Top 10 Messaging Apps

Over the past several years, the market for messaging apps has dramatically outpaced all other categories. First Facebook acquired WhatsApp, then Yahoo followed suit with MessageMe, and Google is reportedly building yet another instant messaging platform. Something is pretty evident – The market for simple and ad-free messaging apps is growing, and at an astronomical pace.

App Use Growth 2013
Source: Khalaf, Simon. Mobile Use Grows 115% in 2013, Propelled by Messaging Apps. Digital image. Flurry. N.p., 13 Jan. 2014. Web.

Here’s a rundown of the top messaging apps driving this growth.

Launched in 2011, Line is a popular messaging app in Asia with over 450M registered users. In addition to text messaging, photo sharing and voice calls, it offers games and digital comic books. In its bid to expand outside Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia, Line has been working with brands around the globe, allowing them to reach out to customers with advertisements, deals and discounts through its messaging platform. While Line is free to download, it makes a bulk of its revenue from in-game purchases.

Viber is a free group messaging and calling app that offers users the ability to place video calls and exchange text, picture, and video messages. Viber can also be used to make calls to non-Viber phones at low rates. Best yet, the app taps into available Wi-Fi connections to make free calls. Serving mobile users on all major platforms, Viber is home to an impressive 600M users as of 2014.

WhatsApp is a household name overseas, but is comparatively under appreciated in the US home market. It is a subscription-based instant messaging application that allows users to send and receive text, picture, and video messages across all major mobile platforms. It has been true to its discipline of ‘No Ads! No Games! No Gimmicks!‘ thus far. After one year of free use, the service costs $1 per year. Oddly, WhatsApp does not allow voice calls, and the program can only send messages to others who use the application. Sporting “500 million regulars” in April 2014, WhatsApp is destined to grow bigger with its recent acquisition by Facebook.

Kik me is a popular phrase online, often attached to Instagram profiles. Kik is available on all major mobile platforms, and allows users to send and receive text, picture and voice messages, similar to Whatsapp. Kik contains an in-app browser that allows users to browse the Internet without leaving the application. On the flip side, it requires usernames, instead of phone numbers, as a basis for accounts. With over “140 million users”, Kik is more of a service that enables you to make new contacts, in addition to staying in touch with people you already know.

Skype is a free-to-use mobile and desktop application that allows instant messaging, voice and video calls, and other multimedia communication. Skype can also be used to contact non-Skype usernames and phone numbers at low cost. In 2013, Skype carried an estimated 214 billion minutes of international skype-skype calls, and its traffic was almost 40% the size of the conventional telecom market. Such statistics are particularly impressive given the strong competition fielded by the new-comers in this industry. As one of the oldest brands for instant communication, Skype boasts over “300 million users”.

WeChat, the Chinese messaging app giant, is more of it own social network, allowing users to share, like and comment on photos, and easily chat with people nearby. Launched in 2010, WeChat is available on all mobile platforms, and can also be accessed through a browser. With support for English, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Russian and a host of other languages, WeChat is pushing hard to expand internationally, and strengthen its already strong base of 438 million monthly active users,

KakaoTalk, which was launched in 2010, is the dominant messaging app in South Korea. Similar to WeChat, KakaoTalk sees itself as more of a social network than a messaging app. KakaoTalk offers applications, games, gift purchases, mobile reader through the messaging program itself, making it a multimedia powerhouse. Over 133 million people use KakaoTalk regularly, with 84% of the company’s revenue coming from “games, commerce, and digital content.”

MessageMe is an application that allows users to share messages, broadcast photographs, send emojis, participate in group chats, and even draw and doodle on their friend’s photographs. This full-service Android and iOS app has a wide selection of unique features, including walkie-talkie and push-to-talk options. With five million users as of May 2014, MessageMe was an acquisition target for Snapchat. However, Yahoo sealed the deal with an acqui-hire. The app will be killed completely in Nov 2014.

Tango follows in the same vein as Line, WeChat and KakaoTalk, broadening itself out to become social platform on which users not only communicate, but find people they may know, share content, stream news feeds, and play games. The company is planning a set of new standalone apps following the same suit as Facebook and LinkedIn that have unveiled multiple standalone apps in 2014. As of March 2014, it had 200 million registered users, and over 70 million active monthly users.

For those of you who wished you’d wake up to the day when Facebook wasn’t the center of teens’ universe, your wish has been fulfilled. Snapchat, a messaging app that lets users to send each other private, self-destructing photos and video, is gaining popularity amongst teens. It may be getting a rap on the knuckles from FTC over security breaches, but the ephemeral messaging service is still a frenzy among youngsters and continues to generate more traffic than other competing services. SnapChat is estimated to have 100 million registered users as of August 2014.

Messaging apps are quickly becoming the hub of users’ activity on their smartphones. Though occasionally fragmented by national borders, these apps are broadening the global community by changing the way people connect and share.