More and more people are turning to free messaging services such as WhatsApp instead of using text messages. A Dialaphone poll has found that many smartphone users prefer to send short messages through dedicated apps than use the SMS functions that are built into pretty much every mobile phone.
WhatsApp is currently the market leader having seen an enormous uptake amongst the public, however it’s just one of many messaging apps proving to be a game changer in the mobile industry. The appeal is quite simple – where people had previously been charged for text messages by their network provider, they can now use a very similar service for free, or least for a very nominal, one-off sum.
With a service such as this, all that the likes of WhatsApp have needed is the kind of viral, word-of-mouth advertising of which many marketing executives can only dream. This is exactly what’s happened, with there having been many stories about people adopting the service simply because their friends are using it.
What these apps do is send messages over a handset’s data connection rather than the regular phone signal, bypassing the control of the network provider. Their success has been enormous, with WhatsApp now claiming to have over 200 million regular users.
Beyond this figure, the app’s developers have also revealed that during one 24 hour period this year they handled 27 billion messages, an almost unthinkable amount that truly marks out how popular their creation has become. To highlight this success even further, rumours have abounded of Google being in talks with WhatsApp about an acquisition, said to be in the region of $1bn.
However, the idea behind WhatsApp and its ilk is nothing especially new, with BlackBerry having offered its free BlackBerry Messenger service for many years. This feature has long been one of the main selling points of the Canadian firm’s devices and is been said to have been responsible for the appeal that they have had amongst younger users. After all, this demographic is traditionally short of cash and text messages can be an expensive drain on pay as you go tariffs.
What has now happened is that several developers have brought the idea to other smartphone platforms, stealing the jump on BlackBerry somewhat. A big part of WhatsApp’s appeal appears to be its cross platform nature and iOS users can easily send messages to friends with Android devices. There is even a version of the app available for the System 40 feature phone platform, highlighting just how widely spread it is.
It has been reported that revenue generated by text messages fell in the third quarter of 2012 for the first time ever, with the rise of free messaging services likely being responsible. Will texts die out completely? We very much doubt it, but services like WhatsApp have stirred up the waters in the smartphone game and must be prompting networks and manufacturers to re-evaluate the way in which they charge their customers. This is something which could very much be to the benefit of smartphone users overall.