For those who have no idea I’m talking about; Telegram is a messaging service equal to WhatsApp, Lime or iMessage. It was created in 2013 by Pawel Durow, an entrepreneur and founder of the Russian equivalent to Facebook.
Telegram is a weird thing: Almost everyone has it installed but my guess is that merely around 5% of my friends use it actively. In December 2017, WhatsApp had around 1.5 billion monthly active users whereas Telegram had “only” had around 180 million. Looking at these numbers and taking into consideration that WhatsApp is part of the Facebook imperium (2.5 billion active users every month) it seems like a David against Goliath situation.
As a UI/UX designer, I’m always curious about trying out new things on the market. And it’s especially interesting to compare similar products to each other. I would consider myself a WhatsApp power user but started using Telegram about a month ago. I downloaded the app out of curiosity and now I’m a big fan! It really brought back the fun into messaging and in my opinion, there are some functionalities they do significantly better than WhatsApp, especially from a UI/UX perspective. Here my thoughts…
For quite a while now GIFs have been on the rise and there is no end in sight. Did you know you can send GIFs on WhatsApp? Well, neither did I! I really question the way WhatsApp handles them… or actively hides them in their iOS app. It took me quite a while to find out how to add them and even now that I know where to find them, it just seems like a bit of a hassle.
Telegram manages this in a different, more intuitive way. You just have to write “@gif” combined with a search term and suggestions pop up, which you can than scroll through. You stay in the same window so your conversation flow isn’t interrupted and you can still see the previous messages. Great for excessive gif usage. 😉
2. Mobile, tablet, desktop
With Telegram the transition from one device to another is seamless. There is a native app for the major platforms (Android, IOS) as well as the different devices (e.g. iPhone, iPad, Desktop). With WhatsApp, I had to deal with clunky substitutes for some time, before they finally released a desktop application. Luckily they have filled this gap recently, but on iPad, it’s still a pain.
It’s also nice that the desktop version (or even the web version) can be used as a standalone app. No more pairing and inconvenient waiting for your laptop to reach your phone. These little experience highlights make all the difference in the end because waiting causes the most frustration.
3. Editing your messagez (*messages)
There were some occasions in the past where I would have paid a lot of money for the possibility to delete or even edit stupid messages of mine. With WhatsApp, it wasn’t possible at all for quite a long time. They introduced the feature around a year ago, but you can only delete a message in the first 7 minutes of sending it. I can list a number of reasons that this period should be unlimited, or at least be a bit longer. Also from a user’s perspective, I can’t come up with a logical reason for this restriction. Why WhatsApp? WHY?
Sometimes you don’t want to delete a message completely, but just edit your typos or autocorrect’s crazy corrections. Guess what: With Telegram, it’s possible.
4. Stickers = Fun Fun
Since I first used Telegram I’ve been a huge fan of the so-called “stickers”. Stickers have actually been in messaging apps for quite a while (see Facebook messenger), but I have yet to find a case where they are implemented in an intuitive and enjoyable way. The way Telegram handles them is just awesome because they managed to make them feel integrated in the app, not disturbing at all and I feel they even enrich my way of communicating. There are two ways to use them:
- Either you want a sticker from a very specific set, so you can open the menu and scroll through your sets manually. Similar to emojis, you have all your saved sticker sets, your recently used ones and the trending packs. You can also go into the settings and edit/delete them there.
- The second way to use stickers is even better in my humble opinion. All you need to do is pick a suitable emoji and you getting automatically sticker recommendations! So you type in an emoji and just like with the gifs menu, Telegram suggests stickers from various sets that are linked to this specific emoji. So they took something everybody is familiar with and enhanced it in a useful and super fun way.
The cherry on top, that makes me (and my new telegram-using-friends) particularly happy: With a little bit of photoshop skills, you can build your own sticker sets! Telegram provides a template for this so you can download, modify and later upload your own stickers to telegram via the Sticker bot.
5. Me don't likey Facebook
Like everybody, I was a bit shocked when WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014. I totally get that the founders accepted the deal. It takes an incredible amount of idealism to not sell your company for 22 billion dollars. But the fact that it’s now under the roof together with facebook and instagram makes me feel slightly uncomfortable.
I am aware that the organisational structure and communication of Telegram is also not beyond all doubt. For example, despite claiming to be very secure in one of their past marketing campaigns, they were also struggling with security issues. But at least they try to communicate the image of being autonomous from any state or major stakeholder.
A last bit of glushing
There are plenty of other reasons to love Telegram like… “self-destruction mode” where messages get automatically deleted after a certain period of time or the possibility of setting up multiple profile pictures. Telegram was also one of the first to include bots that help you book flights. Another big plus is their group chat functionality, which is more advanced than WhatsApp or iMessage… One of the reasons all the PokemonGo gamers use Telegram to plan their raids.
These are just a few functionalities that make it really valuable for my personal use and that struck me from a user perspective. From a designers perspective, it’s quite astonishing how they achieve to include advanced functionalities like uploading and setting up your own sticker sets without messing up the user experience. Impressive!
I’d love to hear what you think and the experiences you’ve made with WhatsApp and Telegram. Show me your stickers and I’ll show you mine ;) 😉.
A functionality that I recently explored and is definitely worth sharing: If you tab the record button once, you switch to video mode and you are able to make small videos the same way you send audio messages. I feel Telegram could definitely do a better job in communicating features but once you tried this one, you never wanna miss it again. Enjoy 👌🏻…