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What's the Hot New App for Smartphone Users?

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October 08, 2012

What's the Hot New App for Smartphone Users?

By Tony Rizzo, TMCnet Senior Editor

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the single hottest app in the Asia-Pac community, which happens to be instant messaging (IM). Turns out, however, that IM -- as well as its close cousin "over the top" (OTT) messaging -- is also catching on bit time in most other places as well, as a newly released Analysys (News - Alert) Mason report details.

The report, "Consumer Smartphone Usage: Voice and Messaging Trends," has unearthed that in today's current market more than 45 percent of smartphone users now take advantage of either IM or OTT, either in addition to or as a replacement for tried and true traditional text and multimedia messaging (SMS/MMS). The new report digs into the current state of consumer voice and messaging trends and also takes a look at the use of VoIP-based applications, which a hefty 20 percent of the consumers who participated in the research now claim to use more than they use traditional voice services from the wireline communications vendors.

This newest Analysys Mason report is the most recent in a series of consumer smartphone usage reports the company has generated. All of the Analysis Mason reports are based Arbitron Mobile’s passive on-device monitoring app. For the purposes of the report, the company monitored more than a thousand smartphone users in France, Germany, Spain, the UK and the United States over the span of two months. The report overall focuses on uncovering how consumers put use their smartphones to use on a daily basis, particularly around data generation, disruptive services, app usage and mobile content integration.

According to the Analysys Mason report it turns out that WhatsApp Messenger is the first large-scale cross-platform messaging app, with just about 20 percent of the panelists using it during the two-month observation period. “The relative fragmentation of the messaging market (compared to, for example, Skype’s (News - Alert) dominance of the VoIP market) will still continue to hinder full substitution,” explains Stephen Sale, co-author of the report and lead analyst for Analysys Mason’s Voice and Messaging research program. “However, while the messaging market is fragmented, the collective effect is having an impact on SMS usage; the number of text messages sent per active user is already declining in some Western countries.”

Skype continues to dominate the VoIP market; 79 percent of VoIP users (16 percent of all panelists) used the service, essentially making it the default VoIP provider. Skype does have challengers, key among them Viber, fring and Google (News - Alert) Talk - but compared to Skype use they -- including Google -- are highly marginalized, and only 5 percent, 0.8 percent and 0.6 percent of panelists respectively.

When the research is cross-tabbed by user age, the report demonstrates that mobile VoIP apps actually have universal appeal, whereas other apps, such as Facebook (News - Alert) or WhatsApp Messenger, do not. The percentage of those who use mobile VoIP apps only varied by 3 percentage points across every age category. This is primarily due to the fact that voice is an established medium, and Skype is recognized as a true inter-generational communications medium on the desktop PC. By contrast, over 80 percent of smartphone users between the ages of 18 and 24 use Facebook on their mobile devices compared with 51 percent of those 45 or older. The report notes a similar trend for WhatsApp Messenger – most of its users are aged under 35.

At 21 percent, mobile VoIP services are more popular among men than women, where only 16 percent reported using the services. This is the only communications platform that is more popular with males than females however. Social networking apps are used by 8 percent more women than men, e-mail is used by 4 percent more women, and 2 percent more women make voice calls.

Will VoIP Kill Off Traditional Voice Services?

The report found that roughly 20 percent of the study group's VoIP users -- just about 4 percent of all panelists -- now use mobile VoIP more than they use traditional voice services. Should operators be alarmed by this? Not any time soon, however.

“As more people use VoIP as their primary voice service, the danger for mobile operators is that they may become relegated to providing secondary voice services, picking up the 30 percent or 40 percent of call traffic generated by users when contacting people who are outside their core calling circle,” added Sale. “If this occurs widely, operators’ roles will be marginalized.” This is inevitable over the long term of course and not something operators will be able to avoid. Operators need to figure out how they will fill in revenue as traditional voice services disappear, through there is plenty of time for them to do so.

It is noteworthy that the report also uncovered that the price of mobile operators’ core services will affect the rate of adoption of OTT services depending on which country users reside in. Spain is a good example of this - the historically high cost of SMS and voice services there has driven consumers to use OTT messaging and mobile VoIP services to a much higher degree than in other countries. A third of the research panelists in Spain use mobile VoIP and 80 percent use IM or OTT messaging -- much higher numbers than other countries evaluated for the report.

Overall, the report doesn't uncover anything we may have not already suspected to be the case, or that would evolve to be the case. Still, it is interesting to note that there is movement here, and that though not as robust a move as we've reported for the Asia-Pac market, it is never the less happening. And it will continue to do so.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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