Whatsapp—Why Spain’s Over the SMS

Whatsapp, I mean, what’s up? What’s up is that Spaniards don’t text anymore!

Okay, they send messages of text, but they don’t use SMS (Short Message Service) technology, which relies upon standardized communications protocols to send messages between cell phones. In the U.S., we do a lot of texting and the majority of use SMS or, if you have an iPhone, iMessage. But in Spain, where sending SMS messages is expensive, people have looked for other options. One of the most-popular choices is Whatsapp, which was founded in 2009 by two former employees of Yahoo!. In October 2011, there were approximately one billion messages sent per day via Whatsapp. Now? Over ten billion as of August 2012. In August 2013, there were more than 300 million active users of the service.

Global Reach of Messaging Apps

Source: Onavo Insights

As you can see, Whatsapp has 99% reach in Spain and only 9% in the U.S. So when newbies come to Spain, they usually have to be introduced to the ever-growing phenomenon.

In Spain, people don’t say the literal equivalent of “Text me.” (Not to mention there is no verb for “to text,” so it’s more like “Send me a text message” anyway.) The new verb here is wasapear, from the Spanish pronunciation wasap. It’s funny to me that—while it is more difficult than in English—new verbs are readily formed in Spanish, but they are almost always –ear endings: tuitear, chatear, escanear.

How does Whatsapp work?

After you download and install Whatsapp (from the iTunes store or Google Play), it creates an account for you and connects it to your phone number. It will automatically find people on your contacts list who are using Whatsapp as well.

Whatsapp on iPhone

Whatsapp Chats

As you can see, on my iPhone, you have: Favorites, Status, Contacts, Chats, and Settings. On my favorites, I can see all the people on my contact list who have Whatsapp, so I suppose they’re all my favorites? On this “Chats” screen, I can see all my chats, and as you can see, I like to talk to my family! And Hilary (my best friend from college).

photo 3

Apparently my mother and I were trying to call each other. You can also see that she sent me a voice message, one of Whatsapp’s newer features. To send a voice message, you just press and hold down on that little microphone button on the bottom right. The arrow will give you some options:

Arrow Screen Whatsapp

You can also do group messaging, which I have set up for my family. This would also include Mario if he was allowed to have it on his work phone. (His personal phone is decidedly a dumb phone: a Nokia.)

Whatsapp Group

As you can see we discuss many important and world-changing events, but it is nice to share photos and congratulate my brother and sister-in-law on their recent one-year wedding anniversary.

You can also change your status, which I never bother doing.

Whatsapp Status

I unabashedly love Whatsapp, although I’ll admit in the U.S. I prefer iMessage. Apparently you can iMessage for free if the other people also have iPhones, but since not everyone I know owns an iPhone, I prefer Whatsapp for chatting to my family and friends in the U.S. I no longer have to save those thoughts for a later email! (How terrible were those times, le sigh!)

There are alternative services as well, including Line, a Japanese company, which has taken over some of Whatsapp’s market share here in Spain.

So, who wants to wasapear?

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18 comments

  1. Do you have to be connected to internet or using your 4G in order to send and receive messages with Whatsapp? Maybe that’s a stupid question; I never pretended to be tech saavy.

    1. Hahahaha! Yeah, I just joined a family group (of all Mario’s cousins; ironically, Mario does not have Whatsapp), and it’s stressing me out already! So. Many. Messages.

  2. Jeje…whatsapear! I love it. Now that I’m meeting Spaniards I’ve noticed I have more of them in my contacts than Americans. I’m trying to get americanos on the bandwagon but they love their imessage! Fortunately I got my mom on board.

  3. Yess, Whatsapp! What would we do without the voice chatting?! ps – I have a Droid and its a free app download so people don’t have a very good excuse NOT to download it! I use it a lot for friends here in the States too! Send pics, now I can ‘leave a voicemail’ without calling in case its late, so many good things about it!!

  4. I love whatsapp! A Spanish friend introduced me to whatsapp, and now I use it to chat with other international friends. I’d never heard it in verb form though. Interesting. :-)

  5. whatsapp is great! My husband and I use it all the time when we travel internationally and then we buy the global data plan through Verizon instead of paying a charge per international text message. We used whatsapp in the following countries this year…Brazil, Germany, England, Spain, Mexico and Peru. It is a fantastic thing!

  6. Funny thing is I never had WhatsApp in Spain because I had a basic phone and was lazy to change it even though people kept telling me to get a smartphone. But now I have my ol’ smartphone, and I Whatsapp my bf all the time and also my friends all over the world including Spain. Viber is a good app too and should be on that list up there.

    I did hate though how some of my friends were just on their phone all the time because of WhatsApp. One of my friends was going crazy coz she’s in a group and her phone kept ringing and ringing, and we were all telling her to just leave the group. It’s kind of an addiction there tbh!

  7. I freaking love WhatsApp, especially since everyone in Europe relies on it heavily to avoid those stupid individual SMS charges, particularly on off contract phone plans. I am trying to convert all my US friends now :)

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