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45pc of smartphone owners use OTT messaging apps: report

More than 45 percent of smartphone users take advantage of instant messaging and over-the-top messaging services in addition to using SMS, according to a new report from Analysys Mason.

The report, Consumer smartphone usage: voice and messaging trends, also found that OTT app WhatsApp Messenger is the first large-scale cross-platform messaging app, with nearly 20 percent of smartphone owners using it. The findings have implications for wireless carriers, who are seeing use of traditional telecom services wane, as well as for brands that leverage SMS for marketing purposes.

?The big news is the extent of IM messaging on smartphones was high across all markets,? said Stephen Sale, lead analyst for Analysys Mason, London. ?Also, a significant number of smartphone users use OTT apps as a primary voice service.

?SMS is still viable ? fragmentation in messaging underlines SMS?s role as the universal default platform,? he said. ?Only 1.7 percent of users didn?t use SMS.

?Of the users that downloaded WhatsApp during the study only 3 of 8 decreased their SMS usage.?

Changing habits
The report takes a look at how smartphones are changing communication habits, since many of the services that people use on PCs now coexist with services provided by wireless carriers on their phones. As a result, services such as instant messaging are brought into direct competition with telecom services.

Key findings include that OTT apps replace wireless carrier services in only a small number of cases, with only 1.7 percent of smartphone users using instant and over-the-top messaging without using SMS.

While WhatsApp Messenger is currently the most widely used messaging app, there are a growing number of other options and this fragmentation is could hinder full substitution of SMS.

However, the collective effect of messaging apps is having an impact on SMS usage, with the number of text messages sent per active user declining in some Western countries.

Wireless carriers have not done much to address the growing competition from IM and OTT messaging, according to the report.

The age factor
Other findings include that voice usage takes precedence during the working day, with traditional voice use trailing off in the evening. Instant messaging and social networking see a spike in use during the evening and nighttime.

The report also found that the cost of SMS and voice services can encourage consumers to use OTT messaging and mobile VoIP services. For example, in Spain, where the cost of SMS and voice services have been relatively high, one-third of smartphone users use mobile VoIP and 80 percent use IM or OTT messaging.

Additionally, there are differences in use of messaging apps by age but not so much for VoIP apps, which tend to have a more universal appeal.

More than 80 percent of smartphone users aged from 18 to 24 use the Facebook mobile app compared with 51 percent of those aged 45 or over. Similarly, most of WhatsApp Messenger?s users are under 35 years old.

Embracing VoIP
Smartphone owners are also embracing VoIP apps, with 20 percent using such an app at least once during the two-month period of the study. This number is expected to increase as smartphone adoption grows.

Additionally, the report found that half of the active users of VoIP spend 8 percent or less of their total call time using VoIP.

Some smartphone users are beginning to use VoIP apps as their primary voice services. Approximately 20 percent of VoIP users, or 4 percent of smartphone users, use mobile VoIP more than traditional voice services while 5 percent of VoIP users do not use traditional voice at all.

The danger for wireless carriers is that as more people use VoIP as their primary voice service, wireless carriers may be relegated to providing secondary voice services when users call outside of their core calling circle.

The report is based on how more than 1,000 smartphone users France, Germany, Spain, the UK and the United States use their smartphones.

Skype continues to dominate the VoIP market, with 79 percent of VoIP users using the service. The main challengers to Skype are Viber, fring and Google Talk.

?Marketers should consider adding OTT apps in the same way as you might get presence on Twitter or Facebook or whatever the next big thing is,? Mr. Sale said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York