Line, the free messaging app that was created in Japan, continues to grow at speed after it passed 150 million downloads of its app today. The service is one of the most popular of its type in Asia, and it is available in 12 languages and across the iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and Nokia Asha platforms.

The news comes the same week that a new report from Informa found that, during 2012, the volume of messages from chat apps had overtaken SMS for the first.

Line — which was spun out of parent firm NHN Japan in February this year — credits growth in Spain and countries in Latin America, as well as its recent move into Africa, for taking it over the 150 million milestone just 23 months after its public launch.

In fact, Line has added 50 million new sign-ups in just over three months, having hit 100 million downloads in mid-January this year.

line 150m 730x478 Asian chat app Line passes 150m downloads thanks to growth in Spain and Latin America

Its remains strongest in Asia, where it is well established in Japan and is gaining market share in Korea, China and Southeast Asia. Yet, interestingly, Line is aiming to take that presence global.

Success in Spain is seen as a symbolic market ‘win’ that demonstrates Line has the potential to go beyond Asia. Spain was dominated WhatsApp, which held a reported 90 percent market share, until — as Forbes reports — Line moved its US head moved to the country to oversee an advertising campaign, including TV spots, which subsequently attracted 11 million downloads.

Beyond just advertising, Line does have key differences to WhatsApp. It supports a more multimedia-rich chat experience, is more photo and video-centric, while users can also play games with their friends.

Line says that success in Spain has seen it grow in Mexico and other parts of Latin America and, having released the service for a series of lower end devices — including the Nokia Asha series, which now features a device with a dedicated WhatsApp button — Line is also targeting Africa.

Aside from its worldwide growth, Line’s monetization model is also impressive. The company makes money selling virtual content — most notably stickers, which Facebook and Path now offer — with its Line game series (and in-app purchases) another important factor.

Downloads of apps on the Line games platform hit a cumulative 100 million in March, demonstrating that there is plenty of engagement within its user base.

Though Line keeps its financial details guarded, a Distimo report from December highlighted Line Pop as an example of how apps can make money from a wide user base. The analytics firm estimates that the game attracted 1 million downloads in just one day and a total of 1.75 million over its first three days. The app is also believed to have brought in $1 million in revenue in the first 12 days alone; now imagine that, on a wider scale, with more apps and more users.

A considerable amount of that money is going towards funding high-profile advertising campaigns, such as the one below that is airing in Hong Kong and Singapore and features a member of leading K-Pop band Super Junior.

Headline image via Line