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Messaging apps’ bold new plan: Cut deals to be preloaded onto phones

Messaging App Strategy Analysis

A few weeks ago, Nokia launched a WhatsApp phone that featured a special button that gives direct access to the messaging app. Now Path has cut a deal with Sprint to become a preloaded app in selected Samsung and HTC phones. The messaging app rivalry between half a dozen of major contenders is heating up as WhatsApp, Path, LINE, Tango, KakaoTalk, Viber and Kik vie for attention. Until now, major carriers have resisted supporting messaging apps too much, afraid of undermining their SMS volumes.

In an interview with Tango earlier this week, the company told us that it has now hit 120 million registered users and the text-messaging feature is growing 3 to 4 times faster than the mobile video service. Tango is now serving up more than 1 million game sessions per day as it diversifies beyond text and video.

Following the game revenue explosion that LINE and KakaoTalk enjoyed last winter, all major messaging services are now expected to move aggressively towards adding game, video and music elements to their services. This is why getting preloaded apps into smartphones may turn out to be a crucial advantage. The messaging app vendors are like a pack of raptors trying to take down a Brontosaurus called Facebook.

In the U.S. market, Path, Kik and Viber have now all moved ahead of the Facebook app in the free iPhone download chart. Messaging is clearly becoming the hottest app segment of 2013.

After launching mobile game company SpringToys tragically early in 2000, Tero Kuittinen spent eight years doing equity research at firms including Alliance Capital and Opstock. He is currently an analyst and VP of North American sales at mobile diagnostics and expense management Alekstra, and has contributed to, Forbes and Business 2.0 Magazine in addition to BGR.