WhatsApp: The Mystery of its Sagging American Popularity

BreakingModern — With over 500 million users, WhatsApp is the most used mobile texting app on the planet. Yet, WhatsApp has always had significant trouble penetrating the lucrative mobile apps market of the United States. Many find this to be an enigma wrapped in a mystery, given that WhatsApp is free for the first year and then costs a mere dollar a year after that — for unlimited texting, even internationally.


This state of affairs is also in spite of the fact that in 2014 Facebook finalized a purchase of WhatsApp for a whopping $21.8 billion. Or … rather than in spite of this, could that be part of the reason WhatsApp isn’t so impressive to Americans as it is to the rest of the world? Facebook, after all, has been leaving a bad taste in some (i.e., a lot of) social media users’ mouths for some time now. The social giant tends to enrage people by enabling an atmosphere that itself tends to enable inane chatter, constantly fooling around with its appearance and functionality and secretly conducting manipulative psychology experiments on users.

Since WhatsApp doesn’t allow advertising, it ended in the red by a cool $138 million in 2013. Nobody but Facebook knows what it will do with such an app, other than acquire over 400 million new people, which it will advertise or pitch advertising to.

However, possible distrust of or distaste for Facebook certainly doesn’t seem  enough of an answer to the mysterious enigma of the app’s low-level American presence. And users don’t seem concerned about flaws with WhatsApp privacy protection that made big headlines early in 2014, which have supposedly been taken care of (possibly with Facebook’s help). So, what’s going on here?

What Makes Users Love WhatsApp

With its creation, WhatsApp brought some great features to mobile texting and chat. Among these were the ability to include audio notes, videos and photos within texts, and the capability of leaving precise “away” messages, one of which could be “my battery is going to die.” WhatsApp is available across many platforms. It has a blocking feature, keeping a user from enduring messages from undesirables. But perhaps the app’s most powerful feature is the ability to tell another user their precise location via GPS, shown on an interactive map.

Oh, and I did mention that super-low price tag, didn’t I? That price tag, in fact, virtually does away with the need for a paid-for texting plan — and even if you feel that you must have one, you can just go with your provider’s lowest option.


Truly Unique?

Despite the features, WhatsApp isn’t as unique as it may appear. There are other mobile text, chat and call apps available across multiple platforms and with fantastic features and extremely low costs of their own. Here are a few: Viber, Line, Samsung ChatOn, Skype and Google Hangouts.

And they all have one thing in common that WhatsApp doesn’t offer: They’re able to be used on desktop and laptop computers as well as Wi-Fi only tablets.

One of the best and least talked about features of WhatsApp is its solid functioning on extremely slow networks, which affects international travelers and users who live in less developed nations. But even with that it hasn’t achieved U.S. dominance.

As of December 10th, 2014, Google Hangouts have possibly and permanently stymied any WhatsApp takeover in the U.S., and may have begun the erosion of that mobile texting app’s global dominance. The new Hangouts App is furiously competitive and now boasts a new prompt which comes up to allow you to share your location directly with a single tap — a takeoff on one of the leading features of WhatsApp.

It is competition from ever-innovating, popular and profitable makers of mobile text, chat and calling apps, such as Google, which will keep WhatsApp from greater U.S. market penetration. This will likely force its Facebook overlords to radically change it, or kill it in the future.

For BMod, I’m

Feature/First Image Credit: WhatsApp / iOS” by Álvaro Ibáñez via Flickr Creative Commons

Second Image: Emotion” by Antoine K via Flickr Creative Commons

Brant David

Author: Brant David

Based in New Jersey, Brant David covers sports and tech lifestyle at BreakingModern. Follow him on Twitter at @mabriant

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