If you’ve been following the tech news regularly, you’ll surely have learned that 2012 was a great year for mobile instant messaging. The so-called “SMS killers” broke into the mainstream and are now being installed in platforms and devices of all colors and brands by the millions. In fact and regardless if you already knew that, it’s highly likely you are already using one of them and the probabilities are that you’re using one of the two most used alternatives: either Whatsapp or LINE.
There’s a reason why I can assume you’re using one of them: they’re insanely popular. Actually, Whatsapp was the main responsible for popularizing the mobile IM apps in the first place, which explains why it’s the most widely used app in mobile communications. Some months after such tool took the market by storm, a Japanese-based company called Naver presented LINE, its own IM app which sought to profit from the market Whatsapp had created.
Quickly, LINE positioned itself among the best alternatives to Whatsapp until ultimately becoming THE alternative. Thus, its userbase grew slowly but steadily to become the main competitor for the leading solution. So, it’s safe to assume that most mobile instant messaging users are using either one of them. However, as days pass and companies do their best to grasp a fair share of the market, it’s highly likely that most of those users will end up using LINE exclusively.
The app has grown since its release and there are no signs for it to stop increasing the number of users. Therefore, Whatsapp is being put aside in favor of LINE in which seems like a process that won’t be reverted unless the developers of the former apply some radical changes to their app. Why it’s that happening? Let’s see some of the key points to understand why.
LINE understands the market (and acts accordingly)
Think about this before anything else: why Whatsapp, an app that had almost invented a market in the mobile world and held most of its total users, was surpassed by an unknown tool coming from an unknown company? Probably you’d say “they screwed up”. And they did. Whatsapp offered free texts over your Internet connection, a very appealing if you ask me. However, the app didn’t offer much else and though many people saw it as the perfect alternative to SMS, there was enough room to improve.
That’s precisely what LINE did. Naver took what already been available in Whatsapp and took it to the next level by adding a few instant-messaging basics. Stickers were one of the cleverest additions (people love to send tiny and funny-looking faces) but providing free voice calls was the master blow. Soon, everyone knew there were a more complete alternative that offered some features that we grew accustomed thanks to our experience with Windows messengers.
Naver understood that the very same market that flooded Whatsapp servers would surely love something extra. So, the included such features into LINE and went even further: they released the IM app for free. From that point on, the app was destined to grow and grow it did.
Complementary tools for an expanded offer
Another reason why LINE became so huge is because Naver offered some complementary apps to expand the app’s basic offer. In this way, several games with a heavy focus on socialization became inseparable partners to the IM. Additionally, utilities such as LINE Camera and LINE Card also add something new to the formula, especially in the multimedia department.
The best thing about these tools is that they aren’t mandatory, they aren’t essential and they aren’t integrated into LINE: they exist independently and they can work with or without LINE. Thus, Naver has built a set of tools that provide lots of features and possibilities and which obviously work a lot better when they are integrated.
A quick adaptation
Finally, one of the best things we can say about Naver is how quick they are in adapting LINE to the users’ needs. This is probably the main reason why the app will become the most used IM app in mobile platforms: they are always working to improve the app and give users what they want. Compare that to Whatsapp indifference and almost reluctance to add new features or even provide a stronger security, and you’ll understand why I say 2013 is LINE’s year.
Because, if you have two alternatives and one of them is restrictive, limited, paid and has privacy concerns while the other is free, has complementary tools and it has a growing userbcase, who are you going to pick? It isn’t that difficult to understand why LINE will become the most used IM app given how things are now, that’s why Whatsapp needs to step up or live to see how its pioneering features are tread upon by a more complete alternative.