Bharti Softbank's messaging app Hike now in beta; What it offers

Bharti Softbank (BSB), a joint venture between Bharti Enterprises and Japanese Internet firm Softbank Corp, recently launched Hike, a peer-to-peer (P2P) messaging app that uses both data and SMS to deliver messages. But at the time of the launch (earlier this month), the app was not available for download and hence, we could not share much information regarding the same. However, it is now live in beta, but only for the Android platform. Here is a look at what the app offers.

Unlike the cross-platform mobile messaging app WhatsApp, Hike lets you message those who don't have it. In other words, users need not install Hike on their phones to receive messages.

The user interface is also easy on the eyes – a soothing white-and-blue combination. It offers 'free for lifetime' Hike-to-Hike messaging (similar to what any other IM app offers) and 100 free SMSes to non-Hike users, after which the normal SMS charges will apply. This is a key differentiator since other apps (like WhatsApp) don't offer this as of now. The app also offers 10 more free SMSes for every new user added to Hike by a current user. So if you add 10 people, you will get another 100 SMSes free and so on. Your profile page also displays how many free SMSes are still left.

However, SMSes sent by non-Hike user are not free and the sender has to pay normal charges for each message. But the good thing is that you need not sign up to send those messages. The only thing a non-Hike user has to do is to 'opt in' for the service; one can also 'opt out' whenever he/she wants. Plus, non-Hike users have the option to block incoming messages from Hike if they want do.

When we tried the app, messaging between Hike-to-Hike users and Hike to non-Hike users was glitch-free and worked fine. The app also claims to have in-built filters that block spam SMS.

But since the app is only available for Android as of now, sending a message to non-Android users will be a pain after the first free 100 messages (plus the 10 additional messages for adding a buddy on Hike). We tried getting it on iOS and a message popped up that read: Hike is currently available only on Android. We're working round the clock to have an app ready for your device.

The company is also offering an alert (for whenever the app is made available for the platform) and users can subscribe to it by entering their mobile numbers.

Other instant messaging apps include the largely popular WhatsApp, Nimbuzz, WeChat and RockeTalk, among others.

BSB's earlier initiatives include Hoppr, a location-based check-in service that works across all mobile devices (read here for more) and allows users to explore rewards and offers available from merchant and brands in their vicinity, and a joint venture with Yahoo Japan Corporation (it's called BSY Pte Ltd) to develop a mobile Internet portal focused on the Indian mobile market.

(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)