WeChat has been playing second fiddle to WhatsApp on an international scale, with around 600 million users, most of which are in China, compared to 900 million. But if WeChat follows through on some of the expectations pundits have set for it, that may very well change in 2016. Between recently added features like WeChat Out and plans to expand WeChat wallet services into more countries and develop proprietary virtual reality technology, this could be the year that WeChat takes over the world.
WeChat Out calling feature
WeChat Out is a new feature that allows WeChat users to call friends and family who don’t use the app, including cell phones and landline calls, for a small fee. As a New Year’s gift, WeChat gave all of its users 99 cents worth of WeChat Out credit, enough to make roughly 100 minutes worth of free calls using the new service. The development of this service appears to be direct competition with other messaging services, like Skype and WhatsApp, which allow calls to be made to non-user mobile phones and landlines. WeChat Out is currently available to users in the United States, Hong Kong and India, with plans to expand to many more countries soon. Considering that WeChat already offers tons of services that other instant messengers can only dream of, it looks like it won’t be long before the other apps have nothing to keep them going but name recognition.
Expanded WeChat wallet services
If there is a single factor that can be named as the reason behind the rapid growth and success of WeChat, it’s the wallet services. In China, this allows users to do dozens of day to day tasks through WeChat, including hailing a taxi, buying groceries, making a doctor’s appointment, and ordering food for delivery. Right now, wallet services are only available in China and to a lesser extent in South Africa, but it looks like WeChat is working to change that. They recently invested in a South Korean internet bank, suggesting that they will move to expand WeChat wallet services into other Asian countries first. We can only imagine that they will be working to expand into Europe and North America as soon as possible, considering the incredible business growth they have seen as a result of these integrated services.
A future of virtual reality for WeChat
In late 2015, WeChat announced that it is working on developing their own proprietary head-mounted virtual reality device and a VR game console to go with it. This technology is, of course, quite complicated, so it’s possible that we won’t see this come to fruition in 2016. However, we would expect the company to provide the public with regular updates on the progress of this project, since anything with “virtual reality” is bound to attract publicity and the attention of new potential users.
If you haven’t downloaded WeChat yet, it’s easy to do! You can download WeChat for free from your device’s official application store.