and effects to its platform in 2017. Taking it one step further, Facebook launched AR effects for brands inside Messenger in May 2018.
AR effects help brands forge a deeper relationship with its customers. AR also helps customers visualise virtual versions of products in their own homes instantly through immersive AR experiences inside Messenger. You can find more about the business opportunities of Facebook Messenger here.
Messenger Group Chat Admin Controls (Added in March 2018)
Like WhatsApp, Messenger gained new features to help users manage group chats more effectively.
New features added include the standard to help users add/remove group chat members and upgrading group members to admins etc. The more powerful options added included the ability to create joinable links meaning admins could invite anyone to the group chat via email or other platforms.
Messenger Group chats can have up to 250 participants, and you can even make group video/voice calls with up to 50 people at one time. Find out more about Messenger’s group chat feature upgrades here.
NLP upgrades for Messenger Chatbots (Added in May 2018)
Facebook first added NLP features to Messenger in July 2017. It gave Messenger developers the ability to create more natural and useful automated messaging experiences with customers.
In May 2018 at Facebook’s annual developer conference (F8), Messenger’s NLP skills got an upgrade by adding the ability to create multiple personas in up to 21 different languages, and integration with businesses Facebook Pages.
Take a look at these 11 successful chatbots leveraging the business potential of Messenger bots.
‘Scan’ Camera Translation (Added in May 2018)
WeChat still rules the roost as the king of messaging apps in many parts of Asia.
Earlier in 2018, it added a nifty new ‘Scan’ camera translation feature which much like Google’s Translate feature. Simply point the camera at any English or Chinese text, and it will auto-translate it instantly.
WeChat says additional languages will be added in the future.
Selfie Stickers (Added in November 2018)
Stickers are a hugely popular part of many social apps in Asia with users often spending significant amounts of money to get the latest sets to use in chats with friends and family.
WeChat took stickers to the next level recently by adding a new ‘Selfie’ sticker feature. Users can now create stickers featuring themselves. You can also learn more about the role they can play for companies here.
Here’s a sneak peek at a couple of great new messaging app features coming soon…
WhatsApp ‘Vacation Mode’ (Spotted in October 2018)
WhatsApp is currently working on a Vacation Mode feature. It was recently spotted in the the beta version of the app.
It allows users to mute chats for an extended period of time, and prevent archived muted chats from reappearing when a new message is received.
Availability: Q4 2018 / Q1 2019 (estimated)
Facebook Messenger ‘Unsend’ button (Spotted in October 2018)
Facebook’s Messenger is finally introducing an unsend option for messages in chat. Although this is a feature seen in other messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Messenger users have longed for such an option too.
When the feature rolls out, users will have a 10 minute window in which to delete and unsend a sent message. After that time, users will only be able to delete it from their device’s chat, NOT the recipients.
Availability: November / December 2018
‘Dark Mode’ in Messenger (Spotted in October 2018)
‘Dark’ or ‘Night mode’ is a feature that’s grown in popularity. The ability to make using apps at night less tiring has seen a lot of love from the mobile messaging addicts in particular.
Facebook confirmed it will roll out its own version of a dark mode in Messenger later in 2018, following its recent major redesign. You can find out more and check out how it looks here.
Availability: November 2018 onwards.
Matt Navarra is a freelance social and digital media consultant. With regular guest appearances on national and international TV and Radio news shows such as BBC News, Sky News, and NBC Europe. Matt is widely regarded as a leading social media industry expert and commentator.
**The article was sponsored by MessengerPeople, pioneer in professional messenger services and the leading Software-as-a-Service provider for communication through messaging apps like WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat, Facebook Messenger and Telegram**