Samsung, which has been accused of playing the me-too game a little too closely with Apple of late, is now jumping on another hot trend: group messaging apps. The South Korean electronics giant unveiled ChatON today, a multimedia group messaging app debuting in October on Samsung’s own Bada OS and feature phones. ChatON will also appear on other platforms such as iOS, Android and BlackBerry and will have a web interface for PCs.
ChatON will allow both smartphone and feature phone users to exchange text and multimedia messages; it can also push out calendar information and location updates. Samsung is playing up the fact that it will have international support in 120 countries and in 62 languages. It also has features such as animated messages, a multimedia repository for chat rooms called Trunk and an interaction rank to measure a person’s social activity.
But does the world need another free messaging service? It appears everyone now wants their own messaging platform following the success of Research In Motion’s BlackBerry Messenger. Apple is poised to launch iMessage on iOS 5 while Facebook recently released Facebook Messenger, built from its acquisition of Beluga. Google has its own group messaging app called Huddle that’s part of its Google+ service and has other communications applications like Google Chat and Google Voice. Skype also just bought GroupMe, which will benefit not only Skype but Microsoft as well, which is in the process of buying Skype. And all of these compete with existing independent group messaging apps like WhatsApp, textPlus, Kik, Fast Society and many others.
Samsung sells about as many smartphones as Apple so it’s not surprising they want to jump into the group messaging game as well. And with a cross-platform service, it could have more appeal than iMessage, which will work with iOS devices but will also utilize standard text messaging when a recipient doesn’t have iMessage. It’s unclear if ChatON will also utilize SMS.
But at some point, it’s hard to see all of these messaging services succeeding. People may like group messaging services, but they don’t want to run multiple chat applications. There’s going to be a shake out soon as people start migrating to a smaller group of applications. Samsung could be part of that group, but at this point, it’s just playing another game of me-too.