Jongla Launches Beta Instant Messenger To Compete With WhatsApp

    Nowadays I’m a little disappointed in you if you send me normal text message. Data rates are so cheap these days that I hate the concept of spending money on texts when a slightly different pipe on my carrier’s network is basically free. As the world began to ask itself “wait, why are we paying for texting?” free(er) services like WhatsApp, Voxer, and Viber lured us in with cheap one-time fees or completely free services.

    Perhaps this is just observation bias, but the market seems to have decided WhatsApp will be the standard. It’s not fancy, it’s not beautiful but it works. But Jongla, a Finnish mobile instant messaging startup, thinks theres still room in this market.

    Today they’ve released the beta version of their free iOS messaging app, with an Android and HTML5 version slated for October. In its beta form, Jongla has a nicely designed UI, and offers free texting and multimedia messaging through Wi-Fi or your data network. Right now it’s a fairly basic feature set, although COO Riku Salminen tells us that they will have some new feature announcements coming out soon.

    There are a lot of competitors out there, but Salminen tells us we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. “There is WhatsApp, there is Viber, there are a few competitors from Asia. But this is just starting. What we’re talking about is a huge mobile messaging revolution that has started this year. The early adopters are already downloading the apps and maybe we will see between 300 million to 500 million mobile messaging users by the end of this year. Then the big mass will follow next year and so on. What’s really important for them? We think the design and usability are very important.”

    The app is free to download, and monetization isn’t on their mind as right now they say they’re concentrated on building their user base. The company has been around since 2004, and in 2011, we covered them as a method to share multimedia files and text messages for feature phones. The service was free, but placed a small ad that was visible to recipients before they opened the message. Advertising may be a revenue stream for them in the future, but they say they are very cautious before implementing anything.

    They think that the youth audience between 15-19 will be the first to pick up the product, and to cater to them they will be releasing “a lot of fun stuff” soon. With their previous instant messaging solution they saw 70% of their users in Asia, so localization of the app from English is also in the pipeline.

    The company is also releasing a HTML5 app that they say will be fast and offer all the same features, no matter what device you’re on.

    Looking at Jongla in beta form, I had no idea how they thought they could break into such a crowded market when others have already snatched up the first-mover advantage. But perhaps it’s still earlier in the game than I imagine. Jongla just raised €1.2 million to move forward, so they must have had a convincing feature set to show investors. It will be interesting to see what they come out with next.

    You can download the iPhone app, here.