A while back, my friend Jeremiah Owyang wrote his perception of the state of social to which I contributed. Decided I’ll add onto my blog as well.
Twitter: dumpster fire but central to US current events, news Facebook: where The Olds who ‘don’t get’ other social networks congregate to get attention, Asia’s LinkedIn, and others have an account for the sole purpose of Messenger (messenger.com via web) Messenger: communication utility (Skype / Hangouts replacement; the Westerner’s WeChat and Weibo — encrypted messaging and P2P payments? Yes please!) LinkedIn: depot of shameless self promoters and what NOT to do cues for teens and millennials professionally networking. I.E., Stay away from descriptors such as, but not limited, to: ‘futurist’, ‘keynote speaker’, ‘innovator’, ‘change agent’, etc., etc., Snapchat: dancing Hot Dog and awesome filters to cross post onto IG IG: branding tool for the non-olds (teens). Lifestyle diary for Millennials (food, beauty, fashion, etc.) Google+: Huh? What’s that??? Telegram: status symbol to show you’re ‘in the know’ about cryptocurrencies. Slack: quickly becoming the new email WhatsApp: where European Android users are LINE: only relevant to Thais and old Japanese people Ding Talk: where Chinese who don’t trust Weibo or WeChat conduct business
Social networks aside, my phone is the place I do the most internetting and boy has my homescreen changed a lot. Take a look:
The three apps on the bottom are apps most used: Twitter, brower, mail.
1. Apple’s mail app has been replaced by Outlook (yes, Microsoft Outlook) because Gmail loads the quickest plus the experience is much better. I can’t believe I’m saying this either but hey — it is what it is.
2. Safari has been replaced by Brave — which I wrote extensively about here.
Despite having 256gigs on my phone, I only have one page of apps. Mainly because I realized long ago I only use a handful on the daily. I also turn off the little red circles because they induce anxiety and helped me wean off my addiction. (Read about that journey here.)
Funny how things change!
Related: Snap Chat should be worried — check out this neat graph I found. 300M daily active users for Instagram stories! Amazing.
Most have now heard of Bitcoin because there is so much coverage of people getting ‘rich’ from Bitcoin. But the more I research, the more I realize: Not that many people know exactly what it is, how it applies to them, and why ‘Bitcoin’ is so valuable.
I put Bitcoin in quotes because Bitcoin only represents a sliver of the possibilities behind the fundamental reason Bitcoin, or cryptocurrency, digital assets, alt coins, and blockchain are so important. That said, disclaimer: If you’re here to learn how to instantly make money from ICOs, this post isn’t for you.
Let me back up a bit.
The rapid growth of the middle-class is the reason I choose to live in SEA but it also should be worrisome to the world for one reason: by 2030, it is projected that 2/3 of the world’s middle class population will be living in Asia.
I use the term Asia broadly, but these countries include, but not limited to: Asia-Pacific (Southeast Asia ie: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei), and of course, China, and India. (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)
What this implies is if 2/3 of the middle class population is based in Asia, the economic power will start shifting, new problems and solutions for these problems come alive. Or, as we commonly hear: disruption and innovation.
My interest in Bitcoin (or crypotcurrency and blockchain technology) simply started as a curious, technologically savvy person residing in this region, as crypoto is only one of the ‘disruptive’ or ‘innovative’ technologies deriving from quick change. Within the short 4.5 years I’ve moved from the States to ‘Asia’, I’ve seen with my own eyes, massive advances.
What does this mean?
I’ve been obsessed with messaging apps, anything mobile, and SEA — specifically how technology is changing economies in high-growth nations, driving innovation from need, reducing socio-economic inequalities, and the failures of first world nations to keep up. (This sounds like a bunch of jargon but whatever. Deal with it.)
Messaging apps that started as communication utilities are now full-blown ecosystems where billions of micro-transactions from communication (messaging), payments (cashless), to things that make daily life easier (food delivery, share economy, etc.) take place on a daily basis. And this is just the beginning.
