Apple's proprietary iMessage system lets iPhone users send text messages to other iPhone users over a data network, avoiding SMS charges and making texting free, at least within Apple's ecosystem. It's an impressive run-around of the entrenched carrier system - the same basic idea, applied to an agnostic model, has made texting alternatives like WhatsApp fantastically popular. But users found that trying to leave Apple's walled garden was much harder after setting up iMessage with their personal phone numbers.
Samsung has taken a dramatic step today towards world domination and the death of SMS by announcing an intriguing mobile cross-platform instant messaging service called ChatON. Similar to RIM's BlackBerry Messenger and Apple's iMessage, ChatON will be Samsung's foray into the global mobile communications service connecting all major smartphones and feature phone platforms. There will even be a web client to facilitate conversations between mobile devices and PCs. Furthermore, according to the press release, ChatON will allow users to share text, images, hand-written notes and videos.
A while ago, I had a chance to review an app called Beluga. At first, it looked like it could be a cross-platform answer to BBM, the popular instant message service that comes standard with all Blackberrys. As a cross-platform solution, it worked well.
However, one of the problems with Beluga was that even though it was good in theory, there wasn't the user base to keep it afloat. You either had to convince your friends to use an untested product, or go back to SMS.