Japan’s top smartphone messaging app, Line, which reaches about a third of that country’s mobile phone users, just announced the release of Line Kids (link via Google Translate), for children aged six and younger. Line Kids is currently available only in Japan, and developer NHN Japan (an affiliate of South Korea-based NHN Corporation) says it does not currently have plans to release it outside of the country. But, as Kim-Mai Cutler noted in a November profile of Line, the app has the potential to become a very important messaging player throughout the world, and marketing itself as a family-friendly platform will help it expand its user base (especially if Line joins up with China Mobile to take on WeChat, as recent rumors have suggested).
The service already offers a translation engine that can handle English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean in chatrooms, allowing users from different countries to meet and connect. Sales of special emoji, or “stickers,” helped NHN earn $3.75 million per month in sales as of July, and the amount keeps climbing. To get a taste of the whimsy that makes Line’s emoji so popular, check out its new parody of “Gangnam Style”:
Line Kids is a free download and includes an educational component with picture books and songs for both parents and children to participate in. While the app is advertising-free, parents can make additional in-app purchases.
This is the second new product Line has announced this month as it seeks to expand its roster of services and keep users on the app for longer. On December 18, Line launched Line Cafe, or chatrooms where users with the same hobbies and interests (such as child care, gourmet food, travel or movies) can meet. Users can also open invitation-only “private cafes.”