CHART: How the East and West use messaging apps differently

Photo: Shutterstock

There is a big difference in the way messaging apps are used in the West, compared to the East, according to the latest App Annie report.

While users spend about the same amount of time in the apps wherever they are from, the disparity between the amount of times they use one is huge. Asian users hit the messaging apps about twice as much as users in Europe and English-speaking countries.

While on the surface it looks like smartphone users in Asia just use them more, it also illustrates a big difference in how they’re utilised – and the functionality.

The apps popular in Asia look a whole lot different to those preferred in the West.

From a Western point of view, one of the biggest internet trends has been unbundling – as Netflix and sports leagues offer services directly that were originally bundled by cable providers, and Fintech startups make individual offerings take on the banks etc.

That’s reflected in the West’s favourite messaging apps – Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Viber are focused on one thing – communication. This is slowly changing as companies explore new ways to monetise, but you still don’t order pizza through Snapchat, a taxi with Viber or buy stocks with Facebook Messenger.

In Asia, however, and China particularly, apps are going the opposite direction, bundling many different services into one. WeChat, the extremely popular messaging app created by Chinese giant Tencent, for example, has turned into a platform with more than 10 million third party apps.

Unlike its Western competitor, Facebook – both have around 600 million users – Wechat is commonly used to pay bills, make appointments, hail cabs and check the news. Other popular Chinese message apps allow for the trading of second-hand goods, taking out loans and playing games.

Facebook is starting to go the way of WeChat with its messenger, including call and map functions into the app. But App Annie doesn’t see this reaching the scale of functions provided by Asian apps.

“We believe the East-West divide is largely a result of deep-rooted cultural differences. Consequently, we expect the average sessions per user of leading messaging apps in Western markets to go up incrementally, but continue to trail those in Asia,” the App Annie report says.

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