WeChat Adds International Calls To Its Messaging App

WeChat app allows calls

WeChat, the very popular Chinese messaging app, which as of March 2016 had at least 700 million regular users has recently launched an international telephone calling facility not much different from Skype. This, when compared to other global messaging sites like Facebook and WhatsApp, which jointly had 1,000 million active users in the same time period but did offer the same level of service as WeChat.

WeChat is a free, instant messaging service developed by Chinese company Tencent. It was released first in January 2011. Statistics showed in May 2016 that WeChat had more than a billion accounts with 700 million of them being active users. Outside of China there are an estimated 70 million accounts with WeChat. It is the mobile default messaging app which all ages use in China at least.

What’s different about WeChat’s call facility?

First of all, the service was made available to users in India, Hong Kong and the USA. It is expected to increase its user base as time goes on. The facility ‘WeChat Out,’ which has recently been released, is an advancement on other calling facilities on WeChat which can only take place between existing WeChat subscribers. Wechat Out allows those using the app to call real phone numbers either landline or mobile and not just to another WeChat user.

Opening offer only $0.99

To encourage its users to take part in this new WeChat initiative it is asking them to pay a flat fee of only 99 cents to get the ball rolling. This offer includes 100 minutes of call time. Even though Chinese users are impressed by this innovation it hasn’t come soon enough as it was Skype’s baby up to now. Even though there was another Ap circulating in Asia called Line which offered this call service almost 2 years ago. As well as being able to make calls to overseas’ numbers WeChat users can sign into its mobile wallet of which currently there are 200 million users mainly in China and South Africa which occurred after WeChat invested $3.4 million for investments in local start-ups.

Who can use the app?

It is currently available with Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows. Windows clients can use the app once the app has been downloaded on a mobile phone that’s supported.

Other services offered by WeChat include:

  • Text messaging
  • Hold-to-talk voice messaging
  • Broadcast messaging which is one person messaging many others
  • Video conferencing
  • Photo and video sharing
  • Location sharing
  • Contact sharing with people close at hand using Bluetooth
  • A machine translation facility

WeChat payment options as advanced as PayPal

In China, users who have given bank account information are able to pay bills using the app, transfer money over to other WeChat users, order goods, request services and pay stores for goods purchased if the store has a payment option for WeChat.

Enterprise WeChat for businesses

Enterprise WeChat is a specially designed version of WeChat which was launched in the middle of 2016 to assist workers with their work/life balance. As well as the standard chat features, the program allows companies and employees to keep a record of annual leave and any expenses that should be reimbursed, employees can use the facility to seek time off or they can even clock so their employers knows they are on the job.

WeChat does not guarantee animosity for clients

WeChat does not operate under the same sort of security protocols when it comes to privacy as one might expect. Under Chinese law there is strong censorship as well as intercept provisions by people or authorities who have not been granted access to personal information by users of WeChat but have been given the authority to do so. WeChat is able to access the contact lists and text messages of its users and their locations using its GPS feature. Regions and countries such as the U.S. and India; Taiwan and China are afraid of the WeChat app and its abilities. Some believe that it threatens both regional and national security. Both Taiwan and India were considering imposing a ban on the WeChat app, because it appeared to be gathering collecting far too much personal data and information from its users.

WeChat Pay resembles PayPal

WeChat Pay is what is referred to as a digital wallet service which has been incorporated into WeChat. It allows its users to make mobile payments and send out money between contacts. Each user has his or her WeChat payment account. Users can get access to balances by connecting their WeChat account to their own debit card, or through receiving money from other users.

Any users who decide to make a link to their credit card are only able to make a payment to a vendor, it is not possible to use this privilege to top up a WeChat balance. It is possible to use WeChat Pay for digital payments, and payments from any participating vendors. From March 2016, WeChat Pay had more than 300 million global users. In April 2016, WeChat invested as much as RMB 100 million in order to accelerate its market expansion just for WeChat Pay.

In 2014, to celebrate Chinese New Year, WeChat made the decision to introduce a feature for sending out virtual red envelopes which is when users send out money as gifts. When its sent to a group the money is distributed quite equally, or it could be done using random shares (“Lucky Money”). This particular feature was launched at a promotion on China Central Television’s New Year’s Gala feature where viewers were asked to shake around their phones throughout the broadcast offering them the chance to win a range of sponsored cash prizes from the red envelopes.

This red envelope feature markedly increased the sign up for WeChat Pay; a month only $ weeks following its launch, WeChat Pay’s users grew from 30 million to almost 100 million with 20 million red envelopes being distributed throughout that New Year’s holiday. In 2016, a massive 3.2 billion red envelopes managed to be dispatched throughout the holiday period, while at midnight 409,000 were sent at Chinese New Year.

Summary

WeChat certainly has a lot going for it as long as it doesn’t appear to breach human rights by tracking every move of its users.

 

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.