By Anne Collier
You know that texting doesn’t just happen on phones, right? Kids can (and do) download a free texting app to any wi-fi-enabled device – iPod Touches, iPads, Android tablets, etc. – and text with their friends for hours without racking up any Verizon, AT&T or other mobile carriers’ charges. For the same reason that they’re popular in countries where SMS, or text messaging, costs a lot, they’re popular with kids who don’t want their parents to worry about their texting (at least in the US, that’s as much a time-away-from-homework concern as much as a financial one). It’s a great workaround for people who don’t have “real texting” yet.
What looks to be the No. 1 such app in the world, WhatsApp, is definitely “now the No.1 app in all countries starting with an S, except Sao Tome, Seychelles, Slovenia and the Solomon Islands,” BGR.com reports. It rules, for example, in “Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, St. Kitts, Sweden and Swaziland” and – as of August – alone delivers 10 billion text messages a day, according to another BGR post. The Apple App store doesn’t rank apps by numbers of downloads, but the Android app store (Google Play) does, so I can tell you that WhatsApp has been downloaded there 1.6 million times (as of this writing). The next ones down in the top 5 texting apps for Android are KakaoTalk (from Korea), at 1.0 million downloads, LINE (from Japan) at 343,000, WeChat (84,300), and TextPlus (68,000). All are also available for iPod Touches, iPads, iPhones, etc. But WhatsApp alone has become a major threat to the Netherlands’ main mobile carrier KPN, which publicly cited it as “one major reason for the Dutch decline in [the carrier’s] text-messaging volumes,” according to BGR. In late July, the carrier “reported another grim quarter and slashed its dividend from €0.50 to €0.35.” BGR adds that KPN had “kept SMS pricing higher than most European markets,” which is why WhatsApp was an “overnight success” there. What makes the app especially appealing? Group messaging (as opposed to just two people texting back and forth) and file transfer features (for sending and receiving video clips, photos, tunes, etc.).