OTT messaging apps

What are OTT messaging platforms?

Let’s get these initials out of the way.

OTT stands for ‘over the top’.

OTT messaging apps are instant messaging platforms that use the internet to transmit messages rather than the mobile networks.

So they are ‘over the top’ in the sense that they operate above the mobile networks.

In recent years OTT apps have overtaken SMS in popularity and they have a much better range of functionality than clunky and outdated SMS.

Some of The most popular OTT messaging apps are WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat.

OTT messaging vs SMS

P2P SMS volumes have been in decline for around since 2013, with its restricted functions and basic interface users have swarmed to the far more engaging and interactive OTT apps.

With SMS you have just 160 characters of plain text, that’s it.

Most people tend to only use SMS in an emergency or if they’re communicating with a new contact and they’re not sure which messaging apps they use.

With OTT messaging apps you can send and receive media files like photos, videos and voice files. You can add GIFs to your messages and easily manage large group chats.

There’s no limit to the number of characters you can use in a single message whereas with SMS you are stuck with 160 characters per text.

In terms of functionality, there’s just no contest.

Which OTT apps are most popular?

According to Staistia, Whatsapp, Facebook messenger and Wechat are by far the most popular OTT apps, accounting for about 73% of active users in October 2021.

most popular OTT messaging apps

SMS messaging still holds the crown as the most popular A2P or business messaging platform.
Volumes of transactional SMS have been increasing dramatically in recent years.

According to UK research company Mobile Squared business SMS grew 68.4% between 2019 and 2020.

SMS is still the only universal way of getting your message across and 95% of all messages are read within 5 minutes.

Every phone ever made can send and receive texts.

OTT messaging apps for business

WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage have versions that can be used by businesses to communicate with customers.

But there’s a problem. In fact there are a few.

Unlike SMS you need to know if the individual uses that particular ott app and have specific permission to send them messages.

It’s a far more complicated set up process. With all the main business OTT players, there are set up costs, monthly fees and a costs per message.

For many companies the technical barrier to entry for business messaging apps is just too high. 

For enterprise users who have a complete multi-channel marketing and communications strategy and deep pockets, then the OTT apps represent a great opportunity to communicate with and support customers on the messaging channel of their choice.

But it’s highly complex and expensive to get all the different messaging apps integrated into one seamless system.

For most of us, we’ll probably stick with SMS until it’s more accessible.

SMS may be clunky and basic but all you need is a phone number and you can communicate. (Assuming of course that you have the relevant permission.)

RCS business messaging – a messaging disaster

RCS messaging which was supposed to be the great feature rich replacement to SMS has been an utter failure so far. 

Iphones are unable to receive them and it’s highly unlikely that Apple would allow RCS onto their platform.

There is a whole sorry list of reasons why many commentators think that the RCS message app is doomed to failure. I’ve outlined some of the reasons in this scathing article about RCS’s failure.

As Tim Green from MEF said.

“RCS is – for now at least – classic ‘vapourware’. It’s something that might take off… at some point in the future… we’re not sure when.”

That was back in 2019, I think we can be fairly sure that there will be a long wait for ‘take off’.

The future for OTT messaging

So business messaging Apps like Apple Business Chat and Whatsapp for business are making some progress but SMS is still by far the dominant force.

It will probably be the case for some time to come.

But eventually it is likely that all the issues will be resolved and OTT messaging will get its act together and become a real challenger to a2p SMS.

Surely we can’t continue to be stuck with 160, plain text characters? 

Perhaps a new technology will emerge which will sweep the landscape clean of the existing mess and we’ll have a unified messaging app that we can all use.

Related articles

Business RCS Messaging – Will it ever progress from ‘interesting case study’ to widescale adoption?
(Spoiler alert – no.)

Transactional SMS – What’s that all about?

P2P messaging

What’s the maximum message length of a text?

author avatar
Henry Cazalet Managing Director
Co-founder and Director of The SMS Works, a low cost and powerful SMS API for developers. About Henry