What is Whatsapp and why aren’t Americans using it?

By Monty Miller

In the last 10 years alone, the social media boom has changed the way that we communicate as a global society. Social media has allowed us as humans to connect over several different platforms with people all over the world with similar passions, interests, and personalities. 

Although there are some social media platforms that are universally extremely successful and popular among many age groups such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; depending on where you are on the globe, some are more prominent than others. 

One platform of communication that has been brought to my attention recently is the messaging app called, WhatsApp. WhatsApp was founded in 2009 and is currently the world’s most popular text and voice application. WhatsApp is free of charge and also allows you to place free international phone calls, group messages as well as video calls. 

What I find interesting is the fact that this platform is used so much internationally, but why has it not gained popularity in the United States? 

There are essentially two main reasons 

  1. American phone carriers are MUCH cheaper

Since the beginning of the internet, cell phones and SMS messaging, American telecommunications have been much more developed than other countries. Around the year 2010, Americans accessed something revolutionary. Unlimited 3G Network. At this time in other underdeveloped countries, for example, India, residents were being charged unrealistic and unaffordable SMS and “minutes” packages. This is where you pay a certain amount of money for a certain amount of phone minutes or text messages. This was a terrible value and the phone carriers were essentially ripping people off. For many countries where you had to pay for each individual text, the idea of unlimited and instantaneous communication was not only intriguing but mind-blowing. In America on the other hand, affordable payment plans we’re being created in which the average citizen could have access to unlimited talk, text, and data for a good price. This caused social media to flourish at a much faster level in the states, as more and more people were online. 

  1. Apple and iMessage 

The reality is that the number of Americans with Apple phones and products is much higher than the rest of the world. Apple products have the feature of Imessage which allows for free instantaneous messaging with internet access and of course, cell service. As long as the other user has an Apple Iphone, product or essentially an active Apple ID, they are able to utilize Imessage for free and with no call, text or video call limit. Because of the fact that the majority of people that you probably know own an apple product, this makes communication fairly easy and cost-free; leaving no need for a separate app or platform. The reality is that in other parts of the globe, Android phones are much more prominent. This means that most people have a variety of phones, phone carriers and plans. Due to this, people are searching for one single platform in which they are able to easily reach anybody on any device for free; which happens to be Whatsapp.

Whether or not you or someone you know uses Whatsapp, it’s important to use whatever platform you enjoy most and fits your need as a consumer:)

You can find me on Twitter at @montyymiller! Let’s connect on LinkedIn : https://www.linkedin.com/feed/

Also, check out my other blog posts:)

https://yummyfoodrestaurant.food.blog 

This Article Has 12 Comments
  1. Jamie Dunn says:

    This is an interesting topic to talk about. I am in another social media based class that specifically focuses on social media in Asia and it is interesting to see what other social media platforms are out in the world making an impact on other countries I studied abroad this past summer and What’sApp was the biggest way of communication for all European locals. I had never heard of What’sApp until the idea of going abroad came to my attention. I think this is well written and the information in this blog post suggests many reasons and facts as to why What’sApp is so popular in almost every other country, except the United States.

  2. Chad Orras says:

    I think you bring up two very strong points about why Whatsapp is used sparingly in the United States. I know from personal experience that the only time I really use it is when communicating with friends who live outside the country. I think another big reason is that Facebook purchased Whatsapp. The reason why a lot of people started using it was because it provided security and created a more encrypted approach at messaging individuals. This gave people a better feeling of security knowing people weren’t watching what they say. However, once Facebook purchased Whatsapp, a lot of consumers moved away because of the relation with a tech giant. I think you are spot on with the fact that Americans have a lot more options when it comes to free messaging, which makes it difficult for Whatsapp to stand out in an already crowded marketplace.

  3. Tyler Lima says:

    Hi Monty,
    Up until recently, I had never used WhatsApp as a main source of communication other than when I am traveling or I’m talking to my sister who lives in New Zealand. This term I was required to use WhatsApp to communicate with a group for a group project because we were working with two international students, who only used WeChat and WhatsApp. I don’t think WhatsApp will become a main means of communication in the US unless cellular companies decide to raise prices. Americans are obsessed with convenience and Apple’s iMessage provides that, and uniformity.

