The urban youth choose free mobile apps over text messages
Traditional cost-incurring SMS seems to have taken the backseat over the past few years with the massive growth of internet calling, and mobile and PC applications that allow free messaging.
With mobile internet, 3G, and free apps becoming common on the now-ubiquitous smartphones, the tech-savvy generation is moving on to more “fun” ways of communicating.
The former DGM, Mobile Services (Operations and Installations) at BSNL, S. M. Hegde, admits that SMS usage has decreased. He said, “My son is also using mobile apps and free services rather than SMS.”
A recent study by research firm Informa said that during 2012, around 19 billion messages were sent each day via chat apps, while SMS texts numbered 17.6 billion daily.
However, Mr. Hegde says there is hardly any revenue impact on telecom service providers as income from SMS has merely shifted to data usage.
Farook, a local mobile retailer, believed that while usage of phones had increased among people, the conventional routes for sending texts and making calls were changing. “Teenagers prefer buying mobiles that support apps; these apps provide wider options for communication,” he says.
Testifying this, 19-year-old Priyanka Pradhan said, “Text messages these days are costlier than before; whereas, with a net recharge and a downloaded app, so much more can be done.”
For student Nikitha V.N., the app WeChat allows for “fun creativity” in text messaging. “When I used WeChat for the first time I just loved it. What sets it apart from SMSes is that you can send stickers and emoticons, pictures, audio-video files and unlimited messages,” she says.
The giant among these apps is WhatsApp, which rules the marketplace with more than 100 million installations on Android phones.
Discussion threads on the internet identify the app’s various advantages, among which are its availability on multiple mobile platforms, its many sharing options, and group chat.
“WhatsApp is my favourite,” exclaims Kangana Dubey, a homemaker.
Viber is another popular app, and the possibility of doing a lot more than typing a simple string of words has gotten physiotherapist Jagrut Lokare addicted to it. “Viber offers unlimited free texts, identification of location of texts, and the quick reply option on it ensures that the conversation never ends,” he says.
Barcelona-based Yuilop with five million active users, is still a fledgling in the market. Offering messaging, along with free calls, to mobiles and landlines, the app is taking the likes of WhatsApp and Skype head on.
While Head of Communications for Yuilop Jen Allerson said the app is similar to Skype in using cloud-based communication, what sets it apart is that it is entirely free.
Hundreds of millions of downloads may sound good, but financial reality can transcend these numbers. So how does Yuilop stay free when other apps have started to look for revenue generation by making users pay for messages and calls?
“In other apps you have to buy credits if you want to call any person who does not have an app installed in the phone. However, with Yuilop, credits are earned for free, by inviting friends to join the app or watching advertisements, downloading sponsored apps, and even by just being active on the app,” says Mr. Allerson.