New messenger app to fight for share

Maaii, which means ants in Chinese to symbolise its vast network and notion of community, will be launched next month.

On promotional copies, the new app says it's a "free cross-platform mobile app which allows you to make calls and exchange messages without having to tap your voice plan or pay for SMS."

Sound familiar? It should. It's what Whatsapp Skype, Viber, Line, Tango, Talkbox and WeChat also promise.

Said to be an amalgamation of all the best of existing communication apps - Line's stickers, Tango's video call functions, Viber's phone-to-phone abilities, Skype's credit system, and WeChat's voice message - Maaii's VP of operations and ex-head of China for Skype, Chris Lewis, believes there's still space in the market for it.

"We have the best of everything and fill in the deficiencies other services don't have: Viber can't make calls to mobile and landlines, we can; Line has great animations, we'll have that too. We're a utility and social app," he said.

"Hong Kong people aren't loyal and have different friends on different apps for different things. We think there's enough space for another big player."

Like its predecessors, Maaii is a service that can be co-branded with another company or features of it can be inserted into a third party application, which, along with revenue from calling credits, produce the bulk of the company's money.

According to Snap Mobile, the media placement agency for

In December 2012 Skype claimed to have a monthly user base of 340,000 unique Hong Kong users.

Though user numbers are not available for the other communications apps in the city, iTunes ranks Whatsapp the number one paid application. Line ranked at 17th, WeChat at 23rd, Viber at 105th and Tango at 119th place.

Aside from user-friendliness, these apps are also going head to head in marketing strategies: though Whatsapp, Viber and Tango don't have any local pushes in Hong Kong, the Shenzhen-based WeChat is no stranger to celebrity-collaborations and discount partnerships with large chains like McDonald's and the MTR.

Line, on the other hand, recently joined hands with Circle K in a gift redemption programme and has been adding celebrity contacts onto its list of people fans can talk to on the app.

Though Lewis said Maaii will start off with word of mouth, he said the app will team up with telecommunications provider and phone developers to incorporate the programme into their services.

He also said that Maaii will eventually carry ad placements.

Further campaigns outdoors, on print and on Facebook will be launched in early May.