BBM makes big impact while WhatsApp reigns

BBM makes big impact while WhatsApp reigns

27 NOV 2013

WhatsApp is the dominant ‘over-the-top’ social messaging app globally but the Android and iOS versions of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) are making rapid progress, according to mobile market research firm On Device. And Facebook is not the force it once was.

Of the 3,759 Android and iOS users surveyed in five major markets (Brazil, China, Indonesia, South Africa and the US), 44 per cent said they access WhatsApp at least once per week. This compared to 35 per cent for Facebook Messenger, 28 per cent for WeChat, 19 per cent for Twitter, 17 per cent for the Android and iOS versions of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and 16 per cent for Skype.

On Device claimed that 37 per cent of smartphone owners in Indonesia use BBM weekly, while 34 per cent do so in South Africa (13 per cent of US consumers make use of the service at least once every seven days). “BBM shows significant popularity” in these markets, stated the research firm, noting that the BBM app was only available to consumers three weeks before the survey was conducted.

Indeed, BBM for Android and iOS has quickly established itself in the messaging app hierarchy after launching for non-BlackBerry devices towards the end of October.

BBM’s position is likely to improve further following a deal with 12 Android handset makers to preload the service in the developing markets of Africa, India, Indonesia, Latin America and the Middle East.


The survey found WhatsApp was the leading messaging app in South Africa, Brazil and Indonesia. The service was used by 68 per cent of users in South Africa, compared with 47 per cent for Facebook Messenger and 34 per cent for BBM.

In Brazil, 72 per cent of users communicate with WhatsApp, compared to 49 per cent for Facebook Messenger and 30 per cent for Skype. WhatsApp’s lead was less significant in Indonesia where 43 per cent of respondent said they use it, compared to 37 per cent for BBM and 36 per cent for LINE.

WhatsApp was beaten to second place in the US by Facebook Messenger with 35 per cent of users, compared to Facebook’s 46 per cent. Twitter came in third, with 24 per cent of users. Indeed, Facebook Messenger leads only in the US.

“Facebook is the giant in social networking but WhatsApp has taken the lead in social messaging on mobile,” said On Device.

WhatsApp was closer to Facebook Messenger in the 16-24 year-old age group in the US, with 37 per cent of users compared to 40 per cent for the Facebook service. However, the gap was much bigger for those over the age of 45 — 51 per cent versus 22 per cent.

Snapchat was more significant for the youngest age group, with 20 per cent of 16-24 year-olds saying they used the picture sharing service at least once a week, compared to 3 per cent that were 25 or older. And, in total, across all demographics, more photos are now shared via Snapchat than Facebook (400 million every day compared to 350 million on Facebook).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, WhatsApp did not figure in the top three messaging apps in China, which was led by Tencent’s WeChat with 93 per cent of those surveyed using the service. WeChat was followed by Sina’s microblogging service Weibo (46 per cent) and Skype (6 per cent).

Levels of usage also varied across markets: 46 per cent of US respondents said they use over-the-top social messaging apps more than 10 times per day, compared with 61 per cent in China.

The research found that 58 per cent of users choose to use a range of apps because their friends are spread over different messaging app networks. Other reasons included making the most of different features (52 per cent) and using different apps for communicating with strangers (rather than friends) for purposes such as dating and commerce (12 per cent).

Indonesian users had the largest number of over-the-top messaging apps installed on their smartphones, with an average of 4.2 per user. This compared with 4.1 in South Africa, 2.6 in Brazil, 2.4 in China and 2.1 in the US.



Tim Ferguson

Tim joined Mobile World Live in August 2011 and works across all channels, with a particular focus on apps. He came to the GSMA with five years of tech journalism experience, having started his career as a reporter... More

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