In 2014, social messaging players will be challenging the status quo of mobile social networking and media – creating a paradigm shift in social media interaction that will impact several OTT giants. Global mobile messaging apps (OTT) are changing the way the consumer interacts with social media – be it messaging, voice, games or utilities and widening the possibilities of the type of social services that can be accessed on mobile.
Hundreds of millions of tech-savvy young people have instead turned to a wave of smartphone-based messaging apps that are now sweeping across North America, Asia and Europe. The hot apps include Kik and Whatsapp as well as Kakao Inc’s KakaoTalk, NHN Corp’s LINE and Tencent Holdings Ltd’s WeChat, which have blossomed in Asian markets.
Combining text messaging and social networking, the apps provide easy to use interface & interactive features for smartphone users to trade everything from brief texts to flirtatious pictures to YouTube clips – bypassing both the SMS plans offered by wireless carriers and established social networks originally designed as websites.
Facebook Inc, with 1 billion users, remains by far the world’s most popular website. However, across Silicon Valley, investors and industry insiders say there is a possibility that the messaging apps could threaten Facebook’s dominance over the next few years. The larger ones are even starting to emerge as full-blown “platforms” that can support third-party applications such as games.
WhatsApp and LINE and WeChat and KakaoTalk and Viber and so on, share images, group chat and video, not just text. This gives them an advantage over SMS, that is true, but increasingly, it gives them a foothold into the space previously owned by social networks. Looking at it from the consumers perspective, these OTT apps offer a place to share messages one to one, to group chat with friends, to share images, video and other media, to discover new games and other apps and to find out news and gossip – sounds more like social media to me. Compared to SMS, the end-user proposition is just totally different.
Top 3 reasons – Why Mobile Messaging Apps will take over Social Media
OTT messaging apps are not cannibalizing SMS
In several key mobile messaging markets, SMS and OTT messaging apps are working quite nicely alongside each other. Many media reports present a picture that OTT messaging apps are cannibalizing SMS use and that MNO’s are losing billions in SMS revenue. In fact, this is not completely true.
Some SMS markets have peaked and shifted into a decline phase, and growth in some others has levelled off, but many SMS markets are still enjoying solid growth.
The growth in use of OTT messaging apps is dependent on a number of factors: 3G penetration, smartphone ownership and price sensitivity. In markets where price sensitivity and economic pressure are forcing consumers to scrimp and save, OTT services are an appealing alternative to SMS. However, in markets where price sensitivity is less of an issue, such as in Japan and South Korea, we see SMS and OTT co-existing quite happily side-by-side. (Source: Portio Research)
In economic terms, telco connectivity complements OTT business. A complement is a product that is consumed together with another product. Demand for a product increases when the price of its complements decrease. For example, gas and cars are complements. Cheaper gas means people drive more, and car manufacturers see their business grow.
Similarly, the common interest of OTT players is to drive commoditization of the telco connectivity business. Affordable mobile broadband means that more smartphones are sold, more ads viewed, more software sold and more ecommerce sites visited.
The future is for the Integration
Phones were created as social tools. Smartphones are especially good at being social, integrating text, voice, video and images in an endless number of apps that can serve a user’s needs, and all without the need for a web-based social network.
Users are able to communicate with anybody in their address book anywhere in the world with almost any content mix at any time. This has been compelling to users and has driven the growth of apps like iMessage, WhatsApp, LINE, WeChat, KakaoTalk and some other smaller competitors.
Facebook has Messenger, Camera, Pages and its primary app with Home as an integration point. Google has Talk, Contacts, Mail, Plus, Hangouts perhaps with Now as a point of integration. Apple is a little behind but has iMessage, FaceTime, Photostream, Mail and Contacts. iOS itself may be the point of integration.
WhatsApp, LINE, KakaoTalk, WeChat and the others will need to move beyond the chat-centric user interface into a broader set of asynchronous messaging features, and a new set of social features, probably with Timeline support, in order to stay ahead of the curve.
WhatsApp and its clones can be thought of as mobile-first companies. Their apps sit on top of the smartphone, particularly the mobile address book, and just help a user chat to their friends, family or colleagues. Their success is their simplicity and the singular purpose they have addressed.
If we look five years out, it is likely that the iOS and Android core will support a far more integrated set of messaging tools that cater for many of the needs we use single-use apps for today.
Message saving for private use, shared messaging to individuals or groups, media sharing, video and voice messaging (both synchronous and asynchronous), Timelines to look back and recall what we did in the past. These will all be features of the operating system.
In that sense the current product focus – decisions about what features to separate into single apps, and how to integrate those into a unified UI all represent the first moves in defining who wins.