By The Associated Press
POPULAR: A handful of smartphone apps that began as basic instant messaging services have amassed several hundred million users in Asia in just a couple of years. They have branched into games, e-commerce, celebrity news and other areas.
COMPETITION: It's a challenge to the popularity of online hangouts such as Facebook.
SIGNIFICANCE: The rapid growth of such applications shows that people are increasingly going online using mobile phones and other wireless devices.
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