In a region where things change on close to a daily basis, conversations about currency are naturally floating about because
according to the World Bank’s Global Financial Inclusion Database, over 2.5B adults in developing economies do not own bank accounts
and only 20% of those living in extreme poverty own bank accounts
And by 2020, there will be 1 billion new smartphone subscribers only in SEA. (source)
With the mobile penetration changes, our daily lives are impacted, as daily necessities are physically met through mobile technology. If you live in a first world, it may be hard to imagine a world where getting from point A to point B can take an entire day, since city infrastructures in developing nations aren’t designed to handle traffic and congestion. Imagine taking a day off to run simple errands, such as shopping, banking, and paying bills. Now, imagine not having a bank account because you can’t afford to pay banking fees or you don’t have a valid I.D., or worse: the nearest bank to your home requires a day trip.
In regions with pain points such as the above, the notion of currency that doesn’t require the middleman (banks) is the reason investors, bankers, and smart people in fin-tech find Bitcoin so alluring.
Put it this way: If we can make free calls between San Francisco and Beijing, why do we have to pay to transfer money from San Francisco to Beijing? If it takes all day to take out cash from my bank account, why won’t I leave it in a safe under my bed unless there’s a better option? In a world where middlemen can potentially take six paychecks worth of fees, why wouldn’t I find a way to cut out the middleman and directly transact?
These are only a few problems ‘Bitcoin’ or more accurately, cryptocurrency and blockchain technology can solve.
Do note, these are examples in high-growth nations to simply illustrate the promise of cryptocurrency, but there are a ton of first-world scenarios where the blockchain can innovate and disrupt that I’m looking to share in the upcoming months.
In the meantime, hope this post clarified what the fuss about Bitcoin is about.
Stay tuned for Part II: An Explanation of Blockchain for Non-Tech People
Edit: published! You can read it here.
People who live outside of Japan find it hard to believe when I tell them: YES, Japanese people still use flip-phones. And YES, they reside in Tokyo.
Flip-phone sightings happen daily but since I get asked the same questions a lot, I finally took photographic evidence.
This particular young gentleman was in his late to early 30’s, working on his Macbook Pro. He caught my eye because his Pro was up and running with connection, owned an iPhone (see photographic proof *points below)…
…yet he chose to e-mail from his dinosaur flip-phone.
I wish I was slick enough to take photos of him navigating the iPhone… he was like a 65 year old man using an iPad for the first time. He held his iPhone upwards, tightly gripped with his left hand. And he was typing with one finger — his right pointer finger to be precise — but the gestures OMG. He was basically stabbing the iPhone screen, tapping the screen so hard he had to grip with his left harder and harder. So exhausting to watch… and his poor, poor phone. I almost wanted to place him under Citizen’s Arrest for device abuse.
Anyway — this is only one of the many reasons I choose to be in Asia. Mobile habits and usage are similar to those of the US in 2007-08ish when consumer Internet just started getting disrupted.
TC just reported that LINE’s revenues have doubled YoY to $192m USD in Q3 2014. And just like that, LINE is back in the news again.
Since I seem to repeat the same answers to the same questions about LINE over and over, here is what I wrote in 2013 for TNW. The piece is about messaging apps but I go over all the basics of LINE. From history to adoption, features, business model, etc., this should cover any and all questions so it’s really, really, really long.
Enjoy — and feel free to ask any questions in the comments.
Line’s rise in Japan
Take the Line story, for example. Line, wasn’t an overnight success and there is good reason for that. Line’s biggest marketshare is in Japan. Japan’s smartphone market really began growing in 2011 — some four years after the US — and analysts have found a near-150 percent rise in smartphone adoption between 2011 and 2013.
Of the 127 million people in Japan, smartphone ownership finally passed 50 million users in August, but things are developing rapidly. Japan overtook the US as the biggest spenders on apps only this week, and the market is potentially hugely lucrative for makers of popular apps.
This market shift also affected Japan’s text-based communication.
Text-based communication in Japan is very different from the US and other parts of the world. Japanese telecoms have advanced emailing systems, where carrier-issued email addresses are attached to every mobile number. The email system functionally operates like SMS: simple, free and unlimited. SMS in Japan is charged per text, so before mass market smartphone adoption, text communication was done by keitai meru (cell phone mail).
With the rise of smartphones, apps quickly became popular. As users got used to beautiful, gesture-based UIs, text-based cell phone email no longer fulfilled their needs. That’s when Line started gaining serious traction. People go where their friends are and Line happened to be in the right place, at the right time.
Line changed Japanese mobile communication.
