Voice apps such as WhatsApp, Skype and Facebook Messenger are changing the way we communicate. These offer an entirely new platform for users to call each other, bypassing the traditional cellular channels and offering a true online experience. Voice apps offer flexibility across a number of devices and networks, and have soared in popularity as smartphones are becoming ubiquitous globally. WhatsApp has an estimated 1.6 billion users worldwide, Facebook Messenger boasts of a user base of 1.3 billion, while Skype has an estimated 300 million users.
But how is the user experience in terms of using voice apps on mobile networks? The voice app experience is a unique measure of users’ perceived idea about over-the-top (OTT) voice services. Mobile analytics company Opensignal measures the quality of experience for OTT voice services – mobile voice apps such as WhatsApp, Skype and Facebook Messenger – by using a model based on the International Telecommunication Union approach for quantifying the overall voice call quality with a series of calibrated technical parameters. In a recent report, Opensignal has drawn on its active user base of over 57 billion measurements from over 23 million Android and iOS smartphones across 80 countries to see how users’ voice app experience compares in different mobile markets.
There is a global divide among more mature countries, the fast growing ones and developing countries when it comes to the voice app experience. None of the European markets analysed scored less than an acceptable ranking, while the majority of the African and Middle Eastern countries rated poor. This pattern was mirrored in the Americas, where the US and Canada ranked acceptable, while barely a third of the Latin American markets (including Brazil) achieved this rating. Asia was a slightly different story, with countries ranking all the way from good to unintelligible.
However, the divide between mature and less developed markets was evident. While Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan got good ratings, developing countries including India, Indonesia and Cambodia were all in the bottom third of the table. In fact, Cambodia figured in the very poor category.
Experience better on 4G than 3G
Opensignal’s analysis highlights that the 4G voice app experience scored much better in every country compared with the 3G experience. More than a third of the countries analysed ranked good or above in the 4G voice app experience. Meanwhile, Sweden rated good in the 3G voice app experience.
There was a degree of correlation between 3G and 4G scores. For instance, the majority of the countries that ranked good in the 4G voice app experience had users experiencing at least an acceptable rating when connected using 3G. In countries that ranked poor or below in the 4G voice app experience, users had a very poor experience with 3G. There were a few interesting anomalies in this pattern though. Japan ranked good in the 4G experience but very poor in 3G likely because 4G now completely dominates the market. Indonesia was the only country that rated poor in both types of networks.
Higher 4G availability improves the experience
As with other metrics such as speed and latency, 4G availability (the time during which users are connected to a 4G network) has a marked effect on users’ voice app experience. The experience generally improves when users spend more time connected to 4G networks. The Opensignal analysis highlights a positive linear correlation of 0.44, on a measure where a strong correlation is represented by a value near to either +1 or -1, while a figure close to 0 indicates little or no correlation.
However, this does not mean it is impossible to get an acceptable voice app experience on 3G networks. In some countries such as Libya, Uzbekistan and Belarus, where 4G availability is lower, users often spend more time on 3G networks, and still get an acceptable voice app experience.
Voice apps are here to stay, and will become more sophisticated and widespread as mobile data consumption increases and 5G networks arrive, heralding the next generation of the mobile network experience.
Based on the report, “The State of Mobile Voice App Experience”, by Opensignal