HONG KONG: Users of instant messaging apps in Asia Pacific place the highest value on functionality and reliability but would not be opposed to the addition of advertising, research has found.

Lightspeed Research polled 3,113 consumers across the region who both owned a smartphone and used social-messaging apps. Ten countries were covered, including Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.

It found the main reasons for switching an app included it no longer being free, it crashing too often and friends stopping using it.

Writing in Campaign Asia-Pacific, Jeff Tsui, a senior director of Lightspeed Research in Hong Kong, said games and "add-on fancy features" were seen as much less important.

He also noted that "introducing an advertising element when using the app" did not provoke a strong reaction. "For most people," he said, "the addition of advertising would not be a reason to switch apps."

He suggested that app owners could generate an additional revenue stream by permitting advertisers to insert some ads with their apps.

It remained to be seen, he added, what extent and form of advertising users would be prepared to accept.

But he saw areas of opportunity for a range of interested parties, including app developers, telcos, media buyers and creative agencies.

A total of 34 instant-messaging apps were mentioned in Lightspeed's research, with the top five – Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, Yahoo Messenger and Google Talk – dominating the share of awareness.

WhatsApp was the most popular instant-messaging app across the region, with 28% of respondents saying they used it most often. It was followed by Facebook Messenger, on 13%.

In certain countries a local app was most popular – Kakao Talk in South Korea was used by 90% of respondents there, while more than 50% in China used QQ and 24% WeChat.

Tsui also noted wide variations in the usage of instant-messaging apps, with the greatest usage rate coming in South Korea and one of the lowest in Australia.

Data sourced from Campaign Asia-Pacific; additional content by Warc staff