I’m very selective about the way that I privately communicate with friends, family and colleagues. I really like iMessage and I often feel like it’s the best solution for most of my needs, especially since it’s built right into iOS. I don’t like Facebook much, but use Facebook Messenger because of its popularity.
I love Twitter, but I’m not a fan of its implementation of messages or the standalone apps that have tried to take advantage of them. And although a lot of friends of mine use Google Hangouts, I find the app is remarkably inconsistent and try not to rely on it. That’s why I was surprised when I tried Whisper, a fantastic private messaging app for App.net. It’s the first third-party app of its kind to make its way into my daily life. Read on to find out why I’m so excited about it.
Completely Private Messaging
From a logical perspective, I’m not surprised that Whisper is built on App.net. Because it’s a subscription service, ADN doesn’t mine your data or track your information. The folks at ADN aren’t interested in selling anything. That makes it particularly apt for private messaging.
And because the API for Whisper is so wide open, there are a lot of unique opportunities a stand-alone app for messaging can take advantage of that a typical ADN app isn’t meant to handle. Whisper’s take on it includes Stickers, Locations/Nearby Places and Photos.
The app does a great job of feeling like a highly customized chat room for iPhone though, which is high praise for me. I have fond memories of sitting in chat rooms during my early teen years, appreciating that they were designed to make private communication as easy as possible. Whisper is one of the first app interfaces I’ve seen with the same respect I nostalgically believe these web apps to have held.
Whisper is made by the same guys who developed Riposte, an excellent app for ADN that covers every gamut of the social network. You might be wondering why you should bother with Whisper in that case. Primarily, it’s because Riposte doesn’t offer photo integration, Stickers or location sharing. As well, Riposte’s Private Messages UI doesn’t have the same layer of polish that comes with Whisper.
In that sense, you’d want to use Whisper for many of the same reasons you’d want to use Facebook Messenger over the Facebook app if you use Private Messages extensively on that service.
The biggest reason, though, is app independency. I like Riposte, but I much prefer Felix for more ADN needs. The only weak part of Felix is the Private Messages, whereas Whisper does a much better job. Not only that, but Whisper’s interface is one of the most intricately designed beauties I’ve ever had the pleasure of using.
You’re going to notice some of the details that separate Whisper from your run-of-the-mill app right away. Timestamps appear when you scroll through a stream of messages, but automatically disappear shortly after that. There’s a dividing line to indicate the beginning of a new day. The font defaults to the cool Avenir Next, which is very readable in any lighting condition.
One of my favourite features is the full-screen mode, which I find apps either get completely right or hopelessly wrong. Whisper nails it. Swiping through the app with one hand is a completely painless experience. In fact, some of the animations feel more visceral when you’re swiping overtop of them instead of just pushing a button.
Of special note are the app’s included Stickers. While geotagging posts is great if you want to share where you are with friends (and I think the feature’s handy), the Stickers are where the money’s at. They’re akin to visual messages, sort of like Emoji. In the case of Whisper, most of the Stickers go beyond a simple Emoji and are more intricately detailed or interesting.
The Stickers menu also has a Backspace button built in, which makes it even easier to use. My only qualm is that there simply aren’t enough of them. There are two keyboard screens of Stickers right now, and although they’re all lovingly designed, I would love to see more. It’s not that the app needs more, but they’re on such a roll — why stop?
There is a one-time in-app purchase that unlocks all the features of the app, and it’s worth exploring what your hard-earned money gets you before you drop it.
Whisper Pro, as it’s called, includes additional fonts from the Helvetica, Avenir, Exo, Georgia, Gill and Source Sans families, along with a few others. I like Avenir Next as much as the next guy, but after a few hours of fiddling throughout the day, I’ve come to settle on Helvetica Neue and am enjoying the experience more as a result.
Whisper Pro also includes Dark Mode, which is both easier on the eyes and more beautiful than the regular mode. With Dark Mode comes Auto Dark Mode, which automatically triggers Dark and Light Mode based on the time of day in your location. And if you want to quickly adjust your iPhone’s brightness, Whisper Pro also includes a three-finger Screen Brightness gesture that allows you to brighten or dim the screen by sliding your fingers up or down the screen.
Finally, Whisper Pro includes high-resolution image sharing. While Whisper includes photo sharing, the app automatically scales photos to half-quality unless you’ve paid for the in-app purchase.
Whether or not you’ll use all these features is something you’ll have to consider, but on a personal level, I made extensive use of every one within twenty-four hours of purchase and have no regrets.
Keep It Secret. Keep It Safe.
Whisper is one of those rare iPhone apps that excels in both its implementation and execution of design. It’s one of the smoothest experiences I’ve had the pleasure of having on my iPhone; one that Apple could use promotionally as a demonstration of the “magic” of the product. Enable Full-Screen Mode and swipe from a conversation to your messages list for an example of the fluidity of the app. It’s flawless. Grab the in-app purchase and try changing the screen brightness with three fingers. It’s intuitive, reliable and just as sensitive as it should be. I wish Apple would implement the feature across iOS.
Beyond that, there’s a definite peace of mind that comes with Whisper’s ADN backbone and truly “private” messaging. It’s the only private communication app I trust as much as iMessage with my privacy.
At the end of the day, the only way to adequately tell you how much I love Whisper is to tell you it’s secured a stable place on my home screen. Beyond that, I’ve been sending friends ADN invites just so they can pick up Whisper and chat with me. It’s quickly becoming one of my favourite apps of all time and has earned an all-too-rare 10/10 score from me. I can’t recommend it highly enough.