Social messaging app WhatsApp has breezed past Facebook to emerge as the top mobile social messaging service. Latest survey results revealed that 44 percent of smartphone owners use WhatsApp at least once a week compared to just 35 percent using Facebook messenger.

Research firm On Device Research asked 3,759 smartphone owners to gauge the popularity of different social messaging apps and see how much they are using such tools compared to emailing, texting, or calling. Aside from Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, other popular messaging platforms such as BBM, Skype, WeChat, and Twitter were included in the survey. The company asked users in the United States, China, Brazil, South Africa, and Indonesia.

The respondents of the survey were asked to complete a questionnaire between October 25 and November 10 through mobile Internet. The proponents of the study collaborated with major mobile publishers in the covered markets to get samples big enough to represent a particular country.

"This trend will have interesting implications on mobile operators. More and more people are upgrading from feature phones to smartphones accelerating the move from traditional calling and SMS to social messaging. This trend will have interesting implications on mobile operators. More and more people are upgrading from feature phones to smartphones accelerating the move from traditional calling and SMS to social messaging," stated On Device Research on its official blog.

Facebook Messenger reigns supreme in the United States with a 46 percent market share compared to WhatsApp's 35 percent but struggled in other major markets. WhatsApp is gaining popularity in the younger age group 16 to 24 with 40 percent using Facebook Messenger and 37 percent finding WhatsApp more useful.

The results of the study also indicated geographical preferences. In China, for example, 93 percent of users turn to WeChat for social messaging. WeChat, however, is still trying to find its footing in markets like Indonesia where only 20 percent use it at least once a week; South Africa (20 percent); and U.S. (six percent).

In Brazil, WhatsApp has 72 percent share while Facebook Messenger has a smaller chunk at 49 percent. Skype has a 30 percent slice of social messaging apps.

With the release of the standalone BBM app for iOS and Android, the pioneer in mobile messaging have regained grounds in South Africa and Indonesia where 34 percent and 37 percent, respectively, of smartphone users utilize it on a regular basis

Overall, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger were trailed by WeChat (28 percent), Twitter (19 percent), BBM (17 percent), and Skype (16 percent).

The study also clearly showed how social messaging apps are challenging texting, calling, and emailing through smartphones.

"Chat apps are now the dominant way of staying in touch on the phone. Daily usage of social messaging across the 5 countries stands at a massive 86% that compares to 73% using their phones for voice calls, 75% using SMS and 60% using email," revealed On Device Research.

The firm also noted that 58 percent of respondents are using multiple messaging platforms because their friends are spread over different social networks. It also found out that around 1.2 billion photos are shared by users in just four services.

On Device Research also put spotlight on how stickers generate money for creators of the social messaging apps. Line, another popular mobile app, earned $27.4 million during the second quarter of 2013 from users willing to pay for stickers.

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