Survey: Half of smartphone owners use IM, OTT messaging apps

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More than 45 percent of smartphone owners use some form of instant messaging or over-the-top messaging app in addition to or instead of traditional SMS, according to a new survey conducted by Analysys Mason. In addition, 20 percent of consumers use a VoIP app, and 20 percent within that segment use it more than conventional voice services.

Analysys Mason calls WhatsApp Messenger "the first large-scale cross-platform messaging app," noting that close to 20 percent of respondents use the service. The firm states that OTT apps have fully replaced operator services for only a small percentage of consumers, however: Just 1.7 percent of respondents use IM/OTT messaging without using SMS, but 97 percent still use SMS.

"The relative fragmentation of the messaging market will continue to hinder full substitution," said Analysys Mason Voice and Messaging Lead Analyst Stephen Sale. "However, while the messaging market is fragmented, the collective effect is having an impact on SMS usage; the number of text messages sent per active user is already declining in some Western countries."

Analysys Mason adds that Skype continues to dominate the VoIP market, with 79 percent of VoIP app users/16 percent of all respondents embracing the service. Skype's primary challengers include Viber (used by 5 percent of respondents), fring (0.8 percent) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Talk (0.6 percent).

"As more people use VoIP as their primary voice service, the danger for mobile operators is that they become relegated to providing secondary voice services, picking up the 30 percent or 40 percent of call traffic generated by users when contacting people who are outside their core calling circle," Sale said. "If this occurs widely, operators' roles will be marginalized."

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