Slack voice calls give you another reason to ditch Skype

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Cult of Mac runs on Slack. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
You can now make calls on Slack.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The popular messaging platform Slack is ready to go from text-only to providing voice calls for teams that use the service to communicate.

Starting today, paying teams using the iOS, Mac and Chrome apps will be able to make group calls, giving you one less reason to keep Skype installed on your Mac.

WeChat is the messaging app that’s more like a mobile OS

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China's WeChat is a messaging app tha offers just about everything, from text messaging to instant payments. It's a monster, with mote than 1 billion registered users.
China's WeChat is a messaging app tha offers just about everything, from text messaging to instant payments. It's a monster, with mote than 1 billion registered users.
Photo: Virginia Werner/Cult of Mac

Made_in_china_bugMainland China is Apple’s second biggest market, and will one day be its first. The company is making a big push on the mainland, opening new stores and investing in home-grown companies. Why the interest? Because China is the new Japan — it’s where the future is happening. All this week we take a look at the cutting-edge apps that define mobile life on the mainland.

SHANGHAI CITY, China — Now that I use WeChat, I don’t need much else when it comes to social media apps. In fact, WeChat has almost entirely replaced text messaging in China. I am able to link up with other WeChat users through their username without providing a telephone number, so it is a great platform for communicating with new acquaintances or people I am working with.

I have hundreds of WeChat contacts, but only a handful of telephone numbers in my iPhone. The app also recently introduced group video messaging and has an extensive WeChat Wallet service (similar to Zhifubao) available to Chinese bank account holders.

Cola is the smart messaging platform that makes life easier

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Cola is getting even smarter with help from third parties.
Cola is getting even smarter with help from third parties.
Photo: Cola

We could all use a personal assistant who’s there to make life that little bit easier, and thanks to Cola, the world’s first smart messaging OS, we can all have one.

Cola is designed to take care of all the small but important things you have to do throughout your day, like arranging meetings and managing to-do lists. And for the first time, it’s opening up to third-party services to become even more powerful.

Popular messaging app blocked in Iran after creator refuses to turn spy

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Photo: Quixotic54/Flickr CC
Lotf Allah Mosque, Iran.
Photo: Photo: Quixotic54/Flickr CC

The maker of Telegram, a popular messaging app, has had his creation blocked in Iran on the grounds that he refused to help authorities to spy on their own citizens.

Creator Pavel Durov said that Iran’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology asked him to provide them with “spying and censorship tools” for the service. When he refused, Telegram was quickly given the boot.

Meet the messaging app that will save your ass

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reTXT lets you edit messages or photos after you've already sent them.
Photo: reTXT

reTXT is a radical new messaging app that wants to fix everything wrong with online communication as it exists now. It landed back in April and includes a number of unique features — like being able to edit a message you already sent — all of which are currently patent pending. The app just updated today for iOS and Android with support for voice calling with end-to-end encryption as well.

Sticking out from the crowd of third-party messaging apps, I decided to take a closer look.

Handy new app turns Notification Center into messaging machine

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Select a pre-written message and send it straight from Notification Center.
Photo: George Tinari/Cult of Mac

“I’m leaving” is a message I probably send way too often, but not as often as “I’m here.” It’s just become routine whenever I’m making plans or picking someone up. It’s not necessarily a burden, but it’d be a nice luxury to be able to quickly send friends these repeat messages automatically to save a little bit of time. You’re smart so I bet you know where I’m going with this.

Yes, Written is a new app for iPhone that lets you write out five of your most commonly used phrases and save them for easy access in Notification Center. Then when you pull down the Today view from the top, you see the Written widget with your five messages. Tap one to send it along to your favorite contacts. It works with the Messages app and even WhatsApp.

Microsoft leaks its brand new chat app for iPhone

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Flow will work alongside Microsoft Outlook.
Flow will work alongside Microsoft Outlook.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Microsoft has inadvertently leaked plans to release a new chat app for iPhone called Flow, which will allow users to have “rapid email conversations.” The service will be a part of Outlook, but it will focus on quick communication with “no subject lines, salutations, or signatures.”

These are the best messaging apps on iOS

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Cult of Mac runs on Slack. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
It's an iOS messaging shootout! Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

I recently watched The Lady try to convince a friend of ours to download WhatsApp. The friend is moving to the United Kingdom, and we want to stay in touch. Our friend tried to say that email would do the job, but we all know that will never work.

Our friend doesn’t want WhatsApp (maybe because it’s owned by Facebook), and she doesn’t own an iPhone, so iMessage is out. Thankfully, there are plenty of free and good alternatives. Some are more secure, some have more features, and none of them is owned by Facebook.

Let’s take a look at what’s available and how these very different messaging apps compare on a number of key features.