Unpacked: Most Used Messaging Apps by iPhone Owners

To set the table for how important iMessage is to the overall iOS experience and how much iPhone owners rely on it, I’ll share these stats around messaging apps. This is why bringing a developer store and inevitably deepening the capabilities for developers to hook into iMessage is so interesting.

78% of iPhone owners (mostly from the US and the major areas of Europe) say they use iMessage daily to send a message, photo, or video to someone. The next closest app for the same tasks is Facebook Messenger at 49%. When it comes to apps used more than any other on a daily basis, 55% of iPhone owners say iMessage. Facebook Messenger again comes in second place at 29%.

In certain markets, the messaging app of choice varies. Particularly with WhatsApp in India and WeChat in China, however, what will be fascinating to watch is now that iMessage has an API, it opens the door for deeper engagement of the primary app of most iPhone users. WeChat has arguably the most advanced API for a messaging app which has allowed it to create a vast ecosystem of third-party integrations to the platform. In fact, the best way to understand WeChat is as a platform and now iMessage is trending in that direction as well with arguably as many, if not more, daily active users than WeChat. Overall, WeChat users do more than iMessage users, thanks to the more advanced API, but all of that may be about to change.

As I look at usage data by messaging app in all major markets, simply sending a message to someone is the primary task. Which shouldn’t be too surprising. However, this may speak to the nature of the way interactions may evolve. This is why the conversational interface is the hot term to use. People are comfortable using these apps for messaging. For apps like iMessage where many of these new advanced tasks like banking, booking dinner, paying someone, etc., will be so new the conversational element may make it easier to advance the behavior more naturally.

While I’m not suggesting iMessage will replace WeChat in China, I have been very skeptical of the idea that conversational commerce and conversational platforms will be successful in the West. I’ve observed many friends in venture capital invest in companies like Magic, Operator, and even several I’m currently trying that are still in beta. All want to be your messaging platform to engage with businesses and in transactional commerce. With what Apple is doing with iMessage, I’m more confident what we see in Asia with WeChat can come to the West.

Apple is starting off modestly with their approach, taking an extension of an existing installed app model. But my sense is this is the first of many evolutions of the capabilities of iMessage. The messaging apps as platform wars are far from over at a global level. It makes the entire space much more interesting to observe and study. Luckily, we track each of them along with their core actions and usage each quarter, so there will be much more to say on this over the next year.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

4 thoughts on “Unpacked: Most Used Messaging Apps by iPhone Owners”

  1. What do you say to the possible release of an Apple iMessage for Android?

    Is it even possible for Apple to deliver iOS level security, encryption, and privacy on an Apple delivered Android iMessage platform?

      1. If undone, iMessage as delivered will be ‘unusable’ to many:

        Those who are heavy messaging users with many Android friends and acquaintances. They’ll take up OS agnostic messaging apps so that group messaging works equally well or badly for all group members.

        How does iMessage evolve into a ‘must use’ app then? Might be great Apple Pay, Touch Id, B-to-C-to-B customer integration leading to significant profit generation for Apple’s developers and businesses.

        Something else coming along to add to current greater privacy and security moat?

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