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OnDeviceResearch-Most-Popular-Social-Messaging-Apps-Dec2013Smartphone owners across 5 markets – the US, Brazil, China, South Africa and Indonesia – are more likely to be using social messaging applications on a daily basis than making voice calls, sending texts and emailing, finds On Device Research in a recent study. The survey indicates that while Facebook Messenger is the top social messaging app among Android and iOS smartphone owners in the US, youth are gravitating towards WhatsApp, which leads the popularity contest across the 5-country average.

On average, 44% of respondents across the 5 countries claimed to use WhatsApp at least once a week, ahead of the 35% using Facebook Messenger with that regularity. WeChat (28%) was next, followed by Twitter (19%), BlackBerry Messenger (BBM; 17%) and Skype (16%).

The survey results find significant regional disparities in app use, though. Not surprisingly, WeChat rules in China (93%), while Facebook Messenger (46%) is tops in the US. WhatsApp has the most regular users in the other 3 markets, per the study. Within the US, Facebook Messenger’s lead over WhatsApp is slim among 16-24-year-old respondents (40% and 37%, respectively), but grows among older respondents to a ~30%-point lead among the over-45 crowd (51% and 22%, respectively).

The study also finds a surprising level of popularity for BBM in Indonesia and South Africa, with 37% and 34% of iOS and Android smartphone owners, respectively, claiming to use the app at least once a week. That aligns with recent survey results from Distimo, as reported by Forbes, which showed BBM (36%) rivaling WhatsApp (38%) in iOS download volume share in South Africa during the study period (October 21-November 21). The Distimo study – which ranked Snapchat, BBM, WhatsApp, Kik and Viber in download volume – found BBM (24%) to be quite relevant in the US also, behind only Snapchat (32%), while accounting for a plurality of downloads in the UK (34%) and India (38%).

Another area of regional differences lies in the average number of apps installed. The On Device Research study indicates that respondents in the US have the smallest average number of social messaging apps installed (2.1), with smartphone owners in Indonesia (4.2) and South Africa (4.1) at about twice that number.

Asked why they use different messaging apps, 58% of respondents across the 5 countries said that it was because different friends use different apps, while 52% cited the different features offered by the various apps. Interestingly, while different friends using different apps was the top reason among respondents in the US and South Africa, those in Indonesia and China were more inclined to attribute their use of different apps to the different features offered.

Other Findings:

  • Within the US, a slightly greater proportion of respondents said they make voice calls at least daily (75%) than use social messaging apps (72%) with that frequency. The US was the only market measured where more smartphone owners make voice calls daily than use messaging apps.
  • 1 in 5 US smartphone owners aged 16-24 said they use Snapchat, compared to 3% aged 25 and older. The demographics of Snapchat users – as measured by Pew – can be found here.
  • About three-quarters of US respondents said they use stickers/emoji in messaging apps. 1 in 5 sticker-users across the 5 countries (14% in the US) claim to have ever paid for them.

About the Data: The On Device Research data is derived from a survey of 3,759 smartphone owners across the 5 markets.

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