NEW YORK – On Monday, Sprint (NYSE:S) launched their new ‘Messaging Plus’ application for Android and iOS devices. The app will allow subscribers of the nation’s number 3 wireless carrier to communicate via text, instant messaging, group messaging, and video chat as well as share photos, videos and files, with any other mobile phone user in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
In their release, Sprint claimed to be the first national wireless carrier to enable ‘cloud-based enhanced messaging features on select smartphones.’ The app was released via Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play and Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) App Store. Sprint also said they would pre-load the app on all future Android phones sold by the company.
In recent months, a number of carriers have announced plans to release their own messaging applications, which represent an upgrade to legacy short messaging service (SMS). In addition, the applications are an attempt to take back market share from over-the-top messaging (OTT) developers such as Viber and WhatsApp, combined the companies have accumulated hundreds of millions of subscribers globally. This trend represents a challenge to the carriers who used to generate billions in revenue from SMS messages. In addition, the trend is problematic for Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) who has been able to increase usage for SKYPE mobile, as the application is generally not as agile as Viber and WhatsApp.
In response to the popularity of OTT apps, international mobile industry group, GSMA, introduced the RCS-powered joyn service. This service allows carriers to offer picture and video messaging services under their own brand. However, consumers are already sending more than 41 billion OTT messages per day, compared to 19.5 billion SMS messages daily – according to a recent forecast issued by research firm Informa Telecoms & Media. While the app release will help Sprint to win back some of the share in the OTT market, they might have already missed their opportunity and its might only be a matter of time before the big Telco’s start acquiring the leading OTT players.
Sprint was acquired by Japanese Telco Softbank (Tokyo:9984) for more than $ 21 billion earlier this year. The acquisition was hotly contested as troubled pay-tv provider the Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) had offered to pay $ 25.5 billion for Sprint.
Shares of Sprint closed on Tuesday at $ 6.03.