Bangalore-based Reverie Language Technologies, which runs a Language-as-as-Service platform and provides localization services for Indic languages such as local-language translation, transliteration, device input, and search via its set of APIs, has released a report on the state of Indic language usage in the country. The report is based on aggregate usage data compiled from Indic Keyboard Swalekh Flip app between January and June 2017. Swalekh Flip supports 22 Indian languages plus English.

Key Insights from the report

Which Indic languages are used the most?

As expected, Hindi is the most used Indic language both in terms of duration of sessions and word count. Telugu, Marathi, and Gujarati are next in line, once again both for highest usage in terms of sessions and word count. In case of the duration of session, Telugu is second, followed by Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, Kannada, Punjabi, Malayalam, and Assamese. While in case of word count, Marathi is second, followed by Gujarati, Telugu, Bengali, Tamil, Punjabi, Kannada, Malayalam, and Assamese.

A session basically means, duration of a single uninterrupted usage, while word count is the total number of words typed in a particular language.

From a user-input heavy app or Internet-based services’ point of view, it’s worth noting that Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Telugu and Bengali represent over 75% of all Indic words typed in by Indian users, between January and June 2017.

Which apps are most popular among Indic language users?

WhatsApp witnessed the highest Indic language usage via the Swalekh Flip app, both in regards to session duration and word count, between January and June 2017. In fact, WhatsApp accounted for 35.95% of all Indic language usage in this period.

Facebook came in second in regards to session duration, and fourth in case of word count. While Facebook Messenger (the chat app) was second in terms of word count and fifth in terms of session duration. This is on expected lines, because people spend more time on the Facebook app, posting status updates, commenting, etc., while on the Messenger app people are likely to type a lot more and exit quicker.

Interestingly, in terms of session duration, the phone contacts app was the third app on the list to witness most Indic language usage. It probably includes instances of people searching for a particular contact, and also instances of people saving a new contact in their phonebook, both in Indic languages. However, the fact that people are spending more time typing in Indic languages in their contacts than a chat app like Messenger is really intriguing and deserves to be explored further.

In terms of word count, the pre-loaded SMS app that’s present on every phone comes in at third, and the Facebook Lite app, which is meant for slow data connections and had crossed 100 million registered users in March 2016, comes in at fifth. Note that in September this year, Facebook added 11 more Indian languages to its text editor on its Android app. The transliteration feature in the app now supports 12 Indian languages including Telugu, Marathi, Gujrati, and Bengali among others, besides Hindi, which was added back in April 2016.

Besides this, the report mentions that the Chrome browser witnessed the sixth most Indic language usage, followed by UC Browser and Opera Mini, but it’s not clear if this is in terms of sessions or word count.

Which app categories see most Indic language usage?

Messaging apps – specifically WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and the native SMS app – witnessed maximum Indic language usage between January and June 2017, both in terms of sessions and word count. In fact, nearly 40% of all sessions were spent on messaging apps.

Social media apps – Facebook, Facebook Lite and Instagram – witnessed the second most Indic language usage. The presence of Instagram among social media apps is a great sign because it means Indic language usage is not just limited to the text-heavy apps.

Browsing apps – Chrome, UC Browser and Opera Mini – came in at third. Note that while in terms of sessions, Chrome witnessed most Indic language usage, followed by UC Browser and Opera Mini, in terms of word count, UC Browser witnessed most Indic language usage, followed by Chrome and Opera Mini. This is probably because a greater number of low-cost smartphones come pre-loaded with UC Browser, as compared to Chrome or Opera Mini. Before UC Browser was launched in India, Opera Mini was the default browser in most low-cost smartphones.

Which Indic languages are used most in specific app categories?

Hindi is the most used Indic language across all app categories. In case of Messaging apps, Marathi and Gujarati come in at second and third respectively, while on Social Media apps, Telugu and Bengali are used the most, after Hindi.

In Browsing apps, Telugu and Marathi follow Hindi, while on Web Search apps (i.e., the search toolbar that can be installed on smartphones) it’s Gujarati and Telugu.

In Video apps (YouTube and Nemo VidMate), once again Telugu and Marathi come in at second and third.

Other highlights

Month-wise break-up based on session count across app categories

Month-wise break-up based on word count across app categories

Download: Report