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Snapchat and Vine used their infectious picture and short video sharing services to build up huge networks of users. Pinger already has 12 million monthly active users, but it’s hoping by tapping into the magic of the animated GIF it can make that network a lot bigger.
On Thursday, Pinger is launching GIF Chat, an app that lets you record up to six seconds of video, tinker with the video’s speed, overlay text and then send it as multimedia message to other Pinger users. The recipient can play the video for a set number of loops determined by the sender, but after that it disappears into the ether. Basically Pinger is trying to combine the most popular elements of Snapchat and Vine.
The app will be separate from Pinger’s regular texting and calling apps, but it isn’t walling off the service off from its existing users. Any Pinger user can receive and view the videos on their smartphones, tablets and PCs. GIF chat is going live in the iTunes store globally, but the company plans to have an Android version ready by the end of the month.
As far as messaging apps go, Pinger is far smaller than the colossal WhatsApp – which just revealed it has 300 million active users globally – and is not even in the same league as Viber or Tango. But it does have a few traits that set it apart. For one, most of its users are right here in the U.S.
Most of over-the-top messaging apps are seeing their biggest success overseas where the cost of SMS is often high. In the U.S., carriers have fended off the OTT messaging threat by simply making SMS unlimited in their service plans (while still charging for it, of course). Pinger has built up its subscriber base in the U.S. by offering up phone numbers to users, letting them call and text customers outside of the Pinger network. Consequently a good deal of Pinger’s users aren’t texting from a traditional smartphone, but using its apps to turn tablets and iPod Touches into virtual phones.
And while many messaging apps are basically free to use, Pinger has a steady revenue stream, primarily from in-app advertising but also through in-app purchases of minutes for out-of-network calls. At a panel I moderated at CTIA Wireless last spring, CEO and co-fonder Greg Woock said Pinger’s average monthly revenue per user was between 64 and 65 cents. That works out to at least $7.68 million a month.
The GIF chat feature, however, marks a change in its strategy. Pinger has always offered different versions of apps each highlighting specific features, but now it’s taking that approach to its logical extreme. From now on Pinger will launch new features as separate apps, rather than try to cram an abundance of services and capabilities into a single app.
Like GIF Chat though, all of those apps will hang off Pinger’s core messaging network, so any Pinger user can receive a communication from any other Pinger app in a kind of universal inbox. So in order to create a video message, you’ll need the GIF Chat app, but any of Pinger’s 12 million users can view that video on their phones, tablets or PCs.
Pinger even gave a preview of some of the new apps it will launch in the coming weeks:
- JukeVox Messenger: The app is very similar to the voice messaging service Pinger first launched with, but it lets you overlay sound effects before sending a message.
- Freestyle Messenger: A version of Pinger’s standard texting app that allows senders to create messages with customized fonts, colors, backgrounds and animations.