Here come Cony and Brown, to a phone near you. Line, the Japanese messaging and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) app, which is growing faster than
Best known for its stickers featuring cartoon characters, including Brown the bear and Cony the rabbit, Line has already conquered
The characters can be used to download and decorate messages, in addition to the usual emojis and emoticons. Some are free, but thousands of other "premium" sets, such as Disney or Pixar characters, can be added for pounds 1.49 each.
The company recently added football clubs FC Barcelona and
During this month's US Open, Nadal sent messages and pictures with Line updating friends on his progress to becoming champion. "Getting out the hotel to Flushing Meadows . . . waiting for no rain in order to play!" he said in the first week. A few victories later, his account sent a picture of Nadal being interviewed on TV and said: "Press conference after pass semi-finals! Waiting for Monday's match!"
After winning the tournament, his 13th Grand Slam victory, Nadal sent a message thanking Line for all its support and used the opportunity to celebrate the win by offering friends his new stickers. It is no surprise that Spain now has more than 10 million Line users.
Launched as a basic messenger to guarantee easy interaction, Line has gradually added more functions, including a Facebook-style timeline, to distinguish itself from rival communications apps, and has successfully branched into the games market. Its dedicated camera app, with "beauty" editing functions to smooth appearances, already has 50m downloads and last week the company added a Vine-esque video feature, enabling users to take up to 10 clips.
Reports last month by
Friends and colleagues
"The best thing is that it's free," said Maki. "Then you can see if the person you have sent a message to has read it - so your husband can't pretend he hasn't! It's easy to use, and you can make group chats as well where you message several friends and one person replying is seen by everyone. I nearly always use it to phone people now rather than my network provider, because the connection is so good."
Yoko said: "Some of the stickers are very comical - characters tearing their hair out or hugging each other, dancing, anything really - so it's a great way to express your emotions better than just text."
On the firm's entry into the mobile gaming market, analyst Kim said: "In markets where Line has been a popular or dominant messenger, Line character games have proved to be top-grossing games as well."
The app, available on all major mobile platforms, including iOS, Android and Windows Phone, racked up 5 million users in
Line is best known for characters such as Brown the bear.
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