Today we have apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, Tango, IMO and countless other apps available for Android and iOS that allow us to keep in touch with our friends and family no matter where they are. All you need is an active internet connection and a smartphone. Hook your phone up to a Wi-Fi connection or simply use your mobile data and you’re good to go.
Therein lies the catch. If you run out of mobile data or credit on your phone, then you’re pretty much out of luck till you top up your phone or connect to a Wi-Fi network.
Meet Mal Chat.
Developed by MalApps.io, Mal Chat is essentially a messaging application aimed at all Dialog and Hutch subscribers. Rather than using up your mobile data which invariably also increases your battery usage, Mal Chat offers users a platform to send messages for free 24/7. Or so we thought.
The catch here is that the service is charged Rs.3+ tax/day. And as far as unlimited messages goes, you’re limited to around 200 messages per day per user. So on one hand you will have ~Rs.3/- deducted from your credit (prepaid) or added to your bill (postpaid) each day but on the other hand you can message anyone for the entire day for free as long as you don’t go over your messaging limit. And by anyone, I specifically mean anyone with a Dialog or Hutch connection.
Barring the obvious usage of the app for couples, Mal Chat could actually be a useful app for everyday use if you are OK with the Rs. 3+tax per day charge and also if a majority of the people you contact throughout the day are Dialog or Hutch users.
Using Mal Chat
This is a bit of a no brainer if you already know how to install apps from the Google Play store. If you don’t well you can click here and install the app for yourself. Once installed, you are required to agree to the terms and conditions of Mal Chat. I suggest you read them carefully to make sure you know what you’re doing.
From a technical point of view, Mal Chat uses SMS port 77255 and will register itself in the Android operating system as a messaging application. Once you have accepted the terms and conditions, you will receive a confirmation text from Ideamart in order to use the application. The next step would be for you to enter a username to be identifiable online. Once that’s done, you’re ready to use Mal Chat. If you’ve already registered a username and are reinstalling the app on a new phone perhaps or just reinstalling it, Mal Chat keeps a record of existing usernames so you’re good to go there too.
You can also register for Mal Chat via a USSD code by dialing #771*883#. From there, you can register for a new account, see your username and also view special offers called “Mal Offers”.
Clicking the big red circle with the + symbol opens the New Chat window. To start a chat, you will have to enter in your friend’s MalChat username. This could be a bit of a problem if you have trouble remembering the name or spell it incorrectly.
The overall interface is attractive to use as it draws much inspiration from Material Design. As for chatting itself, the interface is pretty standard resembling WhatsApp. You can add emojis either by typing them in or selecting them from your default keyboard app or 3rd party keyboard app as you see fit. There’s no feature to add stickers or GIFs which would have made things a bit more interesting but as far as messaging goes, you can get the job done minus a few bells a lot of whistles. If you do not have a Dialog or Hutch connection, then you will not be able to use Mal Chat you will be presented with an error message.
Message delivery ranged from almost instantaneous to about a 2-3 second delay which is perfectly acceptable. If you are on the home screen while you receive a message, you get the message in the form of a text message with the sender’s username and message along with the footer stating that the message was sent from Mal Chat. Upon opening the Mal Chat app, the last received message is displayed. Delving into the permissions of the App, I saw that it needs access to Phone and SMS which makes sense because after all, it is a messaging service. The fact that you can send and receive indefinite messages without worrying about your mobile data running out or more importantly, your credit running out, is a plus of the app.
The one stop messaging app for Sri Lankans?
Despite the overall usefulness of Mal Chat, I did come across tiny flaws. For starters, each message you receive also appears as a new text message and also as a notification from Mal Chat. This is rather irksome if you’re chatting a lot and your phone keeps pinging for each new message. Since the message goes through an SMS port, each message you send will generate a popup requesting permission to send a message. This too can get annoying especially if you type the message, hit send and then lock the phone and keep it in your pocket thinking that the message was sent. The fact that you can’t attach images or stickers too is a bit sad as that could help make the conversation more interesting.
If you have a data plan or access to a Wi-Fi connection, then Mal Chat would again serve no purpose as you can make use of a plethora of instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram and everything in-between.
Overall, Mal Chat does have a potential for being a decent messaging app developed in Sri Lanka. But it does have a few flaws. However, it should be noted that the app is in it’s early days. Hopefully we’ll see its developers fix these issues in the near future.
As stated above, if you have ready access to a Wi-Fi connection and/or a data plan with sufficient data for your use, then Mal Chat becomes a tad redundant. However, if you find yourself on low credit and data but you really want to chat with that special someone, then you can go ahead and give Mal Chat a go.