With 1 in 5 people now owning smartphones across the globe, the ping of new chat bubbles reached more ears than ever in 2014. App stores flooded with messaging software. Yo gave us the chance to wordlessly ping our friends, eventually warning Israeli users of imminent rocket attacks, proving one man’s novelty app is another’s survival tool. Peer-to-peer messaging app FireChat doesn’t need a network connection to work, finding popularity amongst protesters in Hong Kong and Russia, where users feared authorities would block internet access. Snapchat users were caught very literally with their pants down, after it was revealed the app has no real way of ensuring users’ snaps of their privates stay private.
The popularity of messaging apps is undeniable, and app developers are desperate to cash in on our urge to connect. WhatsApp was purchased by Facebook for $22 billion, a sum reflective of the app’s popularity. Despite being built by only 32 engineers, WhatsApp was used to send 7.2 trillion messages in 2014 – almost as many as the 7.5 trillion total SMS messages sent globally. Korean app Line pulls in a cool $10 million a month selling emoticon packs. WeChat began as a messaging app, but is quickly evolving into a miniature ecosystem of its own. Chinese users are able to order taxis, buy cars and manage their money within the app.
Messaging apps are expected to continue their quest to become a one-stop-shop for all of your communication needs. As interest in our saturated news feed dwindles, Facebook appears to be shifting focus to its recently unbundled Messenger app, planning to integrate voice recognition and mobile payment features from WhatsApp.