LINE: A Mobile Platform for Everything

First week I had a brief introduction of my three messaging Apps, Whatsapp, LINE and WeChat. LINE is the App users can make free voice calls and send free messages. I have been paying attention on LINE’s developments because it provides unique and interesting approaches. Right now NHN Japan ‘s strategy for LINE is building a platform for games, music, books, news, and social networking. Apparently, LINE positioned itself as a mobile platform for everything. NHN Japan Corporation has grown its free LINE application into one of the world’s most talked-about apps. Is it going to be a mobile version of Facebook?

Compared with Facebook, LINE concentrates on the need of mobile users and enables them to connect with each other anytime and every time. The biggest difference from Facebook is the design of LINE all focusing on the mobile users in mind. NHN Japan says that LINE’s strategy is focused on growth rather than profit. I consider their business goal is like the beginning of Amazon, the priority is attracting users rely on their platform

Compared to other messaging apps strategies, one thing unique to LINE is their service surrounded by animate characters and other stickers. The stickers are known for its cute and oversized animated chat emoticons  Characters like Moon, Brown, Cony and James have swept the Japanese and Taiwanese market. Users can include the stickers in their chat messages, pictures and also social games. According to techcrunch.com, NHN hasn’t released recent numbers on the app’s financial performance, but in July, consumers spend $3.75 million per month in sticker sales.

Since the Line animated characters become the money tree, LINE even made online animation and real spin-off products keep attracting users. 

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Another example is “LINE POP”, an official mobile game made up by LINE animated characters. The simple game aims to get rid of blocks with abundant characters’ expressions. Users can even play with their LINE friends and receive the hearts needed to play and compete for higher rankings.

manga

LINE keeps extending the potential of mobile services such as “LINE manga”, which collaborates with more than 50 Japanese publishers as e-comic book reading services. Users can read almost 30,000 comic books throughLINE and download stickers from the comic book characters. Furthermore, they can recommend comic books to their LINE friends. I consider this service not only strengthens LINE’s social networking also bring a new wind to Japanese printed publishers.

IKEA Interactive Catalog App with Augmented Reality Brings the Pages to Real Life


Before what I heard Augmented Reality applied to mobile are almost about one-time marketing campaigns. The innovative and realistic playing experience attracts customer’s attention and brings the brand awareness. However, I wonder if there is more useful function can bring to customer’s real life. After searching, I found the IKEA catalog App. IKEA’s printed catalog with a great display of smart, innovative and stylish design furniture at affordable prices always brings me very enjoyable reading experience. Released on 2012, IKEA Interactive catalog App let you find some extra information moving your smartphone around the relevant page by scanning the catalog and experiencing more. I consider this app is a head-first dive into image recognition featuring augmented reality.

IKEA

Here is the update introduction of IKEA catalog App function on Google play, “By scanning selected pages in the printed catalogue you will be able to access additional images, films, and 3D models. Just look for the pages in the printed IKEA Catalogue 2013 that have the smart phone icon on the top right corner. Note that you need to scan the whole page, the symbol itself is not enough to recognize a page and get the extra content.”

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Every Augmented Reality varies by different effects. For example, the app shows a video displaying how soft the bed you selected is, or takes a look at closet or bookshelf from varied perspectives. Besides, users can even take a picture of their home and drag the IKEA furniture into the photo to see if it is a good fit and share the pictures to others. “A lot digital stuff becomes very interesting when you mash it up with the tangible items of the real world,” said Andreas Dahlqvist, Global Deputy Chief Creative Officer of McCann, the creative agency behind the IKEA catalog App.

My friend who used to scan the printed IKEA catalog in 5 to 10 minutes now play around the functions in an hour and strengthens the desire to buy the products.

Overall, the App is a breath of fresh air for me though it could be better for some improvements. First, it ran out of my storage space easily. The app itself is 14MB. Browsing the catalog takes another 53 MB of data. Not mentioned there is another kitchen catalog also takes space. Second, this app is slow-loading. My phone is crashed and being forced to close almost every time. If the developers can fix those problems, I am sure it will get more popular. This app is definitely a nice move for the possibility of catalog. I consider right now lots of printed magazines and catalogs have electronic version but it still stays the one-way communication step lacking of interaction.

Battle of Messaging Apps

messaging
Messaging apps with varieties of features beyond text messaging are emerging as popular social networks among people around the world. For me, I have three messaging apps in my Smartphone which are Whatsapp, Line and Wechat since 2011. Whatsapp used to be the leading messaging application. It’s simple and easy to use as a new beginner. In Taiwan, unlimited text message plan compared to data plan is not very popular and economic so Whatsapp, as a free messaging app, turned out to occupy the market. But these years I stopped using Whatsapp since there hasn’t any innovation compared to other messaging apps. Besides, most of my Taiwanese and international friends moved to other messaging apps. I consider it is a good chance to reflect those messaging apps and make a general comparison of features and popularization.

Line

Line Cutie

Line has been available in Taiwan since August 2012. It is made by Naver Japan and known for its cute and oversized animated chat emotions. Characters like Moon, Brown, Cony and James have swept the Japanese and Taiwanese market no matter online or offline. Obviously, their strategy is targeting on Female’s market. Recently it has formally launched media campaigns employing celebrity spokespersons in Taiwan. Those big-budget integrated media campaigns are trying to create more awareness. In addition to the aesthetic design, LINE has advantage allowing you to reply to messages by installing a PC or Mac OS program, providing users registering number with an email account and making free online calling.

wechat

WeChat is the most popular messaging apps in China and definitely as LINE’s top competitor in Asian market. Recently they also have launched mobile campaign and employed celebrity as spokespersons in Taiwan’s market. This social app gathers all of your sharing and communication tools in one place, including video calls, text messages, and images. WeChat is well-known for some innovative social features like letting users look around for other WeChat users to chat with, or browse their own contacts by shaking their phone. If users are concerned about personal privacy, there are ample settings menus for updating WeChat profile and adjusting privacy settings. One function called Drift bottle, I personally am not interested in but apparently it is a fresh way to make new friends randomly. When users select “Throw” to send out voice or text message, they wait and see if anyone picks up their bottle and replies for further relationship. Users can also choose to reply for it or throw it back to the sea.

According to statista.com, LINE has 120 million users and Tencent, a Chinese investment holding company, announced that the total number of WeChat users had reached 300 million, including over 10 million overseas users. Whatsapp, LINE, WeChat all have simple interfaces and group chat functions. I believe different users from business professionals to teenage might value differently using the messaging apps such as battery draining, social networking and quality of free online calling. Challenges for LINE and WeChat dominating markets might be ensuring a high percentage of monthly active users and identifying revenue streams in their platforms. Since this two messaging apps are free, I am interested in how they truly find returns on their investment and will continue to introduce it in the following posts.