Many people have wondered over the past years why handset vendors aren’t better at leveraging their massive device bases in launching new apps. Samsung is now demonstrating that it is, in fact, possible for hardware guys to compete in the app space. Samsung launched its ChatON messaging service two years ago and has now hit 100 million subscribers. The number has doubled in just four months, which is truly impressive. ChatON is also available on iOS but at the moment, it is clearly struggling on Apple’s platform — ChatON is a top-400 app in only two tiny island countries. Yet Samsung’s device sales are so massive that it can deliver torrid subscriber growth for its home-brewed messaging app just by relying on Samsung phone and tablet buyers.
What’s next? LINE and Kakao are hitting $200 million in quarterly revenue from games and stickers they promote on top of their messaging apps. It would seem quite possible that Samsung could start building a similar content delivery business on top of ChatON, bypassing Google Play and grabbing a slice of mobile content sales directly.
As Samsung’s annual smartphone sales volume gets closer to 300 million units, it would seem to be well positioned to boost the ChatON subscriber base to hundreds of millions of consumers in a few years. At that point, Samsung could start playing the kingmaker in the app space, picking and choosing the games, music and video apps it gives marketing support on the ChatON service.
The role of handset vendors could be evolving at a giddy pace in coming years.