Often blamed by telecom operators for the death of the SMS, messaging apps gained prominence around the world rather quickly, and continue to dominate app stores. And analysts at Macquarie [a global financial services provider] have estimated that the global user base of messaging apps will grow to 2.9 billion users in 2017 from 1 billion-plus currently. Here, we look at a few often-used options — listed with their number of users — and check out features that have contributed to their popularity.
Number talk: Crossed 400 million registered users in April.
Although voice and video calling as well as the text messaging are its mainstay, it is the app’s selection of stickers that have become a rage. Distinctly Japanese, and sporting manga expressions at times, the range includes popular characters like Pokémon, Doraemon and Hello Kitty as well as some that are well-known around the world, like Donald Duck and Snoopy. Time-limited promotions also take place. For example, Pray for Philippines stickers were available after a devastating typhoon hit the region. The proceeds were donated to help the victims.
Number talk: Crossed 200 million monthy active users in March.
The app is connected to the social network and can tell you who is on Messenger or currently active on Facebook. This allows you to stay updated on latest posts and happenings even on the go. And, in a move that is likely to get more people on the service, the social networking giant confirmed on July 28 that it will be removing the messaging feature from its mobile app over the next few days, and requiring people to use its stand-alone Messenger app instead.
Number talk: Crossed 350 million registered users in June.
What sets this app apart is that it allows users to make unlimited calls or send as many messages as they want to anyone, anywhere in the world — so long as they also have the. And if that doesn’t drive home the point, the app claims that their “sound quality is much better than a regular call (sic)” on its FAQ page.
Number talk: Crossed 500 million active users in April.
Probably the most-used cross-platform messaging app, it won its millions of subscribers by keeping things simple. Replacing the SMS with a two-step set-up process, users can also send group messages, pictures and videos, as well as GPS coordinates. Ad-free for life, there is no charge for using it in the first year. However, one needs to pay $0.99 annually after that. But despite the nominal fee and the fact that video calling is still unavailable, its wide subscriber base makes it a popular option when going in for a messaging app.
Number talk: Crossed 160 million registered users in June.
Last year, in a move to win back subscribers who had moved on to newer platforms, BlackBerry announced the roll-out of its instant messaging service, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), for Android and iOS phones. According to @BBM, more than 10 million downloads took place in the first 24 hours. What works for BBM is the end-to-end encryption that is available. Also, privacy is maintained as one has to approve requests and only then can people be added to chat lists.
Number talk: Crossed 30 million monthly active users in December 2013.
Introduced at a time when privacy concerns dominated newsprint, the app gained instant popularity because users could set a time limit for how long the recipients can view images or videos before they disappeared from their devices. Also, this content was not supposed to be stored on the company’s servers. However, these claims took a severe beating when on May 7, Snapchat settled with the Federal Trade Commission in the US over allegations that it deceived users over the amount of personal data it collected, and was responsible for a security breach that impacted 4.6 million customers.
Number talk: Crossed 20 million users in June.
There has been buzz around this new entrant for its ability to send messages even when offline. And the question on almost everyone’s mind has been — how does it work? Turns out, one just taps on any undelivered message and selects the kind of offline message you want to send. If you choose to send it via Hike, it’ll go from a VMN (virtual mobile number). Select your own number, and the phone will send an SMS for which you will be charged as per an operator plan.
Number talk: Crossed 35 million monthly users in March.
The messaging service places a premium on security and allows users to control the level of privacy they want. Those interested in maximum privacy can opt for Secret Chats, featuring end-to-end encryption to ensure that a message can only be read by its intended recipient. As part of this service, nothing is logged on the servers, and one can programme the messages to self-destruct from both devices. And if that’s not enough, servers are spread all over the world for security, and the company claims to deliver messages faster than any other app.
(Number of users are world-wide figures, as stated by the app's creators)