What Is Line? An Explainer

Are you looking for a single app that allows you to make voice calls, video calls, and emojis & stickers international texting, instead of downloading multiple apps (which is not only tiring but also takes most of the space of your phone), then LINE might be for you. 

Combining a plethora of unique features including Facebook-style updates, free Voice calls, unlimited free video chatting, photo sharing, instant & group messaging, and unique stickers and decals, the Japanese Messaging App is all you need to keep in touch with friends and family.

First launched in Japan in 2011, LINE reached 600 million users by 2015. It was initially developed as an Android and iOS app, but it has covered nearly all the platforms like Windows Phone, Firefox OS and personal computers.

Read on to find out more about this app; how it works, its most essential features and a simple comparison with WhatsApp.

How it works

It doesn’t require much effort to download and use it, whether you’re on desktop (Windows and macOS) or mobile (iOS (the iPhone, iPad, and iPod), Android, and BlackBerry devices). A number of versions exist, but generally, users will download the main one for top capability. There is one important thing here that you should know, if you download the full version of LINE, and then switch to LINE: Light (which has less functionality), you’ll be told that you’re being “logged out of the normal LINE,” but what this message does not make clear is that you won’t ever be able to log into full LINE again. So, be warned.

But in very rare cases is LINE: Light being preferred over LINE. When you install LINE, here’s what you can expect:

Getting started

You have the option to either sign up with your Facebook account or with your mobile number on the app. Once that’s done you’re given a free account with texting, voice calls, video calls, and your social network features all included. You’re given the opportunity to set up your display name (up to 20 characters), customize a personal avatar, and select your favorite sticker libraries to add personality to your messages and updates.

Note: If you are signing up with your mobile number, a verification code will be sent to your mobile phone through SMS.

Getting started is easy:

Simply dial a number or tap on the “contacts” icon located on the home screen of the app.

Finding contacts

During the registration process, LINE asks to access your contacts; you can disallow this access if you want. This option authorizes LINE to scan your current contacts for you, and connect you with those that use LINE. Thus saving you a lot of effort. 

This feature makes it possible to invite friends & family to LINE (if they aren’t using it already). Just check to see who you’re already connected with – if LINE didn’t connect you, they likely don’t know about the app.


Want to make adjustments to your app? Just click on the “Settings” icon and you’ll be taken to the settings page where you can easily make changes…

Celebrities and more

Your friends and families are not the only people (that you know) on this app, celebrities use it too. Even news channels (like CNN and Wikipedia), have accounts meaning that you don’t need more apps to review your morning headlines or catch up on your celebrity gossip: it’s all here in one place.

Free means free (almost)

LINE features are free between LINE users only. So, for instance, if your friend wants to talk on the phone about their recent trip to Paris, and you know they’ll take time, you can call them on LINE and avoid long-distance charges or minutes usage on your phone plan. Likewise, if your sister has a baby and starts sending you endless cute videos and pictures of their unending “firsts,” you can have the multimedia files sent to your LINE account and not worry about data charges.

Let me mention this again, LINE features are free between LINE users only. Meaning you won’t be able to text or call a mobile phone number for free if the phone owner doesn’t have LINE installed. But if your friends & family do have this app installed, these features are completely free.

Features Overview

Messages and Texts

Like WhatsApp and Viber, LINE is primarily an Instant Messaging (IM) app. As mentioned many times before, users can communicate via texts, images, audio and stickers. You can also create or join groups (up to 200 people) where you can broadcast your chats and media.

Real-time conformation of messages that have been delivered or read can be seen. It also has a ”hidden chat” feature, which allows the user to set timers (1 minute to 2, 5, 10 seconds, 1 hour, 1 day, or 1 week) to their messages after which the message will be deleted from the sender’s and receiver’s devices (like Snapchat).


LINE app features a sticker shop from where users can purchase stickers depicting original characters, emotions and other various day to day activities. LINE stickers feature characters from popular anime’s, manga’s and Disney. Some stickers celebrating special events like FIFA World Cup are released for a limited period of time.


LINE allows users to customize their LINE profile to an extra extent. Various themes are available, some of which are free while most of it comes at a price of coins. The themes too are mostly anime or manga based. They also feature Disney based themes like Snow White, Mickey Mouse, etc.