  4. Kyra Lindsay says:

    I think this is a very important point. Some countries do not have the communication luxuries that we do. I know that I personally have only used this app when my friends travel in order to contact them. However, not all countries are connected like we are and that is important to remember. Whatsapp is innovative for the right country, just not necessarily the United States.

  5. Abigail Portwood says:

    Monty,

    This is such an interesting topic! It is surprising that many Americans have rarely heard of WhatsApp unless they are traveling abroad. The United States does have many wireless networks with many plans available, so it does make sense that we stick to our carriers like Verizon, AT&T and others with the cellular plans. We are fortunate that we can rely on iMessage and texting to communicate.

  6. Jessica Klockman says:

    I feel like this topic isn’t discussed about much. My aunt recently traveled to Cuba and mentioned the possible use of WhatsApp on her trip but wasn’t aware of it before planning her trip which surprised me. With the amount of options such as AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint, choosing from these options can be overwhelming as it is. There is also a lot of privacy hazards that could be brought up with WhatsApp especially when going out of the country. The point you made about how majority of America owns iPhones and uses iMessage is so true, I wouldn’t think twice about WhatsApp since I have iMessage but I can see why people without iPhones keep their options open.

  7. Cameron Lewis says:

    Really enjoyed this topic and definitely see value in the conversation of what’s app and it’s underrated stature within the U.S. I’ve studied abroad and traveled outside of the states several of times and have always used WhatsApp as my main source of communication in those regions. I’d definitely attest the close minded perceptions within our society that results in our ability to believe AT&T and Verizon our the only telephone companies.

    Wharsapp is undoubtably a trendsetting platform that connects many global organizations. I’d argue if we as consumers were to follow suit, we’d be opening ourselves to a lot of opportunities and connections.

  8. Mark Yasak says:

    This was a really interesting post. I’ve always noticed that people living in other countries use communication apps (WhatsApp, WeChat, etc) much more frequently than we do here in the United States, and aside from the higher rate of iPhone ownership I never really understood why. It makes sense that advancements in technology and better phone service make it easier to communicate in the U.S., it will be interesting to see which apps survive and how communication develops as the technology in other countries continues to improve.

  9. Zach Newsom says:

    My immediate reaction when I saw your headline was that the iPhone essentially provides the same services as WhatsApp while already being installed on your phone. However, I have occasionally used WhatsApp to communicate with those without an iPhone, in other countries, or even in job interviews, so I understand the easy to use appeal. But like I said, having the iMessage and FaceTime features already loaded on your phone makes everything more convenient.

  10. Anushka Pawashe says:

    This is a really interesting topic and I’m really glad someone wrote about it. I actually use WhatsApp because i have a lot of family in India. They use it like we use Instagram and Snapchat. It’s more of a social media app than just a messaging app.

  11. Jackson Ritt says:

    Great post! It’s an interesting subject to talk about, and I think the real root to the issue as to why the US is so far ahead of the rest of the world is because we were the ones to develop the infrastructure in telecommunication, and intentionally designed it to be expensive for other countries. I wonder what the motive was, if any on why apple introduced iMessage and made it free for people to communicate with apple products. It seems like such a lucrative business and seems like theres some sort of catch.

  12. Kyra Hanson says:

    Hi Monty,

    This was a very interesting blog post! My main experience with WhatsApp was when my older sister went to Germany about five years ago. She wanted a way to call and message us while she was gone, so we learned about how easy WhatsApp makes international communication, and the whole family downloaded it. The app worked great for us at that time, but since then Facebook Messenger has gained popularity and is able to fulfill all the same functions. We also all have iPhones so that makes it easy to message or Facetime Audio/Video someone just through the use of wifi. All of this is to say that I don’t really use WhatsApp anymore because it is not popular in the U.S. and there are other apps that are more popular here that fill all of the functions that WhatsApp provides. But it is interesting to think about how popular WhatsApp is in other countries, and why that is the case. Thank you for your insights!

    Best,
    Kyra

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