And it’s easy to see why people quickly adopted Line. An Internet connection gives users free unlimited voice calls, unlimited free messaging, unlimited instant photo sharing, group chats and video communication. The interface is cute and Line is very easy to use, but, most importantly, it offered a solution to the ‘pay for all and everything’ Japanese telecom model — and Line disrupted the Japanese mobile industry.
The WSJ had a nice piece breaking down the mega internet companies of the world — of course US leads the pack but Asian companies aren’t doing so shabby either. China is of course leading the ‘Asia’ pack due to sheer population volume. Seriously, file that under no shit Sherlock.
But there were some fun factoids:
45% of the world’s nearly 3 billion internet users are in Asia
WeChat (owned by Tencent) has about 440m users
Tencent’s profit margin in the second quarter was 32%, compared with 27% at Facebook and 21% at Google.
Tencent’s stock-market value is $148 billion, compared with Facebook’s $194 billion.
LINE (Japanese messaging app) had revenue of $323 million, 16 times the estimated revenue of WhatsApp.
…separately, it’s really funny how ‘tech journalists’ don’t seem to understand the products they are writing about. This particular author, said WeChat is WhatsApp’s rival. No. No. No. I can not say this enough times: they are two very different products. WhatsApp is a communication utility – a tool. WeChat is a full fledged platform, an ecosystem.
The author also calls LINE stickers ‘cutesy emoticons’ — which further highlights the lack of understanding of mobile behavior in Asia even after NYT wrote about it!! (Pretty embarrassing).
Oh well. I guess that’s why there is a need for someone like me or Jon Russell of TNW and a dedicated publication like TIA to pipe on about this region.
During conversations with one of my favorite VCs and separately, with one of my favorite tech bloggers, services I never heard of were brought up. I also learned a few things I’m just going to leave here — more like a note to self — before I forget.
Old age, the struggle is real.
Opera still has 300M MUAs.
Opera Mini (the mobile browser
– Indian users of the Opera Mini mobile browsers used 75% less mobile data in the first half of the year
– is compatible with over 3,000 mobile devices, dumb phones and smartphones
-works on basic Java to the latest Android and iOS platforms
Wow – who knew. It’s such a perfect browser for emerging nations where cost and access are barriers source
Random thought: I wish I was passionate about logistics. So much money and room for disruption there. Imagine “between x and y is z” (where x, y = time and z = service ex: delivery, internet, cable, food, etc) is non existent. Time is precise. Or in plain English, parcels will be dropped off and service rendered at exact times.
The solution would involve an algo that calculates most cost efficient delivery radius in a way that’s never been done before. Combine that with a notification app like Yo, that’s a billion dollar business right there. And I believe the solution will come out of Asia.
…this was my stance after the Apple announcements of iPhone 6, 6+, and the watch but all jokes aside, there is good reason Apple is the most valuable brand on the planet and simply “mind-blowing“.
Personally, the Watch does nothing for me. I would never own one. The app screen (points below)
triggers my trypophobia (yes, trypophobia is real) and the design is just outdated — totally 80s.
However, what Apple did with the watch, as well as all the iPhones after the 4, is create a problem then solved the problem for us. First world problem-ing in the highest order. Or in scientific terms: they tap into the last triangle of Maslo’s Hierarchy of Needs, by making us need things we didn’t know we needed.
This deep understanding of human behavior and finding ways to hook people with design and hardware is something very few companies can achieve. Apple consistently creates problems then seamlessly and elegantly solves them for us — truly, one of the most innovative companies of our time.
People say now, things like “why do we need payments on our wrists, when we can do them on our phones?” Or, “why would we need payments on our phones and wrists?” I say, just wait – people will start getting lazier because they’ll adopt to the convenience of phone functionalities on body parts (wearables) and soon, it’ll be the norm.
Think about it: everything about technology is creating and solving more convenient ways of living. Telephones, email, computers, laptops, mobile phones, smartphones, tablets… and the next: wearables.
With the Apple Watch, Apple is now giving us 1) predicted text so we don’t have to type. 2) a way to transact without the extra effort of pulling out our phones. 3) a new type of push-pull notification system in a way that no other product or software does.
Which to me, is the most exciting part of the Apple announcement – all personal thoughts about style aside. It’s a bit peculiar to me how a lot more people aren’t excited about that vs the new and shiny hardware.
To further reinforce the previous post on the mobile payment market, I came across a BI deck on the The Future of Mobile Payments.
