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Why Travelers and Businesses Need to Download WeChat

The social messaging app WeChat has been slowly but surely expanding its reach beyond east Asia over the past couple of years, but considering that only a small fraction of its features are available to users outside its home country of China, most Westerners really haven’t grasped exactly how crucial it is to download WeChat if you will be traveling to China. One tech company specializing in making WeChat work for non-China based businesses insists that you need to have WeChat, even if you will only be in China for a week – and that goes for tourists as well as business owners.

Travelers and Businesses Need to Download WeChat

How startups are finding success on WeChat

One of the biggest hurdles startup businesses have to overcome is engagement with potential users/customers. Lately, forward-thinking entrepreneurs have been trying to attract a mobile-obsessed consumer base by paying thousands of dollars to develop their own apps for Android, iOS and other major operating systems. What they have found, however, is there is a lot of “friction” that keeps a new potential customer from downloading that app in the first place.

This is where WeChat comes in.

Startups who have opted to file for Official Account status on WeChat instead of creating their own app have found that they are able to reach exponentially more users, with less of that “friction” and a lot less upfront costs. This is especially true for companies who are able to get a Chinese WeChat Official Account to appeal to that country’s consumer base – take the following statistics, for example:

There are approximately 1 billion registered WeChat accounts in China, with around 700 million active monthly users. 55% of them check WeChat at least 10 times each day, 200 million of them have their credit cards linked to their accounts, and 83% use it to buy products and services online.

Those are numbers that any business would be wise to take advantage of.

WeChat downloads for visitors and ex-pats in China

Anyone traveling to China for business or pleasure will see firsthand how ingrained this multi-functional app has become in the daily life of the average urban Chinese person. WeChat has expanded to accommodate its users’ daily and even hourly needs, with millions of businesses offering app-like experiences within WeChat to do anything from hailing a cab or ordering food to making a doctor’s appointment and paying your water bill. It’s no doubt the best way to stay connected to the new people you meet in China, especially business contacts.

The obstacle that many visitors and ex-pats run into, however, is that most of these services are only available in Chinese, which is of course an extremely difficult language to learn how to read as an adult. Luckily, there are a few new applications designed to work WeChat for English-speaking users so that they can get some of the same services enjoyed by Chinese users in China: these include the app “NiHao” (Mandarin for “Hello”), as well as ExpatsExpress. These apps can help English speakers in China use WeChat’s mobile payment service, book many types of services and buy products in this mobile environment.

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What WeChat Has In Store for Us In 2016

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 2016

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.

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Cool Uses for WeChat around the World

When WeChat first came out in 2011, the US and European markets were already getting close to saturation with other instant messaging apps, especially WhatsApp. So while WeChat has been gaining traction slowly in these countries, in other parts of the world it has caught on like wildfire and shows no signs of stopping. In all of China’s major cities (population 10 million or more), 90% of people are registered with WeChat. Being that the app is based in China, created by the company TenCent, it makes sense that its highest usage rates would be at home. But you might be shocked to learn some of the crazy ways WeChat is being used in China and other countries. Read on to learn more about how WeChat can be so much more than stickers and instant messages.


In China, WeChat is used for cashless payment in stores

Granted, not all stores accept WeChat payment yet, but the number of businesses that will take an electronic, 100% cashless payment via WeChat is growing every day. Some businesses even have public WeChat accounts and sell things directly through the WeChat app.

What’s more, people in China can pay their utility bills using WeChat, reload prepaid phone plans, and send money between friends. Aside from being a useful way to pay your friend back for lunch, it’s also closely in touch with Chinese culture. For Chinese New Year, it is traditional to send red envelopes with “lucky money” to friends and family to bring prosperity in the coming year. The Chinese version of WeChat has a Lucky Envelope feature that lets people pick a total amount of money to send to select contacts, and the app will send random amounts to those people. Pretty neat!

In China, all you need to get a taxi is WeChat

You can not only hail a taxi directly from WeChat, you can also track the driver and pay for your trip! This also works with hired cars from the Chinese startup company Didi Kuaidi. Even though they have their own application, you can manage everything without ever leaving WeChat.

In South Africa, WeChat is helping people find jobs

This is a really great example of WeChat investing to make the world a better place. WeChat has already invested in a South African startup company called M4JAM (“money for jam”) which operates exclusively through WeChat to help users find local micro-jobs. WeChat has pledged to invest even more money in startups in South Africa and Nigeria, helping the local communities while also taking advantage of the growing number of smartphone users in that region.

In Hong Kong, WeChat raises donations for UNICEF

A partnership between UNICEF Hong Kong and WeChat is raising money that will help people in the direst of situations around the world. From the Syria crisis to the Nepal earthquake and other global crises, WeChat is getting the younger generations involved with charitable giving in a way that resonates with them. Donations to charities through WeChat are facilitated by the application’s powerful and secure payment platform, making it more convenient than ever for residents of Hong Kong and other countries to get involved and help their fellow man.

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New features for WeChat on iOS and iPhone 6S

Switching over to the Apple side of things, WeChat has rolled out a couple interesting updates for iOS devices, particularly iPhone 6S.

Group video chat and group voice calls for WeChat iOS

First, all iPhones and iPads with the WeChat 6.3.5 have access to a new group video and voice calling feature – for up to 9 people at a time! Let’s face it; sometimes group text chats get really confusing, and things would just be easier if you could all sit down in one room and talk. When that’s not possible, WeChat group video calls are the next best thing.

wechat group video calls
Starting a group video chat is easy. From inside your normal text group chat window, you’ll now see a button that says “video call”. Tapping it will invite the other group members to join the video call, and pretty soon you’re all face to face. If you would rather have voice only for a conference call type conversation, just disable the video option; now you’ve got a group voice call. Hopefully you won’t ever be in a situation where you need to video chat 10 or more people (I sure can’t think of a situation where you would).

wechat for ios

WeChat 3D Touch technology for iPhone 6S

The second cool update is specially made for iPhone 6S users. If you are one of the lucky ones who own an iPhone 6S or iPhone 6S Plus, or if you’ve seen the advertisements on television, you know that this new model has touch screen pressure sensitivity, or what Apple is calling “3D Touch”. WeChat is one of the apps to make use of the 3D Touch option with its latest update.

Basically 3D Touch allows iPhone 6S users to reveal an options menu for a specific application without leaving their home screen; all they have to do is press a little more firmly than they normally would to open the app. When you use the 3D Touch on the WeChat icon on your iPhone 6S, a handy menu of quick options pop up. From your home screen, you can now press firmly on the WeChat icon to start a “New Chat” in WeChat, take a picture in WeChat with the “Take Sight” option, quickly generate your personal WeChat “QR Code” so your new friends can easily add you to their contacts, or you might choose to “Mute For 1 Hour”, so you won’t be distracted by notifications while you’re driving or trying to get some work done.

The latest WeChat updates for both Windows and Apple iOS devices really prove that this app is working to be innovative and constantly adapting based on what its users want. It’s anyone’s guess what their next update will include. Maybe something cool for Android devices or a new feature for the Mac OSX client? Only time will tell.

wechat iphone 6s

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