Millennials are turning to mobile messaging app services when they want to communicate quickly, privately and easily, new research shows.
Nearly half of all smartphone owners age 18 to 29 say they use messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Kik or iMessage, according to the Pew Research Center. About 41% say they use apps that delete messages automatically, such as Wickr or Snapchat.
Pew researchers highlighted several possible reasons for the popularity of messaging apps: they are free; they don’t drain data plans when connected to Wi-Fi; and they can offer more privacy to users than Twitter, Facebook or other social networks.
The survey, which was released in August 2015, marked the first time the Pew Research Center had asked smartphone owners about their use of mobile messaging apps. Among all age groups, 36% of smartphone owners said they used messaging apps, and 17% said they use apps that automatically delete messages.
Women and men are equally likely to use messaging apps (36% and 37%, respectively) and there’s little in the way of gender-based differences in the use of auto-delete apps (17% of men versus 18% of women), Pew reported.
Researchers also found that college-educated smartphone owners were much more likely (45%) to use messaging apps compared to smartphone owners with a high school diploma or less (30%). However, high school grads were more likely (19%) to use auto-delete apps compared to college grads (13%).
The survey findings are a further sign of the rise of messaging apps; in 2014, Facebook announced it was purchasing WhatsApp in a deal then valued at an estimated $19 billion. As of July 2015, the social network reported having more than 1.3 billion mobile monthly active users, up 23% over the previous year.
“Engagement across our family of apps keeps growing, and we remain focused on improving the quality of our services,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement on the company’s website.
Gaining a foothold in the mobile messaging market is seen as particularly important since other research shows users have a limited capacity for the number of apps they use and tend to return to their preferred apps over and over again.
Smartphone users accessed an average of 26 apps per month as of late 2014, about the same number as during the previous two years, a recent Nielsen report found.
However, Americans are spending much more time using apps – an average of nearly 37½ hours a month in late 2014. That’s a jump of more than 14 hours over the monthly average at the end of 2012, according to the Nielsen study.