Seven ways mobile messengers are more advanced than you think
Messengers are the new social media. They’re not limited to sending texts, photos and files anymore. Here are some hugely popular apps, mainly from Asia, that have been converted into full-fledged social media platforms. While we’re happy with what WhatsApp offers, let’s see what other apps are up to:
- Make payments
WeChat’s Payment service is extremely popular in China, and will be introduced in India as well. This service lets users directly buy products from e-commerce pages within the WeChat app. The app also lets you share products with friends seeking suggestions. Similarly, Line Pay also lets users make purchases via the Line Store. Moreover, Line users can also send money to others via the app. South Korean messenger app Kakao Talk provides the same service as well.
In the west, last November, Snapchat partnered with Square Cash to launched a feature called Snapcash. Snapcash lets you send money to friends’ bank accounts via its chat app. The payment process is very simple. Type `$’ and the amount you wish to send in text-chat, and the app understands that you want to send money. Tap `Send’, and the money is deposited to your friend’s account.
- Go shopping
After adding Mobile Payment, Chinese giant WeChat came up with its own e-commerce project. The project started with the Xiaomi smartphone flash sale, during which 150,000 smartphones were sold in less than 10 minutes. Following this, WeChat added support for brands to sell items or services inside the app.
Meanwhile, Line has just started selling a range of perishable and non-perishable goods via its app. Users can buy groceries and make payments via Line Pay. While there is a standalone shopping app called Line Shop (currently used in Thailand), Line has made the purchase possible now via its core chat app.
In December, WeChat tied-up with Foodpanda, an online food delivery marketplace, to make a food delivery service app.
- Book your cabs
While there are dedicated apps for this purpose, WeChat added this feature to its array of services. It became an instant hit in China and continues to be tremendously popular. Within the first nine days, 100,000 taxi rides were booked via WeChat. Tencent, the makers of WeChat, have invested in Didi Dache, a mobile-based taxi-hailing company, and integrated its service into the chat app for this purpose.
Even Facebook has been in talks with Uber to bring the taxi service to the popular Facebook Messenger app. Meanwhile, Japan’s LINE Corporation launched LINE Taxi service in Tokyo last month. While Line Taxi may not go global, it shows the direction in which messenger apps are heading.
- Read news
Again, WeChat has the upper hand in this. WeChat users in China receive subscribed news stories that can be consumed on WeChat’s in-app browser. As in the case of the Pocket app, users have the option to save articles for clutter-free reading.
With huge potential opening up, last week, Snapchat launched a new feature in its popular photo-messaging app. Called Discover, the feature enables users to get content from popular media houses such as CNN, Comedy Central, Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, ESPN and others. Following Snapchat’s general tendency towards the ephemeral, content on Discover remains only for 24 hours, making way for fresh content every day.
- Follow celebrities, brands
Viber, another hugely popular messaging app, launched its Public Chats feature last November. This feature lets users discover, share and follow live discussions from celebrities and brands across genres including entertainment, music, sports and others. While users can only view the content, a feature that enables comments is expected. You can follow Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, Anushka Sharma, Parineeti Chopra and Priyanka Chopra among others on the Viber Public Chats.
- Play games with friends
Gaming companies such as Angry Birds and Farm Villa became hugely popular through social gaming on Facebook. Along the same lines, messenger apps also allowed games within the apps and these turned out to be the favourite platforms for social gaming.
The Asian messenger apps such as WeChat, Line and Kakao are enormously popular in the social gaming arena. They let users download and play games within the messaging apps, alone or with chat friends.
- Chat with favourite brands
Kik Messenger, a popular chat app in the US and Europe, graduated from being just a messenger app when it launched its Promoted Chats feature. This feature allows users to connect and chat with their beloved brands directly. Currently, more than 25 brands in fashion, retail and music, as well as some non-profit organizations are using Kik to share photos, videos, games and special offers. The recent addition of a keyword-based response system included in the chat app helps users to easily find relevant information.
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