Sharing pictures and music, reading the news, playing games, paying for things, ordering food, getting translations, sending hongbao... We’ve already passed the point at which the question switched from “what can you do on WeChat” to “what can’t you do?”
What started out as a chat and call app, much in the vein of WhatsApp, has now become an monumental product and the jewel in the crown of the Tencent empire.
As the latest survey from Quest Mobile reveals, WeChat has broken through the 700 million monthly active user mark, making it, by far, the most popular smartphone app in the land. Adding to Tencent’s might, the runner-up is their own QQ, with some 550 million. Tencent shows up twice more in the top 10, with its own video app, Tencent Video, in fourth place and QQ Browser in ninth.
Alibaba’s Taobao and Alipay are respectively third and sixth, and Baidu’s search engine and iQiyi are fifth and eighth, displaying a landscape dominated by, essentially, three big conglomerates.
While WeChat might be the biggest app overall, Alibaba’s Alipay is still the online payment method of choice for most Chinese, ahead of Tencent’s WeChat Wallet. Tencent’s apps also have not grown as fast this past year as some of its competitors (WeChat grew 35 percent, while iQiyi reached nearly 70 percent), but considering last year’s growth patterns, WeChat has been growing at a steady, constant pace and has yet to stagnate.
Yet, Tencent is already beginning to look overseas for its payment service, allowing its users (owning Chinese bank cards) to shop abroad with it in over 20 countries, and even expanding to South Africa, where users don’t even need a bank account for it. Tencent also recently started investing in Kakao Corp., one of South Korea’s first internet banks.
In its international ventures, WeChat faces its greatest rival, WhatsApp, with 900 million users. Its spread is further hindered by regulations, from security rules for money transfers to local operational licences.
All in all, 2016 looks promising for Tencent with, besides all these developments, a foray into virtual reality too, of all things.
[Image via Wumeiti]