At 64 billion to 10 billion, WhatsApp retains an impressive lead over Line. On the other hand, Line counts sticker messages and phone calls (which it allows within the app) separately. Taken together, they add nearly another couple of  billion to Line’s tally. But how to weight a phone call as compared to a message? And to complicate matters further, the most popular use of Line appears not to be messaging or stickers, but games—at least based on the 60% of revenues it derives from in-app gaming.

Despite the hype surrounding messaging apps over the past few months, the fact is that different apps do different things for different people. WhatsApp is like its new owner, Facebook, in that it functions as a standard that lots of people use. Line is popular for gaming. China’s WeChat is big on shopping and payments. South Africa’s Mxit and India’s Hike connect users to people without smartphones. SnapChat is fun because it’s fleeting. Firechat, a new app, works in a small area even when there’s no internet or cell phone signal. Comparisons between messaging apps tend to treat them as hammers and communication as a nail; in reality, they are more like a toolbox, with many different uses.

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