1. Might be difficult for people in developed nations to digest, but in emerging nations, billions of people don’t have access to banks. Southeast Asia is leading the pack:
2. Global share of payment opportunities in these emerging markets are beyond ridiculous. YoY of MENA is the steadiest, while Southeast Asia and Latin America are predicted to steadily grow as well (granted, these numbers seem to be pulled from Cap Gemini — would be interesting to see Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and GS’ predictions)
3. And of course, global numbers of mobiles — billions of handsets, most still feature (flip phones or the ancient Nokias). What this means, is, citizens of emerging markets are reliant on capabilities away from smartphone apps we in developed markets are used to. Ex: M-Pesa is the first that comes to mind. Their major market share is Kenya, Tanzania and they are increasing efforts into Middle East (Afghanistan, South Africa, India and Eastern Europe, respectively).
Neat tid-bits I’m digesting with a grain of salt. The market can rapidly change, especially with the amount of funding going into Bitcoin ventures, the payment sector in developed nations is unpredictable. The question lies, would the trend trickle over to emerging markets? Distribution of wealth amongst emerging markets is also a factor (ex: even if Indonesia has highest GDP, population of <1% of the population are the only ones with purchasing power, would it make more sense for a startup to look at Thailand first, where spend per population is more evenly distributed?) And so on and so forth, there are still many, many questions.
Biggest takeaway though is how Southeast Asia is still up for grabs for payments. I really want to see young entrepreneurs beat Rocket Internet and SMART’s initiative in Southeast Asia. Exciting time to be in APAC and especially, SEA as technology is still very much in its infancy.
Leaving the US has opened my eyes to a lot of things, especially how the world outside of America operates. Because the iPhone isn’t as adopted in other parts of the world, there are many solutions to make communication between iOS and Android possible — which is why I became so fascinated with chat apps.
Then, I fell into the chat app rabbit hole and became obsessed with learning, using and following the big players outside of the US: WeChat, LINE, Kakao and WhatsApp. Which lead to learning about the different use cases and the reason I keep piping on about how SnapChat, WhatsApp, FB Messenger are not like WeChat, Line and Kakao. I also argue WeChat is in a league of its own. (If you’re interested, my messaging app series is here). Living in Asia, it’s easier to appreciate various ways people and cultures use their mobiles as I am an actual user vs. reading about use cases.
When I visited various Southeast Asian countries with Dave McClure’s Geeks on a Plane tour, my mind was blown. In countries still considered emerging nations ex: Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, the way phones are used are so different. Actually, everything is different. Most mobiles are pre-paid. Mobile internet connection is mostly 3G and the majority of the population still uses flip phones. I even saw old Nokia phones with the green, pixelated screens. Remember those? I was really good at Snake. Reading and researching about mobile, I was aware of the numbers but to actually see how low smartphone penetration actually was, is a moment I will never forget.
The biggest opportunity I see in emerging nations is how technology is solving dual objectives: social problems and monetization. And the biggest opportunity I see is in mobile payments. I’ve said it once and will probably keep repeating, that because WhatsApp has capabilities on flip phones and older phones, their biggest missed opportunity is moving from a communication utility into a full fledged platform.
I really wish I knew more about payments or was passionate about the topic enough to jump into creating a product. But I am, super excited to see who will be the first to solve across SE Asia.
qz really sums it up best:
At the end of April, nine mobile operators with 582 mobile connections across 48 countries in Africa and the Middle East committed to make their mobile money offerings work across their networks. With interoperability comes greater cohesion and opportunity for new services.
And the kicker:
If it’s done right, it could form the foundation of a whole new global financial-services industry. And the US and Europe will be far behind.
LOTS of opportunities in SEAsia.
To recap on LINE:
60% of LINE’s revenue came from the mobile games
LINE was the world’s top app publisher by monthly revenue
LINE Posts $143 Million In Revenue, Up 123% Year-Over-Year
$1.5mm USD revenue for user generated sticker marketplace
Granted, we may not see the same sorts of revenues from SEAsian countries, as most are developing nations and notorious for not spending (ex Path is Indonesia’s largest market, yet they never boast revenues or lack thereof).
The next few years will be fun to watch as chat apps mature and become more dominant.
