LINE vs. WhatsApp

Two VoIP apps worth considering

Young man holds a smart device while using Whatsapp app
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Both WhatsApp and LINE allow you to make and receive free calls on your mobile phone and are among the most popular instant messaging apps. But which one is the best for saving money on calls and for a clear connection? In testing both apps, we've reviewed criteria such as popularity, cost, and features.

Overall Findings

LINE

  • Free video and voice calling.

  • Excellent call quality.

  • Can call non-users on cell or landline at low cost.

  • Uses ECDH protocol for encryption.

WhatsApp

  • Huge base of users.

  • Free video and voice calling.

  • Uses considerable data.

  • Users can call only other WhatsApp users.

  • Uses Signal Protocol for encryption.

  • Blocked in some countries.

The two apps are quite similar in their offerings. Ultimately, your choice might come down to whichever one your friends and family use and whichever interface you find easiest and most enjoyable to use.

Popularity: WhatsApp Is Everywhere (Almost)

LINE

  • Favored in some Asian countries.

WhatsApp

  • Largest base of users worldwide.

  • Blocked in some Middle Eastern countries.

The number of people using an app is an important factor in deciding to use it, as calls are free among users of the same network, so the more friends and correspondents you have on one app, the more opportunities to make free VoIP and video calls. 

WhatsApp is the clear winner here as it has the largest base of users worldwide. While WhatsApp is popular worldwide, the Japan-based LINE's popularity is concentrated in some countries of Asia. 

Voice and Video: Available on Both

LINE

  • Free voice calling.

  • Free video calling.

WhatsApp

  • Free voice calling.

  • Calls use significantly more data.

Both apps offer free voice calling among users, a feature that WhatsApp didn't introduce until early 2015; LINE had this feature before WhatsApp. Perhaps because of this longer-established capability, calls in LINE tend to be of higher quality than those on WhatsApp. This might also be because of the sheer number of users on the latter's network. Moreover, WhatsApp calls tend to consume more data than LINE calls, and subsequently eat up your mobile data quicker than LINE. The winner here is clearly LINE. 

Calling Landlines and Mobiles: Call Anyone Anywhere With LINE

LINE

  • Offers calling to any cell or landline phone (calls outside network incur small fee).

WhatsApp

  • Offers calling only to other WhatsApp users.

LINE scores high here as WhatsApp offers calls only to WhatsApp users.

Say you want to call someone abroad who is not connected to the internet, or who is not registered on WhatsApp. You cannot as WhatsApp does not go beyond its network. LINE can. You can still use LINE to make the call to any phone worldwide, whether landline or cellular, at a cheap rate. This is called LINE Out, and the rates are competitive in the VoIP market. 

Here the winner clearly is LINE. 

Group Messaging: LINE Allows Larger Groups

LINE

  • Allows group calls with up to 200 participants.

WhatsApp

  • Allows group calls with up to 100 participants.

Both apps offer group communication. LINE groups are better since they allow up to 200 participants while WhatsApp allows only 100. Also, the features in LINE groups are better for management than those in WhatsApp.

LINE wins here. 

Privacy and Security: Encryption Is Standard

LINE

  • Uses ECDH protocol for encryption.

  • Uses phone number or Facebook account for registration.

WhatsApp

  • Uses Signal Protocol for encryption.

  • Uses phone number or Facebook account for registration.

Both apps offer encryption of communications over their networks. LINE uses ECDH protocol, and WhatsApp uses Signal Protocol. 

Both LINE and WhatsApp get you registered on their network through your phone number. Some may wary of this and prefer to keep their number private. Both allow you to use your Facebook account to register rather than your phone number.

Other Features: LINE Offers More Flexibility

LINE

  • Lots of free stickers.

  • Offers various ways to connect with other users.

  • Functions like social network, including a timeline.

WhatsApp

  • Stickers available through outside apps.

  • Functions like social network, but no timeline.

  • Blocked in several countries, mainly in the Middle East.

The sticker market is well developed in LINE with some interesting free stickers, some depicting real-life characters and others conveying emotions in a very meaningful way. Stickers can be sent through WhatsApp, but generally, require another app for those.

Given that LINE users may not have a phone number, you can have contacts in LINE beyond your phone's contact list. There are some interesting ways of adding friends on LINE; you can scan their LINE QR code, and more interestingly you can have them shake their smartphone while you shake yours close to one another for adding each other to the LINE contact list. 

Both apps can be viewed as social networking apps, but LINE is more developed in this regard, having familiar social features like a timeline. 

Also worth noting is that there are some countries—especially in the Middle East—where WhatsApp calling is blocked, while LINE may not be. 

Both LINE and WhatsApp:

  • Are free to download.
  • Offer free voice and video calling.
  • Allow free file and location sharing.

Final Verdict: LINE Is the Better Choice If Popularity's Not a Concern

Considering the apps and their features, LINE does a better job than WhatsApp in most aspects. It has more features, and in cases where they share features, LINE has the edge.

However, the one big advantage WhatsApp has is that it has a much, much larger base of users. So, while LINE may be a better tool, most people end up using WhatsApp because of the latter's popularity.