On instant messaging, email and looking for a LINE alternative

Let me get a bit curmudgeonly here.

I really don’t really like instant messaging much because it is disruptive. I’d much rather read email when I want to than get blasted by chatty instant messages.

I admit I did find texting in the U.S. on my recent U.S. trip useful, but only for short things like, “I’ll be there in 15 minutes” or “Shall I pick up some sorbet?” You know, things which actually need to be conveyed immediately.

But I don’t really care to deal with instant messaging for random conversations with friends and aquaintances. It’s annoying. Like I’m right in the middle of a bug fix and somebody asks me to look at a picture of a cat. If they want me to see a picture of a cat why can’t they just email to me, so I can see it when I have the time to read my email? Surely that doesn’t require my immediate attention.

LINE app is similar to SMS or MMS texting in the U.S. but it is free, and more feature-rich and runs on many platforms. While I prefer iPhone Messages it doesn’t work for non-iPhone users (unless you do SMS texting with them) so I’ve been using LINE because it is more ubiquitous.

By the by,  SMS texting has never been popular in Japan, and is not available for free across carriers. LINE works across different devices and carriers and fills a niche, so I can see why it has become popular.

So what don’t I like about it?

Well, for one thing, it’s confusing to identify who your friends are, and hard to find and add them too. I’ve always found the UI to be pretty opaque. Oftentimes I will look at my chat list and wonder “Who was that person?”

But the main problem is that LINE will only run on one mobile device at a time! That’s crazy! At least with iOS/OSX Messages you can use it on your iPhone and iPad and Mac – and even two iPhones. And all your conversations appear on all the devices, so it doesn’t matter which one you pick up.

When I was in the U.S. recently I wanted to install LINE on my AT&T iPhone but got a warning it would delete the account on my AU iPhone and I would lose history and stuff. Bad! So I could only keep in touch with LINE people on my Japanese iPhone when it was connected to wi-fi.

Recognizing I need at least one good instant messaging app in addition to iOS Messages (because I do need to also contact non iPhone people) are there any good recommendable LINE alternatives?

A better instant messaging app would:

1. Be easy to use, label friends (so I can remember who is who), add friends, etc.

2. Will work on as many platforms as possible (iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac, Windows, Blackberry, etc.).

3. Will allow running on multiple mobile devices (come on, it’s 2014!) so you can see the same conversation threads on all the devices and you aren’t restricted to using just one mobile device.

4. Should also allow the sending of photos, as does MMS, Messages and LINE.

5. Should also allow for voice calls, like Skype or LINE. I have to admit I found LINE voice calls convenient when trying to talk to people back in Japan while in the U.S. Still, I could only do it on wi-fi because of the “only one mobile device” issue.

So does anybody have a suggestion for a good replacement for LINE?

If so, I’ll switch and tell my LINE friends if they want to reach me “instantly” they can use the the new app or otherwise just email me.

Seriously, I check my email like 500 times a day. But I do it on my own schedule, when I have time to check messages. I think that’s sufficient. However, recognizing that I do need an extra instant messaging app in addition to iPhone Messages I’d at least like to have one that works on more than one mobile device at a time.


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