Analytics collected from around the world show that, while Americans prefer social media apps like Facebook and Instagram, smartphone users around the world are more inclined towards messaging apps. What does this mean for app developers and marketers?

As the popularity of smartphones explodes around the globe, a growing body of analytics has emerged to track the various ways in which different people use their mobile devices. These statistics can be a tremendous resource for app developers and marketers as they try to position their products and services in optimal markets.

Targeting consumers in increasingly varied markets — especially when mobile app use differs from region to region — can be a major headache for companies hoping to develop apps with a global reach. What are the regional differences in how people use smartphones and apps, and how can companies adapt to keep up to pace with an international consumer base?

Regional Divides

An international analysis of smartphone data reveals compelling differences in use region to region, and this data is all the more significant given that the amount of money invested in smartphone app purchases has exploded over the course of the past few years.

As Forbes reports, in 2014 “[tweetable alt=”In 2014, in-#app ads and sales from @AppStore and @GooglePlay are up by 70% on 2013, says @Forbes.” hashtag=””]in-app ads and sales from app stores were up about 70%[/tweetable]” from previous figures collected in 2013. This growth has been driven at least in part by the rise of smartphone use outside of the United States.

In addition to this global growth, studies have shown that smartphone users in the U.S. tend towards social apps — particularly Facebook — during the majority of their “sessions.” Meanwhile, outside of the domestic market, smartphone users’ time was mostly dominated by messaging apps.

WhatsApp, for instance, was popular in the United Kingdom and Germany, while Japanese users favored Line. An app called KakaoTalk was the most popular messaging app in South Korea.

In response to its lagging international use, Facebook has devoted an increased portion of its budget to its messaging service. [tweetable alt=”When @facebook acquired @WhatsApp for $18bn, it proved its dedication to messaging #apps.” hashtag=””]Not to mention that in February of 2014, Facebook actually acquired WhatsApp for $18 billion,[/tweetable]according to CNN, hoping to take advantage of its established base of messaging users.

In the U.S., the other most-used apps include Snapchat, Instagram, and Chrome Browser, all of which share one thing in common: a high volume of data usage. This critical fact may explain the higher popularity of messaging apps abroad.

High Data Costs

While Facebook, Chrome Browser, Snapchat and Instagram are all hugely popular apps in the U.S., both for Android and iPhone users they all consume a significant amount of data, in part because they are ad-heavy.

For domestic mobile users, most of whom have data plans that allow for Facebook surfing, these ad-heavy, data-burning social media apps are no problem. But in emerging, international smartphone markets, many people use pay-as-you-go plans, which are better suited for interpersonal messaging apps that consume minimal data.

Adapting to the Growing Global User Base

As app developers try to gain traction in the already massive and still growing international app market, paying close attention to these sort of analytics is key. Developers should certainly note the popularity of messaging app services in the international mobile market, and consider this popularity when designing their future apps, as well as the reasons behind it.

One way to do this would be to integrate popular domestic social media apps with more flexible, slimmed-down messaging services for international mobile users.

Facebook is already on the forefront of this movement, but as other messaging services have shown with their loyal user networks in countries like China, South Korea, Japan, and Indonesia, there’s certainly reason to doubt that the Silicon Valley company is invincible when it comes to messaging.

With a user-friendly app-making platform like Infinite Monkeys, you can quickly and easily get your ideas off the drawing board and into the rapidly developing global market. Try it today!