Chat app LINE eyes PH's growing mobile users

Posted at 06/01/2013 4:59 PM | Updated as of 06/03/2013 9:43 AM

MANILA -- Messaging platform LINE is now eyeing the Philippine market, after successfully growing its users to more than 160 million around the globe following its launch in June 2011.

LINE Business Office General Manager Jin-woo Lee

Jin-woo Lee, general manager at LINE Business Office, said the growing number of smartphone users in the country coupled with telcos' aggressive marketing of mobile data plans translate to the potential of making LINE popular in the local market.

"We see high potential from the Philippines. Whenever I come here, I see more and more people using smartphones, also there are data plans... and mobile operators are aggressively expanding," Lee told ABS-CBNNews.com earlier this week.

"I see [a] very bright future for Philippine mobile market," he continued.

LINE, a free application one can use to send messages and make calls, utilizes the Internet. The application is available for iOS, Android, Windows and Blackberry devices, and for Nokia Asha phones. It is also available for desktops running on Mac OS X, Windows and Windows 8.

"We are beginning to make some efforts for the Philippine market [and] definitely, we are going to be investing more," Lee said.

"That's why we are here--our main job is to make more, more people know about LINE," he added.

One of the application's main features is its Official Accounts made up of artists and corporations. This means any LINE user can add these so-called Official Accounts and receive updates--which can come with pictures or videos--from the artist or get promos and discount coupons from companies.

Lee recounted his team is now talking with a number of Philippine artists so as to draw in more Filipino users.

"That's part of our mission. We're already discussing with several artists," he quipped, without giving details.

Darin Hwang, manager at LINE Business Office, added his firm is also meeting with companies in the Philippines so they can have their own LINE Official Account.

"We are currently meeting companies and corporations to actually grow with us," Hwang told ABS-CBNNews.com.

Official corporate accounts on LINE are popular with users in Thailand, Taiwan and Japan, Lee noted.

"We form partnerships with major companies but we make sure they can provide good information or for example, discount coupons, for our users," Lee shared.

LINE stickers featuring character James.

The application's "explosive" growth in its number of users to more than 160 million today from its June 2011 debut was owed to its popular stickers, Hwang said.

"We've seen global success around the world and also across platforms... a big factor is our stickers themselves," he shared.

"It's become prevalent because our designs, our characters are very lovable and I think a lot of the expressions they convey are very, very likable and you can really relate to them," he continued.

LINE offers free stickers which features the brand's own characters, and also sells a number of favorites such as Doraemon and Winnie the Pooh.

And as testament to LINE's popularity, there have been two animation series dedicated to the brand's own characters. Line Offline and Line Town, which were broadcast in Japan earlier this year, are also being marketed in other Asian countries, Lee noted.

Merchandise--stuff toys, fans, pens, etc.--featuring the characters are also selling like hotcakes in some countries, Lee said.

Stuff toys featuring LINE characters Cony, Brown, and Moon.

But the messenger's edge over its competitors hinges on the various applications under the LINE brand.

"We consider ourselves not really as an instant messenger, we consider ourselves more of a mobile platform because our core is instant messaging but we also offer so many other services so that's one edge that we have over our competitors," Hwang said.

The firm has more than 30 games linked to its messenger, and also a number of other applications such as LINE Camera, with which you can edit photos and pepper them with stickers; LINE Card, used to send greetings; and LINE Brush, for creativity needs.

Lee said all LINE applications will continue to be free of charge as his firm focuses on its end-users and their "digital lives".

"In the end, our vision is to become a sort of like an ecosystem. We want line to be a vital part of peoples lives. We want them to use it on the go, at work," he said.

LINE is most popular in Japan, where it has more than 45 million users, Hwang said.

He stressed the firm has "high hopes" for the Philippine market as it has already seen some growth in the number of users even before LINE started promoting its product in the country through media advertisements.