It’s almost undeniable that one of the most talked about apps of last year was Snapchat. Apart from the photo messaging app’s saucy reputation for sexting, it was in the spotlight when it reportedly turned down a $3 billion buy-out offer from Facebook; then China’s Tencent invested an undisclosed amount of money into the startup.
Hybrid messaging app
BeeTalk, now available for iOS and Android, aims to combine all the strengths of other apps into itself. Besides basic functions such as texts and voice messages, making unlimited free online calls via the app, BeeTalk’s secret weapon is Whisper, which performs exactly what Snapchat does – making messages disappear after being read.
BeeTalk’s Whisper messages can disappear a short time (from one to 15 seconds, depending on what the sender chooses) after the recipients view them. But unlike Snapchat, these Whisper missives are not limited to text, as users can also choose to send self-destructing stickers, pictures, doodles, and voice messages.
In addition, BeeTalk also has Stickers – just like Line’s stickers, and Doodle, which allows users to send drawings to friends – similar to Line Brush or Doodle Buddy, but this function is within the app, not a separate one. A company rep mentioned to Tech in Asia that this built-in doodle function has been proven to be very popular among its users.
BeeTalk, which is registered as a company in Singapore but is based in the Thai capital, enters a very intense chat app battlefield. Just because it tries to combine Snapchat and Line/WeChat/WhatsApp, that doesn’t mean people will rush to download and use it.
BeeTalk allows users to find friends in several different ways, including one called Look Around, in which you can find BeeTalk users who are using the app nearby. WeChat has long had the same feature. There’s also a group vote inside BeeTalk, so you can create a topic for everyone in the group to vote on. For example, a user can ask “Where should we go for dinner”, give choices, then set a deadline for friends to vote.
According to the company’s representative, Sean Yang, BeeTalk is not looking to compete but it wants to sell what it’s good at.
Our product is different. Line is about stickers. You have to have real friends. Look Around can add new friends using GPS. Our whisper is like snapchat. It’s good for people with a lot of secrets.
According to BeeTalk, within a few days of its launch in November of last year, BeeTalk become the number one app in Apple’s App Store in Thailand, and a trending app in the Google Play store. Sean claims that half of the people who downloaded the app are active users now. Apparently the Whisper is proving popular.
BeeTalk is relying on local Youtube celebrity VRZO (Pictured) to create a buzz for the app. A BeeTalk mini-movie received over 360,000 views on YouTube. If you understand Thai, it’s quite funny.
Thailand first, then Singapore and Malaysia
BeeTalk will focus on Thailand, but it’s also going after users in Singapore and Malaysia (and so the app supports English and Chinese, as well as Thai). Although those markets are smaller, the company claims it has already seen a positive response there. It has also seen some traction in Laos. In the future, BeeTalk also looks to expand to Vietnam and Indonesia.
BeeTalk’s stickers are designed by local artists. The company is not looking to partner with brands yet, which is something we’ve seen Line and KakaoTalk do with their own virtual stickers.
Even though there are a lot of chat apps available, the company believes the market is not too settled. Sean gives an example:
Two years ago, BBM was very big, then Whatsapp came. Now almost everyone uses Line. But the trend changes very fast. There’s space for BeeTalk to grow.
(Editing by Steven Millward)