WhatsApp – Global phenomenon sidestepping America. But why?

WhatsApp, the social media platform that brings both work and play together. And with over a billion users worldwide, it’s making incredible inroads. But not in America according to Coolfidence’s Brendan Jack. And it may surprise as he discovers that SMS is a legacy brand, whereas WhatsApp is perceived to be an unnecessary third party service. But what it also highlights is the potential for Facebook’s $19 billion purchase if they can crack the US market. – Stuart Lowman

by Brendan Jack*

WhatsApp has more than a billion worldwide users, but most of them aren’t in America. Why is that?

Brendan Jack
Brendan Jack

With the social media explosion, everyone’s become a communication machine, even if it happens to be with auto-responding bots on Twitter. But not everyone wants to post everything to everyone, sometimes you’ve got to keep it discrete, as we explored in Instant messaging: WhatsApp with that?

WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in the world, used by an estimated 55.6 percent of the world’s countries. Over 70 million users in India alone. Brazil, Mexico, Russia and Africa are also massive WhatsApp adopters. (No, Africa isn’t a country.) So why isn’t the US jumping onto a winning instant messaging app?

It provides a lot more than just traditional text messaging, such as seamless photo and video sharing, voice recordings, internet calls and more. WhatsApp messages get sent via the Internet, so they’re basically free over Wi-Fi and doesn’t deplete your data limit. Whereas text messages get sent over the telephone network, who aren’t afraid to charge.

So why the Disconnect?

The biggest reason seems to be a great diversity of competitive mobile operating platforms, offering bundled flat-rate packages on SMS and MMS at a much lower cost than countries outside of the US. In the US, MMS messages are still part of the unlimited text messages included with your plan. WhatsApp’s cost effectiveness perhaps doesn’t provide enough reason for Americans to switch.

In other countries with less resources and higher data costs, the population have to get creative to save money. The rest of the world seem to have been drawn to WhatsApp as a cost efficient and user-friendly workaround. This also includes other options such as Skype, Telegram, Viber, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, iMessage and Kik.

Picture courtesy of Twitter

The day Whatsapp started offering phone calls was a major milestone in communication for many. Before this it was overly expensive to call internationally. You sometimes had to wait until you flew home to find out whether your newborn was a boy or girl. Now we have almost free group calls linking all corners of the planet.

And why not, we should all be able to communicate freely. Or at least at an affordable cost. (Let’s not get started on local data pricing.)

No Place Like Home

To end off on a generalisation, America is fairly insular. They often don’t need to look beyond their borders to communicate with foreigners. (Unless you’re a US swimmer in Rio who just faked being robbed, or perhaps accidentally got locked out of America by Trump’s Mexican wall.)

Until Americans have to call or text friends in Europe and see what they get charged, then IP-based messaging services start making a lot more sense and cents. It would be interesting to see the stats on Americans who travel internationally. Do they use Whatsapp more than those who prefer chilling Stateside?

Summing Up

SMS is a legacy brand in the States, whereas WhatsApp appears to be perceived as an unnecessary third party messaging service. All while the rest of the world gets chatting on the number one ranked messaging app. But the more America joins the world community, the more they’ll need WhatsApp to do it. As Facebook must have realised before spending $19 Billion dollars to acquire it.

  • Brendan Jack is one of the team members at Coolfidence. Filmmaking, comedy, marketing, writing, his fondness is for all of them. Stories seem to be his common thread, engaging people’s minds and eyeballs. Whether you’re a stranger or friend, stories and ideas connect. From the mundane to the fantastical, all ideas are welcome to be discussed at his corner table next to those old leather couches.
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