We estimate that more than half of the US Hispanic population will use messaging app WhatsApp at least monthly this year. The platform’s US Hispanic user base of 32 million is growing because of its data cost savings, messaging encryption capabilities and popularity in Latin American countries.
WhatsApp is more popular among US Hispanics than Instagram or Twitter, with those platforms seeing 34.3% and 21% user penetration, respectively. For greater context, that means there are 10 million more US Hispanics on WhatsApp than Instagram, and almost triple more than Twitter.
Much of the platform’s popularity is driven by its high use in Latin American countries. Older US Hispanics who wish to communicate with friends and families in these countries can do so via the app. Younger people use the platform to stay in touch with relatives in the US and Latin America because of the easy-to-use interface.
Because of a lack of competition among carriers, mobile costs in Latin America have consistently been some of the highest in the world. Historically, WhatsApp offers Wi-Fi messaging that is free to recipient users and allows people to communicate while avoiding high texting fees. Because of this feature alone, the service has always had more room for growth than social media networks like Instagram or Twitter. While those platforms appeal largely to younger users, WhatsApp replaces texting via a carrier’s mobile data and is more likely to be used by smartphone users of all ages, as opposed to social media networks.
WhatsApp is unique for its default end-to-end messaging encryption feature, something that Facebook Messenger—the world’s most popular messaging app—does not offer in its entirety yet. And while there are other encrypted messaging apps available to smartphone users, they tend to be more regionally specific. Apps like Line in Asia and Snapchat in the US and Europe never gained popularity in Latin America and thus never caught on in the region.
WhatsApp will continue to gain traction among US Hispanics, though growth will slow slightly over the next couple of years. By the end of our 2023 forecasting period, we expect nearly 47 million US Hispanics to be WhatsApp users, accounting for 70.7% of the US Hispanic population.
“WhatsApp might not be as popular overall as other social apps, but it has been able to differentiate itself as a user-friendly app,” said eMarketer junior forecasting analyst Nazmul Islam. “Should Facebook maintain its core design, we expect WhatsApp to keep a firm grasp of the Hispanic market.”