Young Vietnamese spend hours using messaging apps on their mobile phones but would be reluctant to pay if called upon
Officially launched in Vietnam at the end of 2012, over-the-top (OTT) services had millions of subscribers after just the first few months of 2013. Names like Whatsapp, Viber, Kakao Talk, Line and Zalo offer completely free text messages and calling, unlike mobile service providers. The absence of specific policies on OTT and the booming of smartphone purchases have turned Vietnam’s into a market of great potential for OTT providers, where 3G prices are 40 per cent lower than in other countries. Another success for OTT providers in 2013 was the cooperation coming from mobile service providers, which have found a way to co-exist with the technology trend instead of trying to kill it.
Vietnam had second-largest growth in Android-iOS smartphone and tablet users around the world in 2012, according to figures from US-based mobile market researcher Flurry. One in five Vietnamese people have a smartphone and one in twenty have a tablet. According to the Vietnam Internet Association (VIA), the percentage of smartphone users subscribing to OTT services has increased from 24.7 per cent in 2012 to 33.8 per cent in 2013 and is expected to reach 41 per cent this year, 44.2 per cent in 2015, and 45.5 per cent in 2016. To gain further insight, VET conducted a pocket survey of 50 respondents, mostly young people from 18 to 24 years of age, in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Interestingly, the survey revealed that 59.6 per cent of respondents prefer mobile phones and tablets when using messaging apps over using laptops and personal computers (PC), with 32.7 per cent and 7.7 per cent, respectively. Mobile users not only choose to use Facebook but also other messaging apps. The chat app on Facebook dominates, being chosen by all respondents, followed by Viber (70 per cent), Zalo (40 per cent), Whatsapp (19 per cent), Line and Kakao Talk (14 per cent), and Wechat (3 per cent). They are also aware of newcomers such as the Singaporean-based app BeeTalk, the Chinese-based app Tango, and the US-based app Voxox, for messages and calls.
Mobile messaging apps really seem to fascinate mobile users, with the image of people burying their heads in their phones being common nearly everywhere. Just under 30 per cent of respondents admit to spending an hour on chat apps each day, while 21 per cent spend two hours. Surprisingly, 19.3 per cent spend more than six hours using chat apps. In South Korea the National Information Society Agency defines addiction as spending more than seven hours a day on your phone and experiencing symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia and depression when cut off from the device. The country’s government is identifying ways to resolve such addiction. So what activities are keeping users’ eyes glued to their smartphone screens? Demand for communicating with friends and networks. When asked what they usually do the most on apps, 78.7 per cent of respondents said sending messages and 67.2 per cent chatting. Photo sharing and calling were the third and fourth, with 59 per cent and 54.1 per cent, respectively.
Chat apps are also the main channel for young people to communicate with friends and networks besides the more traditional SMS, with 47.5 per cent choosing chat apps against 41 per cent using the traditional channels to connect with friends and networks. Email and social networks are also used, by 27.8 per cent and 26.2 per cent, respectively. The remaining 19 per cent said they use calling to catch up with friends and networks. The results seem to indicate a threat for telecom operators, as SMS and calling account for most of their total revenue. Viettel, MobiFone and Vinaphone, as the three largest players in Vietnam, are quickly preparing to enter the OTT services market. Shaking hands with OTT providers or building their own mobile chat apps are the two ways telecom operators plan to guarantee sustainable development into the future.
Mobile chat apps provide users with a certain experience designed to encourage them to use the service for as long as possible. How apps do this is the focus of telecom operators. Users told VET that they have a lot of friends that use the same app. Facebook leads the way, with the largest user community, followed by Viber, Kakao Talk, Whatsapp and Zalo. Respondents also said that it is easy to use chat apps on Facebook, Zalo, Viber and Whatsapp, but less so on Kakao Talk and Line. However, Kakao Talk and Line are considered to have the nicest themes among all apps, which is something the South Korean and Japanese providers have spent a lot of money on. Fast delivery is also important for users, with the survey revealing that Whatsapp, Zalo and Kakao Talk all have stable delivery.
To attract and retain users, OTT providers also build mobile app communities, called a Fan Page, like Facebook. Users spend a great deal of time sharing photos and videos and being involved in other activities on the page. The survey found that 40.7 per cent of respondents were on a Fan Page two or three times a week, while 28.8 per cent were on two or three times a day. Twenty-two per cent said that they spend no time at all on these pages, while the remaining 8.5 per cent use them only two or three times a month. Users are still very loyal to Facebook, and when asked whether they would replace Facebook with a Fan Page. 49 per cent replied in the negative and 46 per cent said they would use both. Just 5 per cent said they would change.
The strength of mobile messaging apps is that they are free, and users must accept they will receive advertising. “I like chatting on apps but not receiving advertising,” said 21-year-old student Thuy Linh. “I wish the advertising would disappear.” However, when asked if she would be willing to pay a fee to be free from advertising, she replied “No”. Sixty-six per cent of respondents share her sentiments, while 34 per cent would accept paying a fee to be free from advertising. But the figures changed when respondents were asked more specifically about fees. Half still said replied “No” to having to pay a fee, while 30.7 per cent said $1-2 per year was acceptable if they could download some in-apps, 11.6 per cent agreed to pay $1 per year without any in-apps, and 7.7 per cent were willing to pay more than $2 per year if they were allowed to download all in-apps for free.
Game apps are the most popular among mobile users but most are unwilling to pay fees or receive advertising. Forty-seven per cent of respondents download games when receiving advertising for the games on chat apps, while the remaining 53 per cent click “No” to any downloads from advertising. Only 11.1 per cent said they would accept paying for games but 52.9 per cent said they would not. When asked how much they would be willing to pay, 74.5 per cent of respondents said they would never pay and would simply start playing other free games, while 15.7 per cent would accept to pay $1-$1.99 to download the full version of a game while the remaining 9.8 per cent would agree to pay $0.99 or less to download part of the full version. For stickers, 90.4 per cent of respondents said they would not pay for collections offered by Kakao Talk or Line, with very few saying they would be happy to pay.