Just in time for SXSW this year, a Valley-based startup has launched MessageMe, which is an instant messaging app for Android and iOS platforms. We might be tempted to say it’s yet another instant messaging app for mobile devices, trying to carve its share from under Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Viber and the like. But I’ve taken MessageMe for a spin, and I can say I like the app, which lives up to its promises.
In gist, here are some of the things I like about MessageMe:
MessageMe promises to be a simple app that focuses on context. Just like popular regional messaging apps like Japan’s LINE and South Korean Kakao Talk, MessageMe offers rich multimedia content, such as pictures, videos, songs and audio recordings. But what makes it more fun is its inclusion of Doodles — that small applet that lets you pass around sketches either to a single correspondent or a group of friends. You can even doodle on existing pictures – perfect for adding that mustache or glasses to your unwitting subject.
MessageMe was built by a team of experienced social media app developers, led by Arjun Sethi, who is a veteran of Tapjoy and about.me, among other startup companies. I did a quick interview with Arjun — over MessageMe, of course — where I got to pick his brains on his opinions about the supposedly crowded IM space, developing for iOS vs. Android, and their business model.
Basically, Arjun says he doesn’t believe the mobile messaging app space is saturated, especially in North America, South America and Europe. While bigger competitors like Facebook Messenger theoretically have a captured audience (1 billion users on Facebook), MessageMe competes on a couple of advantages: speed and context. Meanwhile, in Asia, the likes of WeChat (300 million users), LINE (100 million) and Kakao Talk (70 million) are dominant, although MessageMe still has something unique to offer.
MessageMe promises to be lightweight and not eat up too much of your smartphone’s resources, which can be very important in maintaining a smooth user experience. But the app’s more important focus is context. “Our team’s core principle is to adhere to the media in which people communicate, and bringing those contexts more naturally into a 1:1 or group conversation.”
This is done by incorporating sensory elements, which is accomplished by the user linking YouTube videos or music tracks, adding photos, sending voice clips and exchanging doodles. Again, the focus is on context.
Developing for Android and iOS each has their own nuances, Arjun admits. “We had to tailor our design and development not just for the platforms, but for the type of devices customers would use and the carriers under which they would operate. Android has more ‘hedge’ cases. iOS is a bit more straightforward because it has many standards and policies laid out.” In a way, building for iOS might be easier, given that you are only writing code for a limited set of devices. On Android, you have to consider a wider variety of screen sizes, processing capability and the like.
MessageMe doesn’t currently have a business model yet, although the company is venture-funded. Arjun admits that the “focused on customer experience and growth at this time.” It’s sure that they won’ be running advertisement on the platform any time in the future. And while BlackBerry ad Windows platforms are being considered in future builds, right now the’re sticking with Android and iOS. “We’ll decide over time as we work on the customer experience on iOS and Android.”
However, there are currently greyed-out “stickers” and “money” buttons, which means MessageMe might soon let users exchange free and premium stickers. These are quite popular in some markets like Asia, where IM services earn millions of dollars per month from stickers and premium games. And if you’ve heard about BlackBerry opening its BBM Money in some markets, an IM-based payment system might be a game changer in doing small transactions like splitting the bill, paying at the checkout counter or paying for freelance services.
MessageMe connects with friends through Facebook authorization, and friends can also be added through either email address or a unique PIN that the app will generate for each user. The app is a free download from the Google Play Store (and also the iTunes App Store for iOS devices). You can also head on to msg.me and click the “download app” link, which leads you to either iTunes or Google Play downloads, depending on your device.