Asian rivals hot on heels of WhatsApp

Asian rivals hot on heels of WhatsApp

Coming to a smartphone near you: apps that say WeChat, Line or KakaoTalk and not WhatsApp.

These days, Asian mobile messaging applications are creating more buzz and closing in on WhatsApp, the market leader from Silicon Valley.

The one to watch in particular is China's WeChat, which is said to be planning an initial public offering in Singapore, reported the China Daily yesterday. Its parent company Tencent has denied this, though it registered a company in Singapore earlier this month, business registry records show.

Known as Weixin in Chinese, WeChat has acquired around 400 million registered users since its launch in 2011 and is gaining popularity in countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and also Singapore.

"Now, a lot of people in Singapore are using Weixin," said Mr Thomas Foo, head of the Kheng Keow Coffee Merchants Restaurant and Bar Owners Association. "These days, I get a lot more friend requests on it," he said.

Other up and coming Asian messaging apps include Line from Japan with 200 million users, India's Nimbuzz with 150 million and South Korea's KakaoTalk with 100 million.

Said Singapore-based Internet entrepreneur Sun Ho: "Line has really cute emoticons and stickers which I use to stay in touch with my family, who may not be in the same town all the time."

The Asian upstarts have turned up the heat on WhatsApp, which launched a voice-messaging function recently to stay ahead of the competition. WhatsApp leads the pack with its 300 million monthly active users - seen as a more important indication of a service's influence. WeChat has 195 million.

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