LINE is messaging app of choice for Japanese
By David Higgins
In Japan, people love using their phones to message each other, but the trend in Japan is not to use iMessage, Facebook, Instagram or even Snapchat like in most western countries. Rather, everyone in Japan and much across South East Asia seems to be using an app called LINE.
LINE is a messaging and phone call app with much more pizzazz and many more options than Facebook, which most could easily mistake to have become the most popular app, hands down.
LINE is actually quite fun to use with so many different unique and interesting ways to create messages. The app will allow you to add stickers, photos, icons and will even auto select words from your message and convert them into pictures or symbols. For instance, if you type the word ‘stop’ into a message, it would auto prompt a range of symbols or emoticons to select to replace the word, such as a stop sign, a picture of guy with his hand out to stop you or just the word ‘stop’ in a really cool font.
A subsidiary of a large South Korean internet search company Naver created the LINE application. Recently, their stock had an IPO that raised $1.3 billion dollars in capital. The ticker symbol for the stock is ‘LN’ if you are interested in investing in the company, which is actually called LINE Company. The company has added 218 million active monthly users since March 2016 but strangely, it has struggled to gain much traction outside of Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan where pretty much everyone is hooked on using the app to chat.
About a year after LINE released it’s phone call service, the same also became available as a Facebook messaging app. I thought that this was going to spell the end for LINE but since so many people had already become comfortable with using the user friendly LINE, not many were interested in switching exclusively to the Facebook messaging app.
Oddly enough, the company earns a ton of money by selling stickers through the app. There are many free stickers to choose from but there is also an extensive range of seasonal stickers offered for a small fee. With a growing number of people willing to pay a small amount to customize their messages and add a personalized touch, the stickers have translated to quite a lucrative business.
Initially, I was not convinced that the concept of selling stickers was something that could take off. Part of the reason being that I have never envisioned myself buying virtual stickers within an app just to impress my friends whom I chat with, but recently, I had a grown man in my car who really enjoys using the LINE app with all of his friends. He enthusiastically admitted that he has fun using the stickers and was not shy about informing me that he has spent over 20 USD on stickers in the LINE app store. Why? Because he really liked some of the characters they offer, such as King Kong, Godzilla, and even Donkey Kong. At this point, I realized that I was out of touch with today’s reality and just starting to understand that people take their virtual stickers quite seriously.
I have to admit that the LINE app has gotten me out of a couple of tense situations at airports in Asia. For example, there was one time when two friends whom I was supposed to meet up with had become lost in the airport and we couldn’t find each other to save our lives. As soon as I was able to connect to Wi-Fi, I quickly opened the LINE app to call them for free. Immediately, we were in contact and agreed on a common meeting place.
It used to be that when you were in a different country, a phone would become completely useless to make phone calls with but now, with LINE app, a phone call can easily be made to anyone who also uses the app.
The fact that the LINE app continues to maintain it’s relevance on the phone baffles me since the competition for phone messaging has become saturated with plenty of options for the consumer to chose from. The key to the success of the LINE app may be the fact that it was able to get a strong hold in South East Asia early in the game and build loyalty. It could possibly be that it has remained relevant because of its flexibility or just maybe the success lies remarkably on LINE’s endless supply of virtual sticker options. Regardless, I have to admit that I really enjoy using the LINE app but have yet to pay for any stickers.