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Opinion 301 Shares 17 comments

Here’s how WhatsApp could replace Android

What if WhatsApp became the only app you ever used on Android, or even became an operating system itself? This might sound a little far-fetched, but messaging apps have rapidly established themselves as the mobile platforms of the future. Could Android soon become obsolete?

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Messaging apps like WhatsApp could shake up Android. / © ANDROIDPIT

The wave of interest in ‘messaging as a platform’ has been swelling for a couple of years now. Smartphone software development, and the way services are offered online, is transforming as mobile interfaces do. That change is currently centered around text-based conversations.

In the post-search era, messaging apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger and Snapchat are showing clear signs that they could soon compete with mobile operating systems like Android and iOS. As they become entire ecosystems in their own right, the need for an OS to contain them would become less important.

Messaging apps like WhatsApp could soon compete with mobile operating systems like Android

There is even the argument that messaging platforms could even replace traditional graphical user interfaces, making Android all but obsolete. But what would they replace them with? Speech bubbles and emoji? Not quite. It'd be more like a ‘Conversational User Interface’. Book an Uber, order a pizza, or use any service you use an app for, but do it through a messaging app. Quite a powerful idea.

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Could we soon be booking flights via Messenger? / © ANDROIDPIT

Benedict Evans wrote last year that, so far, only WeChat has had real success in opening itself up to developers. It’s a messaging app, but also a place where developers can build services. These services can access identity, location, payment and other information to function. It’d be another e-commerce revolution to replace all the activities we normally use apps for, but through a messaging platform.

Think of all the time you spend in messaging apps already. I, for one, spend most of my time in WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. But if developers could plug the apps and services I use into a big messaging platform, I’d drop the apps entirely. Take Uber as an example: I booked one in Budapest the other day. I opened the app, it located me and told me which divers were close. I picked one, it charged my credit card and told me how short the wait would be.

My interaction with Uber was essentially a dialogue of messages and, considering I only use it when I need a ride, is a standalone app that essential? There is huge potential for messaging apps to offer platforms for interactions like this.

Booking an Uber could one day look very different. / © ANDROIDPIT

But there could be catches to this. Developers could face limitations in how they build and offer their services, without the freedom to design standalone apps, with the restrictions that dialogue-based interfaces could pose. It could, for example, be like running an app in the Android notification shade.

My interaction with Uber was essentially a dialogue of messages

And the other limitation could be that messaging platforms might only really suit marketing and e-commerce businesses, as Facebook’s M platform targets. This could make it difficult for these platforms to become ubiquitous.

But with the huge potential of messaging platforms becoming even more intertwined with the mobile experience, or someday even taking control of it, we’ll have to wait and see how it pans out for big companies like Google, Apple and Facebook - along with developers - in the coming months and years.

What do you think of messaging platforms replacing Android, or Android apps? Let me know in the comments.


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  • storm 6 months ago Link to comment

    I don't see it. But then these are the kinds of apps I don't use are all. Nor my friends either. The Facebook phone flopped, twice. I see this having even less market.

  • akazoye 6 months ago Link to comment


  • Alex W. 6 months ago Link to comment

    I really like the idea of a new messenger which based on sending short voice messages. This really resembles a natural conversation.

  • Dean L. 6 months ago Link to comment

    IMO a lot of our interactions are conversations. Whether we call and speak to someone or text them we are holding a conversation. If you think about using Google app or Hound or cortana or Siri you are communicating in a manner which is similar to a conversation. So what I'm saying is that a message based os doesn't sound to far fetched.

  • Something along the line of Firefox? Sounds cool.

  • you totally forgot about games. You cant play a game on a messenger and even if you could these games would only be games like candycrush.

  • drkmgiri 6 months ago Link to comment

    if one app grow so powerful that it becomes a platform is not good I feel. the technicality I don't know.iam already fed up with WhatsApp.

  • "There is huge potential for messaging apps to offer platforms for interactions like this." of course, but such a potential might be only harvested if a great shortcoming is overcome: language.
    Conversational apps seem fair enough for some use, but a screen (or in-eye projection, etc) also imply a graphic interface. Our world cannot only run on words and on punctual sharing of communication. It also runs on images, sound and, as VR marketers are putting it, on the concrete reality itself.
    IMO just a few applications will take advantage of this conversational paradigm, because for playing games, driving a car, reading a long article or a book, scanning a document, etc., dialogs are not effective if left alone.

    You, the author, are in communication business and it seems that you should make a little effort and try to look around... Your personal, particular case is not general, nor it is depicting a nice future for the average or power user. It seems more like a dystopian scenario where we'll not be able anymore of doing anything else than smalltalk and marketing comments.

  • Mark 6 months ago Link to comment

    If you only used your phone for making calls and texting it might be feasible. For running everything else like YouTube, internet browser, and games. I think it would be a real stretch. I hope another operating platform evolves that is not so evasive as Google's, that would let you keep your privacy.

  • Sanjai Joseph
    • Mod
    6 months ago Link to comment

    I have a galaxy s2, i rooted it and removed google apps and few stock apps to free up some ram. Now the only one app i use is Whatsapp but no facebook.

  • kuch bhi yr omar.......nice imagination that cant be true

  • I couldn't think playing asphalt in whatsapp:-) ;-) Its crazy Omar.

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