Market for instant messaging apps has exploded into life
Where Skype led, others have willingly followed, with WhatsApp, Kik and Viber all jostling for a share of the market
Before the popularity of the smartphone, the humble text message was the best and easiest way to communicate.
But all that has changed – and much to the chagrin of mobile network operators.
The advent of the smartphone has meant increased data usage – good news for operators – but also the arrival of disruptive newcomers. Suppliers of “over the top” (OTT, or “value added”) services have been pinching the network operators’ customers by offering messaging and voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) calls via smartphone apps.
The market for instant messaging apps has exploded in recent times. Where Skype led, others have willingly followed, with WhatsApp, Kik and Viber all jostling for a share of the market.
Japanese-based messenger Line is targeting the Indian market, a strategy is began in July and has already racked up 10 million users. It is aiming to have 20 million in the region by the end of year, rivalling the more established services such as WhatsApp.
Last year, a study by Informa Telecoms said SMS would still dominate mobile messaging traffic and revenues for the next couple of years, generating 42 per cent of the traffic and 65 per cent of the total incomes in 2016. That compared with estimates of 35 per cent traffic and 8 per cent revenues for the messaging apps, which are referred to as “over the top” messaging.
But while SMS isn’t going anywhere any time soon, a new report from Informa this year showed OTT messaging has overtaken personal SMS traffic on a daily basis in terms of the volume of messages being sent.
About 19.1 billion OTT messages were sent every day in 2012, compared with 17.6 billion in SMS, and by the end of the year that gap is expected to have widened considerably to 41 billion OTT messages and 19.5 billion texts.
That is mainly because those using WhatsApp and other messaging services are sending more messages per day than the SMS users; more than 32 OTT messages per user compared with five texts.
Its growing popularity has had a knock on effect for mobile networks, who are seeing their revenues fall.
For consumers, there are some advantages to opting for the instant messaging apps.
Text messages sent through these apps typically use low amounts of data, which makes them the more economical choice when compared to individual charges for SMS. It’s particularly useful when messaging friends and family who are overseas; you can skip the international text rates in favour of a few bytes of data.
If you are connected through wifi, which typically has a larger usage limit, it eliminates the risk of going over your mobile data allowance and incurring more cost than you intended.
There are a few options for most of the major mobile platforms; which one you opt for will usually be dictated by how many contacts you know that use the app.
Viber offers you the option to send text messages, photos, video or make voice calls through a single app. Like WhatsApp, it uses your phone number as your log in, so there is no need to remember users names or PINs.
Messages and calls to other Viber users are free of charge if you are on wifi, but be aware that if your data plan is particularly restrictive, you might end up getting charged for data use on 3G; this can be avoided if you stick with a wifi connection with a higher monthly data allowance.