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Rise of mod apps in Sub-Saharan Africa

Africa , 13 Feb 2020

Rise of mod apps in Sub-Saharan Africa

WhatsApp clones known as 'mod apps' are becoming popular in Sub-Saharan Africa because they offer extra functionalities that their original application counterparts lack, according to new research.

The research is based on a study conducted in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria comprising 230 million app sessions (opening and closing of an app) from more than 21,000 apps and more than 4,000 panelists.

An excerpt from a report released by Caribou Data reads: "Users install apps like GBWhatsApp and FMWhatsApp because the mods offer additional functionality that WhatsApp doesn't, such as the ability to have multiple accounts on one device, or hiding one's own message receipt indicators (blue tick marks) while maintaining visibility into recipients."

One of the mod apps FMWhatsApp, helps users disable the 'last seen' and 'online' status found in the messaging applications.

These clones are as popular as the mainstream social media applications.

In its findings, the most popular clone app GBWhatsapp has more sessions than Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat combined.

GBWhatsapp has almost 5% of total sessions per user compared to Facebook at almost 3%.

The application is also listed in sixth place as the most used application in the region, after Whatsapp, Facebook Lite, Facebook, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and TrueCaller.

"These messaging sessions are short - the average duration is about 9 seconds - but people use them constantly," the market research company said.

Unfortunately these apps do not feature on the official Google Playstore, exposing users to malware. Most of these apps are relatively obscure, but the WhatsApp mods, especially GBWhatsApp, are just as popular as some of the most well-known Western apps.

According to Bryan Pon, co-founder of Caribou Data, there is no guarantee on safety when using these applications.

"Security is always a concern when you download outside the app store, as it's possible to get malware of fake apps (though malware apps do get listed in the Play Store as well) .... also, you can get your WhatsApp suspended," said Pon.

A message from GBWhatsapp developers reiterates the dangers of downloading in APK files in untrusted sites.

It said: "Beware of those sites they may shift malware to snitch your personal data. As long as you download the app from trusted websites like your device can be safe."

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