Internet-based mobile applications for instant messaging witness a rapid rise in usage among smartphone owners
With the increasing usage of mobile internet, phrases like “are you on WhatsApp?” have become synonymous with “hellos" and "good byes", and a number of instant messaging application providers are trying to cash in on this rising trend in the country.
In fact, as consumers switch to free instant messaging tools such as WhatsApp, BlackBerry Messenger as well as social media platforms such as Facebook to chat real time, there has been a decline in usage of the years old simple SMSs.
“The growing trend of messaging apps has replaced traditional SMSs and voice calling,” Kevin D’Souza, Country Growth Manager, Facebook said. Quoting a research by Ovum, he added that SMS growth rates have fallen from 14 per cent in 2011 to 8 per cent in 2013.
In the last few months, a number of such applicationshave mushroomed and instantly became popular as theynot only enable real time communication but also have added benefits of no extra cost andcontent sharing.
“The habit that was started with SMSs on a mobile phone today has evolved into an engaging conversation using instant messaging, first on PCs and now smartphones. The primary reason for this shift is the quick response time and the ability to have longer conversations virtually across different countries without any extra cost using IM as compared to SMS,” Jun Masuda, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, of LINE Corporation said.
The Japanese firm claimed its instant messaging application ‘LINE’ had garnered over 5 million registered users in India within three weeks of its launch.
Further, communication throughmobile devices has become more interactive with the rise in usage of instant messaging applications. “IMs give users an opportunity to have more evolved forms of conversations, moving beyond just the typed alphabets to videos, stickers and audio files, among others,” he added.
As most of the applications available are for free or at a nominal cost, this segment has become immensely competitive with companies pushing for innovation. Providers like LINE and WeChat have also launched aggressive ad campaigns to garner subscribers.
Talking about the Facebook Messenger, D’Souza said, “Facebook Messenger allows the user to receive messages in the form of an SMS, when he/she is logged out of the messenger. So, they do not need to stay logged in all the time, and do not miss any messages from friends.”
Facebook Messenger on Samsung smartphones supports nine Indian languages, such as Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi and Gujarati, enabling people to converse in the language that they are most comfortable with.
Additionally, the concept of ‘stickers’ that make chatting more fun and interesting isgaining popularity. “Stickers are a lightweight way to tell friends how you feel, what you’re up to or to just say hi,” said D’Souza.
“One of the main reasons why LINE is being adopted so rapidly compared to other major messenger apps is its unique sticker feature. It is extremely well-received by users as they can send large-sized character pictures with the tap of a finger, thereby providing a simple, casual and exciting way to express their emotions,” Masuda noted.
Annie Mathew, Director, Alliances and Business Development, BlackBerry India felt leveraging IM service could be the touchstone for success for any business as it could allow staff and clients to communicate using the same service across servers, platforms and continents.
“IT managers have recognised IM's potential for rapid communication and ability to create ad hoc discussions between employees and external partners... IMbecomes even more powerful when combined with features like document sharing, white-boarding and graphics," Mathew elaborated.
Many smartphones today support video conferencing and screen share features. “What was originally thought of as a passing fad or trend, popular with teenagers and computer geeks, has proven to be a valuable, useful, and fun to use tool throughout the world," she stressed.
As far as telecom operators are concerned, Masuda opined that since they are seeing a decline in revenues due to fall in number of SMSs, there are not many options left for operators other than partnering with instant messenger companies and promoting these apps.
Instant messenger applications require data services.“This way, carriers can make money from data consumption used for making IP-based voice calls, messaging, gaming and group voice chats,” he said.
According to research group Informa Telecoms & Media, in 2012 mobile IP messaging overtook SMS messaging in volume. It estimated that nearly 19 billion messages were sent using IP messaging apps each day around the world, versus 17.6 billion SMS messages.
Masuda, however, added that simple text messages which can be sent in the absence of a data network or Wi-Fi connectivity still have certain advantage and will not be eliminated completely.