Perhaps the most fascinating trend in App Annie’s new March statistics is the transformation of the Google Play Android app store into a messaging app distributor. No fewer than three out of four biggest revenue generators in the non-game app chart are now messaging apps; LINE at No.1, WhatsApp at No.3 and KakaoTalk at No.4. The iPhone’s non-game revenue chart is a bit lighter on messaging app but still features LINE at No.1 and WhatsApp at No.8.
LINE is now clearly dominating WhatsApp in revenue generation despite WhatsApp’s superior download volumes. At the moment, WhatsApp is in the top-10 iPhone app chart in 143 countries. In 136 countries, it is the No.1 app. Looking at the last 12 months, WhatsApp is clearly becoming the most dominant download of all time. No other application has clung to No.1 slot in as many countries, on both Google Play and iOS charts. Already in April 2012, WhatsApp had hit the top spot on 100 iOS charts around the world. That is a dazzling achievement.
It is also worth noting that WhatsApp has announced it has more than 200 million monthly active users. Its rivals like LINE and KakaoTalk focus on talking download numbers — their MAU may be well under 50 million.
Yet despite its massive download volume and MAU count, WhatsApp is now starting to lag LINE in revenue generation. This is pretty astonishing, because LINE is a top-10 iPhone app in only four countries, two of them being the relatively tiny Laos and Lebanon. Yet despite not being a top iPhone download in a single country, LINE’s revenue advantage over WhatsApp is expanding.
LINE sales are buoyed by its paid stickers and social games linked to the core messaging product. It may be only a matter of time until WhatsApp has to take a page from the Korean/Japanese playbook and start hawking Hello Kitty astronaut stickers and dragon puzzles to its users.