WhatsApp is the app on everyone’s minds after being acquired by Facebook for $19 billion. The chat app prides itself in its 450 million strong user base, as well for being free of games and advertisements. But that doesn’t mean WhatsApp doesn’t have any competition.
Raul Castanon-Martinez, senior analyst of cloud and mobile apps at Yankee Group, said that he doesn’t see the WhatsApp deal stopping more chat apps from popping up. “The large number of apps will probably continue, at least through 2014,” he told ABC News. However, for any of them to even be remotely successful, let alone get into Facebook’s or other tech giants’ graces, they need to offer more than just a simple chat client.
One of the ways that Castanon-Martinez said could set one app from the rest is the ability to directly appeal to a user’s niche needs. “There will be interest in [chat] apps that specialize in video creation and editing,” he said. “Like with pictures and Instagram, I think that video is next.”
Another way that chat apps can differentiate themselves is by appealing to the users who prioritize privacy above all else. “Google and Facebook haven’t done so well in terms of privacy,” said Castanon-Martinez. “There are apps like Confide, Wickr, and Priveo that play to that specific niche and make them up a good target for acquisition.”
But some of the most successful chat apps don’t focus on only one angle, instead incorporating multiple functions into a single app. Ben Bajarin, a principal analyst at Creative Strategies, said that WeChat, an app with a higher number of users in China, is much more than just a messaging platform. “You can shop, hail a cab, send money, play games…it’s not just messaging, but a huge platform,” he said.
Other apps including Line and KakaoTalk also boast a strong presence in Asia. While they could also help a company like Facebook or Google expand its international users numbers, Bajarin doesn’t see it likely that they’ll be acquired.
“Tencent is like the Google of China and it owns [WeChat] outright,” said Bajarin. Line and KakaoTalk also backed by major tech companies. “It’s hard to make a compelling case that they’ll need Google or Facebook to grow.”