The current trend in mobile is OTT/Social Messaging apps. Take a look at any of the App Store markets for their top apps, and Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat are all there winning the game. Out of the top 25 social networking apps, 50% are OTT players that mix instant messaging with voice calling (see the image above).
An OTT messaging app is a communication app that takes advantage of the internet to bypass traditional distribution methods. These are the big apps that are building enormous usernames like WeChat, WhatsApp, etc.
A growing trend that has been coming since 2011 is ‘in app calling’, letting users make calls from within their app to other users. The major players like Facebook and Line are adding in app calling, taking advantage of new features in both smartphones and 3G and 4G technologies.
But these big social apps with 200 million users minimum are not adding voice just as a basic feature (see our previous article about what is next for the app communications market). Voice calling has big benefits not just for app features such as engagement and retention, but also for an additional revenue streams via calling credits to landline and cellular phone numbers.
Earlier this year, Line (one of the biggest OTT apps in Asia and the USA) added app to phone calling with their Line Call service, building on their free app to app calling service. And WhatsApp in February announced they will also be adding voice calling to their app.
So why are they adding in app voice calling?
Often the biggest downfall of an app is making something that is not essential. By adding a feature like voice calling in the app, your app becomes an all round communication tool just like a regular phone, with all the features of social networking.
Adding voice calling with instant messaging gives their apps an all round value. Rather than specializing in IM with stickers, adding voice calling makes their apps a total communication app and lets users connect in all ways, mixing messaging and voice for a continual conversation.
Many popular social and OTT apps like Line and Skype use in app calling as a revenue stream. Users can make calls to cell phones and landline phone numbers by adding credit to their account, giving app developers the ability to make low cost international calls using data calling rather than standard roaming charges.
According to Jana Mobile, an average of 24% of users in emerging markets find voice calling the most popular feature in mobile messaging apps. Mix this with Line user base and the 2–7¢ charge per minute, there is a giant opportunity to be taken.
If your app helps users get in contact with local businesses like Yelp, having a pay to display feature with a phone number can be another additional revenue stream. Let businesses pay to display their phone number with a click to call feature to generate more business for your app.
Benedict Evans has called voice the “next big thing in mobile” and with this comes in app calling as a feature of mobile apps. You are missing out on being ahead of the game and generating addition engagement and revenue by not adding it into your app.
How could you add in app calling to your apps?
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