WhatsApp, the free Internet-based messaging service is now the most popular mobile messaging platform, according to a survey of more than 4,000 smartphone owners in the US, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and China.
Leapfrogging Facebook, 44 percent surveyed use WhatsApp at least once a week, compared to 35 percent for Facebook messenger. The study also found that mobile messaging apps in general, such as WhatsApp, WeChat and even BBM are more popular than calls and texts: 60 percent of respondents used emails; 75 percent SMS text; 73 percent voice calls; and 86 percent said they used social messaging apps daily.
WhatsApp has a stronger following abroad than in the US, but reportedly has more users than Twitter and carries 25 billion messages a day. Most popular among teens, school friends and extended families who create groups for shared texting, photos and status updates, WhatsApp allows free communication without the threat of divulging personal details—an increasing concern for competitors like Facebook and Google.
WhatsApp also carries no advertising—a big reward in exchange for a small ($.99) yearly fee that kicks in after the first year of use. "We do have a manifesto opposing advertising," CEO Jan Koum told AllThingsD. "We're proud of that. Who likes advertising? We're so bombarded with ads so much in our daily lives and we felt that smartphones aren't the place for that. You don't want to be interrupted by ads when you're chatting with your loved ones."
But WhatsApp is far from being free and clear of competition. Messaging app Line has passed 300 million users; South Korea’s KakaoTalk has 110 million; China’s WeChat claims 600 million; and Canada’s Kik has over 90 million users. Quick growth from these rivals shows WhatsApp’s vulnerability. “This new generation of messaging apps really aren’t just about messaging,” writes Pando Daily. “They are mobile platforms.” The messaging part, supposedly the product driver, has become secondary as more robust apps evolve.
“For Line, messaging is a front door to an experience that then opens up to include games, photosharing, stickers, and a de facto app store, which drives downloads of its other apps, including Camera and Tools,” continues Pando. “Kik is really just a mobile Web browser that hosts its own HTML5 apps, which third-party developers can now build. KakaoTalk has its own virtual eBay. And in China, people use WeChat to pay for physical goods.”
And one more is coming up the rear. Interim Blackberry CEO John Chen is standing by his company’s BlackBerry Messaging app and has recently made deals with at least a dozen Android manufacturers to preload BBM on handsets in emerging markets like Africa, India, Indonesia, Latin America and the Middle East.