WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in the world. Apart from China, where it’s banned, every other country has WhatsApp users. However, the US, where this app came from, doesn’t have that many users. So, why don’t Americans use WhatsApp?
WhatsApp has about 2 billion users globally but has low usage in America with less than 75 million users. The reasons for this limited usage include iPhone usage, presence of other apps, unlimited call and SMS for mobile, travel habits, privacy concerns, and openness to technological innovation.
However, some Americans use it for international communication. Most of these people have family and friends abroad, and WhatsApp offers a simple way to communicate. This article examines why Americans don’t use WhatsApp.
What is WhatsApp
WhatsApp is the number one messaging app globally, with 2 billion active users monthly. The instant messaging platform for mobile devices is the third most popular social media network after Facebook and YouTube. In India, the app has about 400 million monthly users, which is how it is almost throughout the world. Two software engineers, Jan Koum and Brian Acton, launched it in 2009. It grew fast, and by 2014, Facebook acquired it for $19 billion. This makes it the most expensive Facebook acquisition to date.
While it’s immensely popular worldwide, only 74.9 million people in America use WhatsApp. That’s small compared with other platforms such as YouTube or Facebook. There are even Americans that don’t know about WhatsApp and what it does. While Americans may not care about WhatsApp, residents of several other countries are big on the app and use it for many reasons. Beyond the regular casual conversations and chats, many now use WhatsApp to conduct business, read news, make reservations, and more. It’s integral to the messaging lifestyle of people in other countries and is usually the default messaging app for several users.
Reasons For Not Low Use of WhatsApp In America
The low use of WhatsApp in America is due to the following reasons:
1. Unlimited SMS And Call on Mobile Phone Plans
The mobile phone plans in the US usually come with unlimited SMS and calls. This makes it unnecessary for most Americans to try out WhatsApp. Furthermore, mobile service providers offer competitive plans that include a flat rate for unlimited SMS and call minutes. Thus, it’s easy for Americans to easily communicate with other people within the country via texts and calls without incurring any extra cost. This is unlike other countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia, where there are prepaid options and charges for every call or SMS. This makes WhatsApp a more attractive option for other countries but unnecessary in the US since they can text easily without it. Also, internet packages in the US are quite expensive if you’re not using WiFi. So, it’s usually cheaper to send an SMS than use WhatsApp.
2. Americans Travel Habit
Since most Americans don’t leave the country, they don’t discover that their mobile phone messaging plans won’t work in a foreign land and therefore have no need for WhatsApp. Research shows that WhatsApp in America is most popular among the Hispanic community. This is simply because the Hispanic community travel more often, and they also have more use for international calls and texts. Compared to residents of other countries, Americans travel abroad less, which means they never get to need WhatsApp or are exposed to a culture where it’s the number one messaging app.
3. Presence Of Other Messaging Apps
Beyond SMS, another messaging app popular in the US is Facebook Messenger. While Facebook also owns it, its long presence has made it a preferred choice for many Americans who already use Facebook. It combines well with SMS to ensure that Americans have enough options for instant messaging. Apart from Facebook Messenger, other social media platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter all have messaging features, which means Americans can easily use those means to reach out to whoever they want to without any stress. Since there are already plenty of options available, there’s no need to add WhatsApp to the mix.
4. iPhone Usage
Beyond the fact that there are other messaging apps, many Americans use iPhones and other Apple products. These phones have their inbuilt messaging app, iMessage, to text another iPhone user. It’s free to use as long as you’re connected to the internet. This means they can substitute iMessage for WhatsApp.
5. Openness To Technological Innovation
While the US might be a tech hub, its residents are less open to technological innovations. The fact that other messaging mediums were already working well has made it unnecessary to explore WhatsApp. This attitude to technology is a formed habit that dates back to the early dating years. When other parts of the world were chatting online with MSN and ICQ, Americans still used AIM. They used desktop computing for so long, moving from AIM to Gchat and then a Facebook messenger.
6. Privacy Concerns
Although it’s end-to-end encrypted, the fact that Facebook owns it brings privacy concerns to mind for several users. The app also has features such as sharing location, knowing if a person is online or not, last seen, etc. Many Americans consider these features to be flaws. Even though you can turn off some of these features, there are still some concerns.
WhatsApp as an Alternative For International Messaging And Communication
While most Americans don’t use WhatsApp, some use it for communicating with their family and friends abroad. The mobile phone plans in the US usually impose very expensive charges on international messaging and calls, except you use special packages. Even these special packages aren’t that cheap. WhatsApp offers an alternative for these people where they can easily reach out to people worldwide without stress. The fact that WhatsApp has video-call and voice-call features along with the text feature also makes it one of the most popular apps for international communications by Americans.
But it’s still not all Americans that use WhatsApp, even for international communication. Some are wary of the data protection and privacy issues this app may have and therefore opt for other options such as Signal or Telegram.
Americans’ apathy towards WhatsApp is due to very understandable reasons. They have a plethora of options, which makes it unnecessary to use WhatsApp. Of course, there are still several millions of Americans who use WhatsApp.