With people stuck at home throughout the year, and with most only able to communicate with loved ones through a screen, it would make sense that mobile messaging usage figures would reach new highs. We can only expect these figures to rise further when the second batch of lockdowns kicks in. With some saying that the earliest we can expect a vaccine in is around mid-2021, it seems we’re going to have to contend with instant messaging for communication for the foreseeable future.
With that in mind, let’s look at the top mobile messenger apps dominating the world in 2020, according to findings by Statista.
1. WhatsApp – 2 billion
Immensely popular messaging app WhatsApp continues to dominate the world, coming in at first place with over 2 billion monthly active users. Acquired by social media giant Facebook in 2014 for a hefty $19 billion, the app was already a strong independent force in the market, eclipsing the previously popular Blackberry Messenger (BBM) platform by introducing an OS-neutral messaging app. When it started to impose on Facebook’s territory, Zuckerberg gave it his usual treatment: a buyout.
Now, as part of the Facebook family of apps, it leads the world in mobile messaging.
2. Facebook Messenger – 1.3 billionThere’s a discussion to be had about whether WhatsApp could’ve reached the highs it did if it weren’t for Facebook’s support. Given its previous trajectory, I personally surmise that WhatsApp was already doing great things to begin with, and was destined for greatness regardless. Still, Facebook’s own Messenger app finds itself coming in second to WhatsApp. It’s clear that Zuckerberg was right to purchase the company that even his own platform can’t beat.
Created in 2011 as a rebrand from Facebook Chat, Facebook Messenger was introduced as a standalone app to make it easier for users to use the platform’s messaging functionalities without having to load their entire News Feed. Facebook was being used as a messaging platform more than first expected, and this led to the offshoot app being created. Over the years, the platform has continued to incorporate features from co-brands and rivals, even introducing a group video chat feature this year to compete with the rise of video conferencing firm Zoom.
Last month, Facebook changed the design of the Messenger logo, in tandem with new changes it’s bringing to the app. Just like its new blue-pink logo implies, Facebook is slowly merging FB Messenger chats with those on Instagram direct messaging, in an attempt to unify its chat two ecosystems.
3. WeChat – 1.2 billion
As China’s instant messaging app of choice, WeChat has over 1.2 billion users. Owned by Tencent, one of Asia’s largest companies by market capitalization, the app is unlike most other messaging platforms in the world. Unlike WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, for example, WeChat is more of a jack-of-all-trades utility app instead of just a social one. WeChat is used for mobile banking, bookings, shopping, ride-hailing, mobile payments, and more. It is central to life in China, and its ubiquity and ease-of-use is likely one of the reasons behind its popularity. Consider the fact that Western platforms like Facebook Messenger are blocked in China, and you’ve got a recipe for success.
4. QQ – 648 million
If WeChat is the go-to-app for everyday life and responsibilities, QQ is its older, though deceptively more playful sibling. Despite being created in 1999, QQ never grew up. In fact, the app now has a majority younger audience, and the app is used for instant messaging, microblogging, games and file sharing. While WeChat requires a phone number to to register on the app, QQ doesn’t, which naturally makes it more appealing for younger users who don’t own a phone and SIM.
Unlike WeChat, which despite its Chinese popularity is still quite the international app, QQ is much more focused on its local userbase in China, netting it 648 million monthly active users.
5. Snapchat – 433 million
It’s interesting how every entrant into this top performer list specializes in different areas. With WhatsApp and Facebook offering a more generic, bread and butter mobile messaging experience, WeChat offering a utility-like platform, and QQ turning to lighter, more entertainment-based use, Snapchat fills in another niche. Snapchat has long catered to youth put off by Facebook, mostly Gen Z-ers. From its ephemerality with expiring private and public messages, to playful AR filters and other fun features, Snapchat has always been social media ‘lite,’ offering a more upbeat and playful messaging experience to its users. As of October 2020, it has 433 million monthly active users.
6. Telegram – 400 million
In many ways, Telegram is like WhatsApp’s distant cousin, offering similar albeit more flexible services. Founded by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov in 2013, Telegram offered a more secure cloud instant messaging app with end-to-end encryption and other features that promoted privacy and security above all.
Additionally, Telegram has a feature called ‘secret chats,’ which leave no trace on the company’s servers, support self-destructing messages (a feature WhatsApp revealed it would be copying this week) and don’t allow forwarding. On top of this, secret chats are not part of the Telegram cloud and can only be accessed on their devices of origin.