(Sources 1,2,3, image via here)
Wow — I knew messaging apps are huge in Japan but it still astounds me to see numbers.
43.3% of those in the sample pool use LINE professionally.
29.6% use Facebook as a professional communication tool.
Skype is 12%
Followed by LinkedIn, Viber, communicator.
I guess as Hiroko Tabuchi of the NYT reported: “It’s just easier when a bear says it.”
*above stats provided by MMD — a Mobile Marketing Data Labo, a research company in Japan.
Japan app store is expanding faster than expected, especially for apps outside the top 3-5.
by Mar 2015, a #10 ranked game will earn ¥1.7bn/m, which is the same as #2 earned in Nov 2013
State of mobile in Japan:
Japan has 10x the USA’s population density, used to spending with carrier (payment) settlement since the 90’s (with iMode)
over 30% of households are one-person == spend more on entertainment vs family
Innovation has come to a halt in Japan and indeed on the surface it may seem that way as Japan has always been known for their hardware: Sony and Nintendo the two leaders at the helm.
However the Japanese people are still spending and looking to spend. They are the users and ultimately, paying customers, even if Japanese companies like Sony and Nintendo fail to deliver ‘innovation’.
Isn’t spend more important than who or what is actually delivering?
When I see figures like these:
non-Japanese companies listed in Japan
1991 = 127
2014 = 21
I can’t help but to be baffled. I get the allure of the BRIC countries but China and India are such unique markets with distinct ecosystems. Why wouldn’t a company want to come to a country with consumers who are looking to spend?
One thing is for sure — like I keep repeating — the world is not going to know what hit them when Japan’s smartphone market finally matures and the numbers that will come out of this country will blow people’s minds.
There is still massive opportunity in this country and one of the biggest reasons I am here.
*above from Japan/Korea Market and Japan App Store Macquarie Research reports unavailable to public.
Listed companies in Japan via The FT
I spent the past week reading forecasts and reports from Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche, etc., etc.
It sounds a bit boring but really not. It was actually fun to read, consume, compare and contrast the different reports.
Deutsche’s chart of messaging apps used in Brazil, Russia, China, South Korea, Japan and the US.
Cross referenced with AppAnnie’s spend by country chart tells us:
S. Korea consumes and spends on content. Kakao Talk’s success is likely due to that ecosystem.
Japan leads in gaming, explaining the success of gaming companies as Capcom, DeNA, Gree, et al., and the reason the Japanese spend the most in both Google Play and iOS stores. Also explains success of LINE
US has wide range of content spend but the US is a distinct market from the rest of the world with different economical factors.
This chart also from App Annie interests me more, as it shows spend vs device:
I agree with Goldman Sachs, stating BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are 3-5 years away from global scaling and spending.
South Korea, with the highest spend and technological advancements, is like China where the ecosystems are so tightly intertwined it’s a tough market to penetrate. Fun to watch, but just like China, certain models and strategies cannot be emulated because of the reliance on proprietary strong holds.
For people looking to enter markets, Japan, UK and US are the likely bets. Or at least if I were a VC, that’s where I’d be placing bets.
Still digesting but as my thoughts parse, I will be sharing.
WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram and Snapchat are not like WeChat, LINE and KakaoTalk.
I’ve written about LINE and KakaoTalk but now it’s time to intro the last player – WeChat. WeChat is not – I repeat NOT anything like WhatsApp or Viber.
Aside from multi-media communication capabilities: photos, video, walkie-talkie and broadcast features, in August of 2013, WeChat completely overhauled their product with v5.1 to add a bunch of new features and functions.
They keep differentiating themselves from the rest of the chat apps and this is why:
P2P (peer to peer) and O2O (offline-online) core strategy aside from games <– HUGE
multiple monetization streams
WeChat Payments connects bank card to WeChat account so users can make payments in-app. Users can make transactions happen through 1. payments to WeChat authorized partner retailers 2. P2P (peer to peer) or in plain English other WeChat users – example: users can send one person a specified amount, or send money to a group and divide the lump sum among a group of friends. If I had a penny for every time I’ve had issues with group payments where one person pays too much, too little I’d have about four extra iPhones sitting around. Or think about that one person who never has cash, etc., etc. WeChat group payments is the perfect resolution for group events / activities.
