Mobile messaging apps are having their moment in the spotlight. If you look at the iTunes Chart for apps (as of September 9), five messaging apps are in the top 100:

  • Facebook Messenger (#6)
  • WhatsApp (#24)
  • Groupme (#50)
  • Skype for iPhone (#52)
  • Kik (#55)
The Google Play Store also has five pure messaging apps in the top 100 and seven in the top 150:
  • Facebook Messenger (#1),
  • WhatsApp (#12)
  • Kik (#36),
  • Skype (#47)
  • Google Duo (#54)
  • GroupMe (#147)
  • Viber (#148)
That’s not counting Snapchat, which is in the top 10 on both charts but relies on disappearing messaging (photo, video and text). This also excludes Slack, a tour de force in enterprise messaging.
And, that’s just in the United States. WeChat is the premier messaging app in China, while Line enjoys immense popularity in Japan and Europe.

Multipurpose Functionality

So, why are messaging apps all the rage right now? In a January, 2015 article from the New York Times, a writer attributes the phenomenon in part due to multifunctionality —messaging apps typically include text, video, email and link embedding features. Also responsible for the rise of messaging apps are unique content distribution by mass media companies, speed, ease of use and the fact that they are significantly cheaper to use than the standard text messaging services of big name wireless carriers such as AT&T and Verizon.
Additional uses for these apps include “[discovering] other new smartphone apps,[paying] for merchandise at brick-and-mortar retail stores,” and Snapchat’s Discover feature, an editorial section where media outlets like ESPN, Vice and CNN publish original content.

Super Apps

WeChat serves as a one-stop shop for essentially everything. Standard messaging features, such as voice messaging, video calling and group messaging, are used with regularity. What separates WeChat from the rest of the pack is that third-party apps can connect to its API, allowing users to perform a variety of tasks inside the app, including hailing a taxi, viewing news and managing credit card bills. Within the Wallet feature, its 800 million active monthly users can also buy movie tickets, book travel tickets and get special discounts from JD.com, a popular e-commerce site in China.

Branding Opportunities

Messaging apps continue to enjoy sought-after status as a workaround for traditional smartphone data plans. As with anything that becomes immensely popular, brands want in on the growing action.
This post on Medium declares emojis, along with chat bots, as crucial opportunities for brands to communicate with users. “If your brand invests in creating custom emojis, you have an opportunity to get into messaging and become a part of the deep 1-to-1 conversations people are having.” Another New York Times article from April, 2016 exemplifies how Focus Features, a film production company, used chat bots in Kik to promote Insidious: Chapter 3. The bot delivered its message in the voice of the film’s main character, Quinn Brenner, speaking to a user about believing in life after death.
Clearly, messaging apps are the way of the future in mobile communications, especially since they have surpassed social media networks in number of collective users. The scale and opportunity are ripe on these platforms as they continue to grow in popularity and functionality. Because of the proven momentum and no signs of slowing down, one day you may be doing all of your work, communication and errands within a single messaging app.

Facebook Messenger app camera by Kārlis Dambrāns is licensed under Attribution License

Simon

Simon has worked in the software industry for over 20 years; intent on always producing work of the highest standard and creating software products that genuinely makes things better for people. Simon has previously held positions ranging from Developer, Technical Consultant, Head of Development through to CTO and more recently founder and CEO of several high profile technology companies.

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