The application also has timeline and homepage features similar to that of Facebook, where you can exchange stories with your close friends by sharing texts, photos, videos, and stickers on your Timeline. You can also hide your timeline from selected users.


The privacy settings are one of the best. Unlike, other IM apps, the app feature an in-app four-digit pass-code lock. If your phone has Touch ID, you can use it to gain access to the app. You can choose whether to allow other users to add you as a friend by searching for your ID.

The “Filter Message” option when activated rejects all messages sent by LINE users who are not on your friend list. The “Letter Sealing” feature on the app protects your messages using advanced encryption. But this feature only works when your friend too has enabled ‘Letter Sealing ‘on their device.


Keep is a feature on the LINE app that serves as personal storage space for your special texts, pictures and audio that you want to save.

Other than your texts or photos, user can save links and voice messages on Keep. Keep is a private feature on LINE and contents inside it will not be made public.

Video calling

An important feature of LINE, video calls take up a lot of bandwidth, and can prove to be very costly if done over traditional data. You can avoid these data costs, by using Wi-Fi to connect with friends & family over LINE. And because LINE offers unlimited free video calls (as mentioned many times before), you can ask your cousin to give you a virtual tour of her new house or talk to your niece while she details the many kinds of fairies and mermaids to you.

LINE Out & Voice Calls

Free in-app voice calls can be made between LINE users. Like video calls, you only require an internet connection. As mentioned above, you can avoid any data costs, by using Wi-Fi to connect and you can talk away for free.

LINE Out allows you to contact friends and family who does not have LINE, however, know this it’s not free and you’ll be charged a little. If you’d like to talk to someone who doesn’t have LINE, and you’re low on cell phone minutes, Although, rates vary depending on where you are calling, but they are generally more affordable than paying per-minute for average on your plan (it’s definitely a better option than being unexpectedly cut off mid-call when you run out of minutes).

You can make calls using Line Out for free by viewing an Ad. The time available for the call depends on where you’re calling. These can vary and are often from three to five minutes.

Games and more

It’s fun to play games, but it’s even more fun to play it with friends. That’s why LINE introduced LINE games: these games can be added to your LINE profile and played with friends. In today’s busy world, gaming provides a convenient way to interact with someone whose schedule is as jam-packed as yours.

Send and receive payments

LINE enables you to easily send money to your friend to cover your part of lunch. Now you wouldn’t have to hurriedly go through your wallet or have to figure out complex online banking systems, or just have to do with “I’ll owe you one.” All you have to do is simply input your credit card info and select the user you’d like to send money to. And that’s it.

Do you have those friends who always “forget” they owe you money? With this app, you can send them a reminder of how much they owe you, and LINE will give them a way to quickly and easily send the funds your way.


Only offered in Japan; this feature is extremely useful. With it, users can order and pay for a taxi through the LINE app. You will know exactly where your taxi is and how long it takes. No need to wait outside. If you want to cancel your booking or change your pick-up location, you’ll be able to do that easily too. Thus making getting home much easier, without the hassle of downloading extra apps to your phone.

Even if you don’t live in Japan, if you intend to visit, this feature is a handy way to hail a taxi with the click of a button.

End-to-end encryption

LINE secures all text messages and calls with end-to-end encryption for maximum security. This means that another person can’t intercept and read your messages or listen to your calls without your permission. Not every free online texting app offers end-to-end encryption, so this is a significant feature for LINE.

Line Vs Whatsapp. Which one is better?

Now that we’ve been through how it works and its most essential features, in the end let’s compare it with WhatsApp. Ok, so which one is better Line or WhatsApp? To be honest there is no one definite answer to this question. The answer will vary from person to person. If you are someone that is very active on social media then LINE would be the better option, as mentioned in the features above Line has a timeline feature that works much like Facebook and Twitter timeline functions. If you just need an efficient straight forward messaging experience then WhatsApp would be it. Privacy wise, both the apps encrypt messages, but (also mentioned above) LINE has a passcode lock option too something which WhatsApp lacks.

Ultimately, it depends on which app your friends use, as you are not going to use a social messaging app all by yourself.

Well, that’s it; I am done for the day. I hope you liked this article and I hope it’ll help you make a better decision about this app. Thank you for reading!

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