O2O / P2P Commerce
WeChat also partnered with sites and services – whether through acquisitions or buying a stake in the company – doing flash sales or becoming the preferred payment partner. To date, DianPing – China’s answer to Yelp, with a Groupon type group buying feature DianPing also offers coupons and discounts and users can even order food for delivery – is one of the most notable.
The other is Didi Dache – China’s Uber – where users can order a taxi and make payments, all in-app. Since forming the partnership in Jan., WeChat reports
21mm cab rides have been booked via WeChat
700k daily bookings via WeChat
Didi Dache and WeChat also pay cab drivers bonuses when the drivers use their services vs a competitor
WeChat also aggressively positions themselves as the entry point for global brands who want to reach China’s youths. Most recently, Vivienne Tam and WeChat collaborated to bring NYFW (NY Fashion Week) to WeChat users.
They’ve also done campaigns with Mc Donald’s, Starbucks, Burberry, Pepsi and Maybelline – bottom line, they are making money becoming a payment solution and by advertising as well.
Another monetization channel through partnerships is content. WeChat and Chinese media outlets bring news and entertainment to users. However, instead of solely bringing content into the app like Flipboard or Facebook’s Paper, they have their media partners build proprietary micro-sites into WeChat with proprietary URLs ie: mp.weixin.qq/majorchinesenetwork and charge users subscription fees.
They’ve also ventured into streaming video, launching a standalone TV with CNTV (major Chinese tv network).
If you think that’s all, they are also China’s small business e/m-commerce solution (like Etsy or even Amazon).
Small business accounts are
free to create — fee is dependent on level of API customization and how much a business wants to integrate their products and services into WeChat
transactions are conducted inside WeChat — which leads to increased time spent inside app
bar-code scanner capabilities so people can scan a bar code in a store of something they see and shop for it online for example
built in loyalty cards and point card systems
Major brands and retailers to even a college student with a fruit stand can buy and sell on WeChat – that’s how simple it is.
WeChat states they have 300mm active users per month and YoY growth of 124% (note: these numbers are before the Red Envelope campaign that reportedly activated 20mm transactions within 9 days and announcement of all their partnerships).
WeChat is not fucking around.
I’m sure there are so many more features and functions, products and services I may be missing. This is information I gathered through English sources (FT, Economist, WSJ, Techcrunch, The Next Web, Tech in Asia and some random Chinese sites I ran through Google Translate) but even if I don’t know all the details, it’s pretty clear they are one step above the rest of the chat app herd.
One can argue their success is due to the uniqueness of the Chinese market and how the economy is intertwined by a select few and with the government, but strip away all that noise and look at WeChat as a product. They are still several steps ahead of the rest — even LINE, that I am a massive fan of.
I don’t think America still understands how big chat apps are in Asia and that’s ok. Like I keep saying, the US is email, iPhone (iMessage), SMS and Facebook Messenger reliant.
In Asia, it costs money to SMS. It costs money to make phone calls. Not as much as Europe maybe, but it still adds up. The US may be the only country where SMS and voice are flat fee, unlimited.
Because we are charged by telecos, chat apps have become a solution to avoid fees for something basic and ubiquitous as communication.
In Asia we are so chat app reliant, my personal and even work emails have been reduced by at least 85%. The only people who actually email are my American friends and colleagues.
Because I stopped relying on email as my main form of communication, I now see what a massive burden email is and how much of my time email dictated.
Chat apps don’t restrict texts with character counts, but because of the context of the core products (real-time interactions, short mail, instant messaging like features and functions), it cuts out a lot of unnecessary bullshit and people just get straight down to the point.
Granted, this is only from my experience and doing business with the Japanese, but I much prefer interacting with colleagues on LINE or company approved Viber as we communicate more efficiently. (Quick contextual background: the Japanese language has four different ways of speech, two honorifics. The honorifics require buffer language — a lot of set phrases before getting to the point. Chat apps tend to cut all that out.)
Aside from the communication utility, chat apps in Asia are evolving from tools to full fledged platforms. I keep repeating this but it’s almost necessary, as there are people still comparing WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram and Snapchat to LINE, WeChat and KakaoTalk. WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram and Snapchat are used for communication only. With LINE, WeChat and KakaoTalk usres can text, call, video chat, edit photos, play games, get coupons/discounts… and now WeChat allows their users to shop. In their app. Asian chat apps are more than chat apps, they are turning into ecosystems.
