Popular Messaging Apps in Asia

  1. Wechat Goes Beyond Texting To Paying Bills


WeChat, owned by Tencent Holding, is the dominant mobile messaging app in China and the country’s answer to WhatsApp and Snapchat. The most recent update on WeChat usage for the March 2016 quarter showed that the app now boasts more than 700 million active users. The vast majority of those users reside in China, but about 100 million are outside China, an indication that WeChat is gaining traction outside its domestic market where it enjoys certain unique advantages over foreign competitors.  WeChat has a penetration of more than 90% in China’s Tier 1 cities.


Outside of China, WeChat is used in India, Latin America and other places. In Hong Kong, WeChat ranks as the fourth-most popular social media app in the region with about 23% share of the market. That puts it behind WhatsApp and Facebook as the main app in Hong Kong but at par with Facebook Messenger and above Line (Japan).


People aged 16-34 years make up 80% of WeChat users in India, a market that is also seeing growing adoption of the messaging service. In Malaysia, WeChat accounts for more than 38% of the country’s smartphone. But it takes up about 20% and 19% of smartphone population in Singapore and Philippines.   


The global average revenue per user (ARPU) on WeChat is estimated at $7.


WeChat services

Besides messaging, WeChat is also used for functions such as booking appointment with a doctor, ordering food from restaurants, booking taxis, paying bills or transferring money to other users and playing games.


More than 200 million people used WeChat for payment as of the beginning of 2016. As of November 2015, WeChat supported more than 280 million minutes of audio (voice) chats daily.


WeChat’s demographics

WeChat is most popular among young people, with more than 86% of the app’s subscribers being of the age between 18 and 36 years as of January 2015. People aged 16 to 65 years made up 68.6% of WeChat user base as of December 2015.


About 65% of WeChat accounts are owned by male users. Male users on WeChat spend about 1.3 times more time on the average on the platform compared to female users. Personal accounts on WeChat are allowed to have a maximum of 5,000 friends.


Business users

More than 300,000 offline stores were accepting WeChat payments as of February 2016. A business has to garner at least 100,000 followers before it can begin to buy advertisement on WeChat to target the messaging app’s expanding millions of young users.


WeChat provides businesses with tools that enable them to target potential customers based on their gender, age, geographic location and online shopping profile.


  1. QQ Is Another Popular Chinese Export

QQ is another popular Chinese instant messaging app owned by the same Tencent, which also owns WeChat. There were more than 850 million monthly active users on QQ as of April 2016 with more than two-third of them being mobile users.


Although QQ is predominantly Chinese, it is also a multinational app just like its sibling WeChat. QQ is available in English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese and Korean languages. The multilingual support of QQ explains its rapid adoption outside its home country of China. It also explains the popularity of the app among young Chinese because they also use it to learn foreign languages.


QQ app is available for download free of charge and you have the option to download the Chinese or International version of the messaging app. The Chinese version of QQ tends to have more features than the International version. However, the popularity of both versions of QQ can be explained by the app ease of use and unique features.


Finding friends on QQ

QQ provides users with a number of ways to link up with friends. You can search for friends on QQ by location, age, gender, blood type and others.


What can you use QQ for?

Besides texting, which is the top user activity on QQ, people also use QQ to access news information, chat through audio or video, learn foreign languages, play games, listen to music and meet old friends. About 80 million people listen to music on QQ.


  1. Line boasts more than 90% of Japanese smartphone users

Line is the leading messaging app in its domestic market of Japan with 90.3% of smartphone owners in the country using the app as of the end of 2015. The app is also widely used in Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan. Together with Japan, these three countries account for 67% of Line’s active monthly user base of slightly more than 215 million people as of April 2016.


Line is available in about 250 countries including the U.S. and the app is available in multiple languages. About 25 million people used Line in the U.S. as of the end of last year.  There are more than 10 million Line users in Malaysia and more than 18 million users in India.


Line’s features

Line launched as a mostly mobile messaging app allowing people to exchange text messages free of charge as long as they have an Internet connection. However, the app has gotten better over the years and it is expected to get even much better in the coming years.  Besides messaging, people also use Line to make audio and video calls. Line is also used to play game, book a taxi (Line Taxi) and pay for purchased (Line Pay).


Line recently added a feature that enables users to add up to 200 people to their audio calls. The mass calls feature allows Line users to speak to more than one friend at the same time as long as those friends are also registered Line users.  The feature could make Line more compelling for business users who need to connect with a large number of customers at the same time.


The mass calls feature further differentiates Line from the competition such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Line said the mass call tool would initially be rolled out to subscribers outside its core markets.


Erasing chats on Line

Like Snapchat, Line also has a feature called Hidden Chat that subscribers can use to set how fast their chats on the app disappear. If you don’t want to keep your chat records on Line, you can take advantage of Hidden Chat so that you set the messages to vanish within a desired period, which can be two seconds or a week. The tool also enables you to erase photos and videos. More than 13 billion messages and exchanged through Line daily.


Line demographics

About 95% of female smartphone users in Japan aged between 10 and 19 years had Line accounts as of November 2015. That compared with slightly over 89% of male smartphone users of the same age in the same period. About 94% of Japanese smartphone users aged between 20 and 29 used Line. More than 90% of Japanese smartphone users have Line accounts.


Sources of revenue

Line generated over $1 billion in revenue in 2015 with about 33% of the revenue coming from abroad. Businesses targeting Line users can spend a minimum of $250 a month for promoted stickers. Brand advertising is only one way that Line monetizes its audience. Games and digital sticker purchases are others sources of revenue for Line. Games offered on Line can be played solo or by other Line users.

As of the beginning of 2016, more than 79% of female Line users were following a brand on the platform.


  1. WhatsApp boasts over 1 billion active users every month

WhatsApp is one of the Facebook-owned mobile properties and it boasts more than 1 billion monthly active users. Founded in 2009, WhatsApp’s popularity has mainly been fueled by the word of mouth. The app’s ease of use is another reason people naturally settle for it for messaging and voice and video calls. It is easy and convenient to add contacts to WhatsApp because it uses contacts in your phonebook. WhatsApp is available in 53 languages.


Facebook forked out nearly $21 billion to bring WhatsApp under its armpit. WhatsApp had just about 450 million monthly active users by the time Facebook took hold of it.


WhatsApp features and their usage

WhatsApp started out as a messaging app, but these days it does more. You can make voice and video calls through the app. People also use WhatsApp to share documents and photos. More than 42 billion messages are exchanged on WhatsApp daily. Users also share more than 1.6 billion photos through the app every day. About 250 million videos are also shared on WhatsApp daily.


Businesses are increasingly using WhatsApp for both internal communications (with employees) and external communications (directly with customers). WhatsApp also enables you to share location details using a digital map.

Why is WhatsApp popular? Scrapping of the $1 annual subscription has helped fuel the adoption of WhatsApp in many emerging and developing economies around the world. WhatsApp’s reach features and platform security are other reasons the app has become popular.


WhatsApp demographics

WhatsApp is most popular among young people and is particularly widely popular among people aged in the 25 and 34 age bracket.


WhatsApp usage by country

In Asia, Malaysia leads the pack with 75% of its Internet population using WhatsApp. Singapore, Hong Kong and India are not far behind, with 72%, 71% and 69% of their internet users on WhatsApp. Existence of native apps in China and Japan has greatly diminished WhatsApp’s penetration in those countries and may continue to impact its dominence as WeChat gains popularity outside of China.