We recently analyzed the top iMessage apps on Product Hunt to answer this question:

What factors go into creating an iMessage app that people really want?

We looked at the types of iMessage apps.

We looked at the role of these different apps.

We looked at the user experiences of these apps.

And in doing so, we were able to uncover some interesting insights about what types of apps are rising to the top of Product Hunt. Though we realize that Product Hunt’s audience doesn’t necessarily reflect the general population, we still like to think of it as a great resource for predicting what’s to come in the future.

Our small study of top iMessage apps on Product Hunt revealed some undeniable trends:

Collaborative Communication Apps Are On the Rise

One of the most exciting trends we found when analyzing the top iMessage apps on Product Hunt was the number of apps for collaborative communication. Group chats are on the rise and are becoming a common form of communication between peers, colleagues and family members:

Apps like Tinder Stacks, Charmer and Mini Poll are creating the future by helping people communicate better within a group context. For example, Tinder Stacks gives you the ability to message your group with a stack of different photos and let them vote by swiping right or left (like Tinder) to indicate which picture they like most.

tinderstacks

When asked why Tinder would invest in an app like this, co-founder Jonathan Badeen chimed in:

The nature of iMessage apps provided a nice opportunity to create one of these non-core experiences we’ve always wanted to do without complicating the current experience everybody already knows. (Read more)

Expect other apps to take inspiration from Tinder and capitalize on the opportunity to create non-core iMessage experiences. It’s a great opportunity for companies to experiment and find new ways to add value to their users’ lives.

In addition to social polling, group video chat has been a popular topic over the last few months. We’ve recently seen Facebook Messenger roll out their group chat functionality and native apps like Houseparty rise in popularity. For iMessage, Fam caught the attention of Product Hunt users because it’s meeting the demand for Group FaceTime. Check it out:

People Really Like Photo And Chat Manipulation Apps

Over the years, text messaging has evolved from basic character communication to include emojis, GIFs, videos and more. To wit, more than 15 percent of the top iMessage apps on Product Hunt allow users to manipulate messages or photos. iMessage applications that are helping make communication more engaging and expressive are standing out from the noise.

For example, if you have a friend who is always correcting your grammar, two of the top content manipulation apps on Product Hunt are right up their alley: Grammar Snob and Spelling Police, sticker apps that allow you to add markup directly to your iMessage chats when someone misspells a word or misuses an apostrophe. And the most popular iMessage text manipulation app is Censored iMessage Stickers, which allows users to blur out words or faces.  

Bobble Stickers for iMessage is another great example of an iMessage app that helps people express themselves more creatively. Users can take a photo of themselves and within seconds have a Bitmoji-esque avatar to use in their conversations:

Another cool content manipulation app is BLUR. It takes a page out of Snapchat’s book by letting you send images to your friends that disappear after they’re viewed, directly in iMessage. Unfortunately, BLUR has one distinct disadvantage, which brings us to our next point…

Native Apps Have An Advantage Over New iMessage Apps

When I first attempted to send a BLUR image to a friend, I received this response:

Why does it keep sending me to the app-store?

Yet, when I sent an Airbnb listing to a friend through iMessage, it worked with no issues.

Why?

Because the Airbnb app was already on my friend’s phone.

Similarly, if I were to send a Tinder Stack to someone who already has Tinder on their phone, the iMessage experience would work immediately, without any hiccups. Apple allows iPhone apps to bundle iMessage apps with their products. So when you download Tinder, you’re also downloading Tinder Stacks whether you know it or not.

As a result, established apps have a huge distribution advantage over new apps trying to leverage iMessage functionality. An app with hundreds of thousands of followers can easily replicate the approach of a new app and blow the new app’s distribution and usage numbers out of the water.

A lack of distribution also creates a broken user experience for many new apps, as you can see from the message I received after sending my first BLUR photo to a friend. This combination of a broken UX and the challenge of distribution for new apps opens up a huge opportunity for apps that already have an established fan base. It’s a no-brainer for apps like Tinder to experiment with new iMessage possibilities. It’s also an opportunity for games to start rolling out entertaining sticker packs, or for an e-commerce app to allow users to browse and shop while in iMessage.

Sticker Packs Are Still The King Of iMessage Apps

Like the most popular iMessage apps in the Apple app store, the majority of the popular iMessage apps on Product Hunt are sticker apps. In September 2016, SensorTower found that 1,251 of the 1,650 iMessage apps at the time were sticker packs that let users embed, decorate, manipulate and express themselves in messages. Since then, that number has continued to explode with more and more makers becoming interested in the sticker pack opportunity.

As a result of this explosion and the success of sticker apps, makers are responding with solutions that don’t leave people with tons of different sticker apps. One solution that generated a lot of love on Product Hunt was Mojilala, described in the comments as the “Netflix for stickers”:

For most of 2016, the most popular and highly discussed iMessage app was the Super Mario Run sticker pack. In anticipation of the Super Mario Run launch, Apple and Nintendo put significant resources towards the sticker pack. On Product Hunt, the Super Mario Run sticker app has more than 200 upvotes, making it the No. 1 sticker app on the site:

The second most popular sticker app on Product Hunt is NYC Subway Stickers:

While it wasn’t a trend we noticed throughout Product Hunt, the popularity of NYC Subway Stickers highlights a trend in the iMessage app store specifically: More and more iMessage sticker apps are finding success by focusing on a local market. For NYC Subway Stickers the local market was obviously New York City, and for our Halimoji app, it was Halifax. Makers are capitalizing on the chance to create apps for specific geographic areas and are generating revenue as a result.

The Most Popular iMessage Apps Are Primarily Free (Unless They’re Stickers)

Of the top iMessage apps on Product Hunt, we found that 68 percent were free to download. The most expensive price for an iMessage app was $1.39 and the most common price for those that weren’t free was $0.99. The majority of sticker apps among the top iMessage apps on Product Hunt were paid sticker packs. This trend is supported by an earlier report from SensorTower, which found that as of September 2016, the vast majority of iMessage sticker packs were paid rather than free:

sensortower

Wrapping Things Up

While the future of iMessage apps in the app store is yet to be determined, there’s no question that apps like Super Mario Run’s sticker pack and Fam are showcasing huge potential. If the market begins to invest in iMessage the way that startups in China have invested in WhatsApp, the iMessage app store could be the next big wave of opportunity for app makers.

 

We know firsthand based on the success of our Halimoji app that Apple is helping makers who launch quality iMessage apps find success. Halimoji has been featured in the iMessage store every week since launch and has been consistently generating downloads.
If you’re interested in leveraging the iMessage app store and want to chat about your app idea, let us know—we’d love to chat with you.