The Asia chat app market is truly something else but I think one has to live in China, Korea or Japan to experience the phenomenon for themselves. At least for me that was the case. In a mere six months chat apps have completely changed the way I communicate and also purchase via mobile.
God, I love technology and I love being in Asia seeing, breathing and living the evolving products and market.
So basically, Facebook just bought a telephone company.
But I’m still wondering what is going to happen when messaging apps fully evolve to multi-faceted platforms (gaming, commerce, communication tools); basically the ‘what’s next‘. WhatsApp is going to be left behind.
There is a piece on All Things D about WhatsApp’s CEO calling out other messaging apps and their “bullshit metrics”.
“We want to steer the conversation to be about active users, not registered users,” said WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum. “We’re a bit fed up and frustrated about people talking about registered users. We think it’s important for us as a leader in the space to speak up and be ethical.”
…the CEO, Jan Koum says.
In a competitive space as messaging apps, it’s no longer just about mass adoption. WhatsApp is the most adopted in markets where users do not spend.
These charts basically speak for themselves. Their pay-per-dowload and one dollar annual fee is cute, compared to the business oriented players as Line, KakaoTalk and WeChat.
Japan is an odd land where things are so advanced yet it can be backwards. Several times, I’ve been asked to fax my e-mail address, which sums up how ass backwards this country can be.
Back when Americans thought the Nokia 8890 was a status symbol, Japanese users were flashing their fancy flip phones (feature phones, as we call them here) with stunning color screens, amazing motion graphics and incredible audio speakers. Aside from basic phone functions, people browsed the Internet. Listened to music. Played games. Even watched TV on flip phones. I remember each Tokyo visit in the late 90’s-early 2000’s, looking down at my pixelated turtle-colored Nokia screen and thinking: wow, Japan is the future.
Fast forward to 2013 and that’s no longer the case. At least with mobile phones.
If you think Google is evil and Apple is too Draconian, they have nothing on Japanese telecoms. Japan is dominated by three major mobile carriers: NTT Docomo the Japanese equivalent of Verizon. au/KDDI which is closest to AT&T and SoftBank that would be T-Mobile, since they are the newest player in Japanese telecom.
Docomo and KDDI dictated the mobile landscape for years. I say that lightly but in a country that is mobile-centric, controlling mobile is controlling most of Japanese tech. Telecoms maintained closed market places, ensured software was proprietary, steered hardware movement, had a grip on the content space eg: ringtones, wallpapers, video, music, and even managed email.
When the iPhone arrived to Japan in 2008, it basically turned the market upside down.
SoftBank — the youngest carrier of the three — took a gamble and was the only telecom in Japan to carry the iPhone. au/KDDI woke up three years later following SoftBank’s lead in 2011. Docomo, the most dominant carrier in Japan, refused to carry the iPhone until the 5s. Yes, the 5s in September of this year. They tried to sustain their old world order. They ignored the iPhone. They pretended a market shift wasn’t happening and refused to accept the change of consumer needs until the last possible minute.
Docomo’s stubbornness didn’t seem too tragic in 2008, yet five years later, their dominance of Japanese marketshare isn’t as prominent as it once was. At a total of 62 million subscribers, they are still the leading carrier but SoftBank’s growth rate is incredible.
In only five years, they doubled their subscribers, a 78.69% subscriber difference. This number is insane.[source]
This is only the beginning for the Japanese mobile industry and boy, am I glad I am here.
Their new features are only part of the reason LINE differentiates themselves from the other messaging apps. They are truly, the leader in this space when it comes to long-term product and business strategies. Man, they are so smart.
The one thing that really blows my mind is how the iOS app is so much crappier compared to the Android app.
I only user banner notifications for apps because the little red circles drive me batty. Before, the banner notifications used to tell me who sent a message with a preview.
After the update:
What is ‘MT’? Manual Transmission?? More Text??? Mt. Fuji???? Margaret Thatcher?????
This just makes no sense.
Hoping it was a bug, I switched the notifications to alert style and…
Ummmm same thing. I really wonder what MT means.
Check out the notification for the Android though:
I don’t understand the thinking behind the iOS notifications but that’s neither here nor there. This only goes to show the dominance of Android over iOS in Asia, and how more emphasis is placed on developing on the former than latter.
Living in Asia makes me really want to switch to Android.