Christine Lai Fun Low
It no longer comes as a surprise when Tencent announces new functions in its WeChat instant messaging app in China. Users of the most popular messaging mobile app in China can practically do everything and anything with just a slight tap on the green button with two speech bubbles. Once the app is launched, it is an instant messaging, Instagram/Facebook/Twitter-esque, and lifestyle services centre – all within the confines of WeChat.
With the integrated app’s solid success in arguably the world’s largest smartphone market of one billion, will there be a development of similar mobile apps in other parts of the world that will enjoy the same success as WeChat?
Globally, popular messaging mobile apps include Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and Viber. Other popular mobile apps used in Asia include Line and Kakao Talk.
While Whatsapp is likely to continue being an instant messaging-only app, the other messaging apps have been adding more functions to become more lifestyle-friendly.Facebook Messenger has links to other apps such as Tumblr, Giphy and Spotify to enhance users’ chatting experience. Users can also pay their friends via Facebook Pay, which is a feature only available in the United States. Unlike its Asian counterparts, Facebook messenger has limited its service offerings to peer-to-peer communication.
In other Asian countries, Whatsapp, Line and Kakaotalk are widely used among consumers in South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. Though there has not been a mobile app the likes of China’s WeChat yet, there are signs emerging that other messaging apps will follow suit.
According to an Associated Press report earlier this year, Line and Kakao Talk, the two more popular and interactive messaging mobile apps in Asia, have been expanding to include digital services in their apps. In South Korea, Kakaotalk offers digital services such as money transfer and Kakao Taxi, which is an Uber-like taxi hailing service. Kakao Talk has also launched several corporate messaging services such as Allim and Yellow ID for businesses to connect with their customers on a more convenient and practical level.
Similarly, Line has offered online news content, music and job-search services to its users in Japan, Thailand, Taiwan and Indonesia. As the needs of these users vary in different countries, Line has focused on offering localized content and services uniquely catered to the country specifics.
Users in smaller smartphone markets such as Singapore will also be keen to embrace integrated mobile platform apps. Tan Kok Cheng, Programme Chair of the Mobile Software Development Diploma at Singapore’s Republic Polytechnic, predicted that all-in-one mobile platforms will become “increasingly popular” in Singapore.
In an email response, Tan said that Whatsapp and Telegram are the most commonly used messaging apps in Singapore. “If more services that go beyond instant messaging are made available within apps like Whatsapp and Telegram, users will probably be keen to try out the innovative and new features,” said Tan.
Meanwhile, WeChat has yet to replicate its success outside its home market. Apart from its basic messaging app features and games offered outside of China, it does not offer the same extensive digital services which have been popular in its home market to its other users in Asia and beyond.
Though there has not been a success like WeChat in China, developments in mobile messaging apps have seen improvement in their digital service business. It is too early to tell who will take the next success for integrated mobile apps in the world, but consumer preference towards all-in-one mobile apps has definitely been positive.
(Top photo from Pixabay.com)