Mobile messaging app Kakao Talk hits 10m downloads in Japan, but still lags behind local rival Line

Mobile messaging app Kakao Talk hits 10m downloads in Japan, but still lags behind local rival Line

Kakao Talk has revealed today that its Internet-based mobile messaging app has hit 10 million downloads in Japan, putting additional pressure on rivals Line and WeChat.

The Korean mobile messaging giant published a blog post earlier today – spotted by  SD Japan – to celebrate the milestone with its renowned cast of illustrated animal characters.

Reports in December estimated that the app had roughly 7.5 million users in Japan, out of a 65 million userbase worldwide.

Kakao Talk’s increase is therefore significant, although it still pales in comparison to the 60 million Japanese users enjoyed by Line.

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The influence of Yahoo! Japan, who took a 50 percent stake in Kakao Talk Japan last October, shouldn’t be underestimated, but it’s clear that the app needs a little more momentum and public awareness before it can truly compete in the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’.

There are signs that this sort of progress is well underway, however. Kakao Talk ran a notable TV advertising campaign last December and is currently testing a beta version on PC.

Mobile will continue to be the company’s primary focus, but a cross-platform approach similar to Skype could give Kakao Talk a significant edge over its rivals. The PC iteration will be fairly stripped back to begin with, lacking some of its more flamboyant features such as tied video games, emoticons and themes.

The company also rolled out its built-in gaming platform to iOS devices in Japan last February, following a successful launch and international rollout on Android.

It followed a new Group Call feature introduced last November, which enabled up to five users to participate in conversations with HD Voice audio quality.

It’s important to note that Japan is but one part of the Asia market. The country has a distinct set of users for companies such as NHN Japan (Line) and Tencent (WeChat) to target, but putting too much focus there could be to the detriment of growth in other key markets such as China and Indonesia.

In January, Line hit 100 million downloads worldwide, just 18 months after its initial launch. During that time, the app reached the top of the App Store in 41 markets and accumulated users in 231 countries worldwide. Kakao Talk, therefore, will need to continue to fight on multiple fronts if it’s to continue growing its own userbase.

While Line and WeChat are competitive in Asia, services such as Skype, Viber and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) continue to hold sway in Europe and the United States. Kakao Talk will also need to address its competition in these areas if it’s to stand any chance of becoming a global messaging giant.

Image Credit: PARK JI-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images

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