Farewell WhatsApp

I had some phone troubles at the start of the month. After a few games of pinball at a local coffee shop, with the children, I put on my jacket to find two of the three components of the phone – the back cover and the battery – were lying on the floor beside my chair. The third component (which is really the most important part, the bit with the screen, the SIM card, the workings of the handset itself) was nowhere to be found. I ended up getting a new one, my second Windows Phone. My previous one was a Nokia, but that brand name doesn’t exist any more, so this one is a Microsoft phone.

Strange though it sounds, after 25 years watching Microsoft become the biggest company in the world, and still remain huge, in using one of their devices it feels like I’m supporting the underdog. Google (with Android) and Apple (with iPhones) are bigger companies and their operating systems are on a load more handsets than Microsoft’s. Still, I’m happy enough with my choice. The latest version of Office has a few more features than the previous one, and as I now synch all of my contact information with Hotmail (or this is the first time that all of that information has come across from one device to another seamlessly. And all of my old texts, going back over two years, have come through as well. Maybe that happens with other devices too, but I wasn’t expecting it.

It’s been interesting over the years to see how many Apps there are for iPhones and Android that are not available for Windows Phones. I’m not much of an App downloader and don’t feel that I’m missing out. One of the few Apps that I did download on my old phone was WhatsApp. It caused no end of trouble towards the end of last year. In some people’s hands, WhatsApp groups and “conversations” are the work of the devil, home to passive-aggressive behaviour, insults, deliberate misunderstandings, all built around a constant search for free Wi-Fi whenever you’re out and about. While resisting the App for a year I figured that the main benefit – free texts to family and friends in Ireland and Spain – would only save me 10 or 15 English Pounds per year. I already get free international calls with Skype and if I need to send content (especially photos) I can carry on using email. So I won’t be downloading WhatsApp again on my new phone. I’ll pay for any texts I send abroad, and if any of my friends or family don’t want to pay to send me texts they can find other ways to communicate (or “communicate”). As I recall WhatsApp shows when you were last logged into it so anyone sending me information that way should be able to see that I haven’t been available since 1 April. If they have continued to send information that way, expecting a response, then consider this as pushing back, in a small way. They’ll experience the same thing that those of us over 40 had to learn the hard way over the years, leaving voicemail messages for people expecting that these messages will be heard and acted upon, but they never are. People under a certain age never listen to voicemails (or buy a newspaper). I will continue to listen to my voicemails, continue to buy newspapers, and will not be using WhatsApp again.

Postscript: Immediately after typing these words I took one of my twice-weekly looks at Facebook (I had a message to respond to). Someone in my “social network” posted a comment about WhatsApp. Could anyone advise him on getting all his old messages back on his new phone? One of his friends commented: “Hate WhatsApp – uninstalled it after it hacked into everything & still get weird emails & messages from it.” So it’s not just me then.

Also, in this indescribably sad story about Syrian refugees being forced into sexual slavery in the Lebanon, we learn that:

One of the women was “sold” by her husband to an agent in the network for $4,500. The others were bought by the agents for $1,000-$1,500. The agents would send pictures of their prospective catch by WhatsApp to the network’s top echelons, earning $2,500 per woman if the deal went through.

If that’s what people are using WhatsApp for, I’m well out of it.


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