LINE, the popular messaging app which we have written much about, has just made some really big announcements. On Thursday at its own LINE Conference Tokyo 2014, LINE announced that it will soon launch LINE Pay, its very own payment service.
On top of that, it will also move into taxi booking (LINE Taxi), food delivery, music distribution, among others. Before we dwell into each of them individually, let’s take a look at why LINE does all of these. What started of as a messaging app exploded in popularity among users especially in Asia.
The adoption is accelerated by its adorable stickers on its chat app, which is arguably its main driver of user growth as well as user retention. It then leveraged on the user growth – currently 560 million registered users worldwide – and slowly moved into several other businesses: mobile gaming as well as LINE commerce.
During the press conference, Chief Operating Officer Takeshi Idezawa shared that “the key word for our goal from now on is ‘Life’.” With that, Idezawa revealed their plans to launch their payment system as well as their foray into taxi booking, food delivery as well as music distribution.
What We Know About LINE Pay
According to The Japan Times, LINE Pay allow users to purchase products and services both online and offline. Users will need top up their LINE Pay account with funds drawn from their bank account or credit cards.
LINE Pay will also enable peer-to-peer money transfer between users without the need for bank accounts, similar to how you would transfer your credits to your friends. Tech in Asia also noted that security is a major concern for LINE: users will need to use a separate password for Line Pay. iOS users will have the option of using Apple Touch ID to enable LINE Pay.
What We Know About LINE Taxi, Food Delivery and Music
While not much has been revealed about these areas, we expect LINE users would be able to flag a taxi to his/her pick up location directly from the taxi’s official Line account. Users can also contact the cab and direct them to their specific location using GPS and see the waiting time. Similarly, food can be ordered from LINE accounts. The Japan Times also reported that LINE will soon start a music distribution service, Line Music Inc., in partnership with Sony Music Entertainment and Avex Group.
Taxi Scene In Japan Might See A Huge Face Lift
In Japan, taxis are readily available thanks to the huge fleet of over 50,000 taxis in Tokyo alone. Uber as well as taxi booking apps launched by individual cab firms as well as the Tokyo Hire-Taxi Association has yet to see a huge user adoption from riders in Japan. Wall Street Journal also reported that Uber had a hard time entering the Japanese market as the country had “very byzantine and complicated regulations”–from price rules to special operating licenses.
With over 54 million registered Japan users on LINE, they would soon have ready access to taxi booking at a tap of a button, and this might just change the way how taxis are booked in the near future.
Resemblance With WeChat
With its foray into taxi booking, food delivery and music, we noticed that its Asian competitor WeChat is also on the same path. Similar to LINE, the China made mobile messaging app (with over 438 million monthly active users as of August 2014) also has its hands in stickers, gaming e-commerce product sales and taxi booking.
Earlier in July, WeChat piloted its taxi booking feature with Easy Taxi, where WeChat users can simply follow Easy Taxi’s official WeChat account (WeChat ID: EasyTaxiSGP) and use the taxi booking function. Two weeks into the pilot in Singapore, over 5000 taxi bookings had been made through the app, showing that users do enjoy the convenience of an in-app taxi booking feature.
While LINE has ambitious plans to dominate our smartphone home screen as well as our digital life, it is still unclear if LINE can pull it off. It will also take some time before these features are made available to users globally, after it launched successfully in Japan.
In the meantime, I’ll just stick to GrabTaxi, Uber, foodpanda and Spotify.