At first glance, Chinese app WeChat seems similar to its western counterparts like WhatsApp and Viber. It allows you to text people over an internet connection, share photos, videos and other files.
So let’s dig deep though and you will find a full-featured app that does so much more than just messaging, especially if you live in China. It is more akin to a blend of messaging, social gaming and social media.
What is Wechat and how it Started
WeChat, known as China’s “App For Everything”, is a social media mobile application software developed by Tencent. It was first released in 2011 and by 2017 it was one of the largest standalone messaging apps by monthly active users with over 963 million monthly active users.
According to Techinasia, in 2017, WeChat started to develop an AR platform for its ever-expanding services. WeChat’s AI team is working on their own 3D rendering engine to create realistic appearance on detailed objects, in smartphone-based AR apps. They’re also developing a simultaneous localization and mapping technology, which helps calculate the position of virtual objects relative to their environment, enabling AR interactions without the need for markers, such as QR code or a special image.
Essential Features For a WeChat App
WeChat allows you to send free texts, pictures, voice and video messages, as well as to make free voice and video calls. This feature also provides group chat functionality, broadcast messages and walkie-talkie mode.
WeChat can exchange contacts with nearby people via Bluetooth and provides various features for contacting people at random if desired. It can also integrate with other social networking services such Facebook and QQ.
If you want to use WeChat for business, you must have a solid grasp of WeChat official accounts and how they work. Official accounts provide a formal way to interact with your followers and customers through WeChat.
There are several types of WeChat official accounts:
- WeChat Subscription accounts
- WeChat Service accounts
- Enterprise accounts
- WeChat mini-programs
Once you specify a type of your account, it can not be changed. By the middle of 2017, the number of WeChat official accounts had reached 10 million. Official accounts of organizations can apply for verified, official, public accounts. Official accounts can be used as a platform for services such as hospital pre-registrations, visa renewal or credit card service.
What is a WeChat moment? Moments is an essential part of WeChat that allows users to post images, texts and comments, share music, articles and “like” stuff. Moments can also be linked to Facebook and Twitter accounts, which can automatically post Moments content directly to these two platforms.
WeChat Pay is a payment feature that allows users to complete payments quickly and easily with their smartphones. You can top up your balance by linking your WeChat account to a debit card, or by receiving money from other users. WeChat Pay can be used for digital payments, as well as payments from participating vendors. As of March 2016, WeChat Pay has over 300 million users worldwide. In 2017 Tencent reported that WeChat had overtaken Alibaba with 600 million active WeChat mobile payment users versus 450 million for Alibaba’s Alipay.
WeChat Mini Programs
Mini Programs is a WeChat’s feature that essentially allows you to access light apps within WeChat without having to download or install brand new apps.
WeChat has launched the City Services feature in more than 27 cities across China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. City Services included booking doctor appointments, paying electricity fees or traffic fines, and booking transportation.
The City Services section involves booking doctor appointments, traffic camera feeds, paying your home electricity, booking long-distance transportation, air quality monitoring, paying traffic fines, reporting incidents to police, and more.
In certain major cities—including Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu—you can input your location to see a heat map that measures foot traffic in a particular location. The app also provides data about crowd density in the area throughout the day and the prior week.
For the purposes of work and communication within companies and businesses, a special version of WeChat called Enterprise WeChat was launched in 2016. The app allows employees to separate work from private life. In addition to the usual chat features, the program lets companies and their employees keep track of annual leave days and expenses that need to be reimbursed. Employees can ask for time off or even clock in to show they are at work. Security has been upgraded and companies must register before their employees can use the service.
WeChat allows people to add friends by a variety of methods, including searching by username or phone number, adding from phone or email contacts, playing a “message in a bottle” game, or viewing nearby people who are also using the same service. In 2017 WeChat added a “Shake” function.
Shake is a feature where you can meet random people not too far from you.You can choose to chat with the person or shake again to get another random person. All you have to do is go to the Discover tab, tap the Shake button and start shaking your phone.
In March 2017, Tencent released a new feature of WeChat: WeChat Index. WeChat Index is a tool that tracks trending keywords in 7, 30, and 90-day segments, which is very useful for those interested in knowing what 898 million users are talking about. Worthy of note that WeChat articles are not currently indexed by Baidu or Google and can only be searched on Sogou.com.
News Feed and Search
In May 2017 WeChat has acquired a news feed and search functions. The Financial Times defined it as a “direct challenge to Chinese search engine Baidu”.
WeChat Out is a VOIP feature allowing users to make low-rate calls to mobile phones and landlines around the globe via WeChat. The feature involves purchasing of credit within the app using a credit card.
What is the WeChat technology stack?
So how to create a chat app like WeChat? Start with understanding the tech stack, which goes into it first. Here’s what their team has used:
WeChat uses Ejabberd, IceWarp, iChat, Openfire and Prosody servers to process hundreds of thousands of messages instantly with little to no delays. This application servers pairs perfectly with the Erlang programming language, which powers up the entire app. It may not be the standard choice, but this language is rather flexible and allows making quick and instant fixes without much refactoring. However, you are not obliged to use the same language for chat app development. For instance, Telegram instant messaging app uses Node.js for all the backend coding.
Originally WeChat used HTTPS to transfer all the users’ messages.
The databases are powered up EnMicroMsg DB and SQLCipher. WeChat app is available on Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, and Symbian phones. Web-based OS X and Windows clients also exist. This however requires the user to have the app installed on a supported mobile phone for authentication, and neither message roaming nor “Moments” are provided.
Ok, so this should have satisfied your curiosity. If you want to receive a full tech stack for an Wechat-like app, please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Now let’s take a closer look on the app monetization, development time and cost.
How do WeChat-like apps make money?
How do free apps like WeChat make money? During the recent times we’ve been getting quite a lot of questions about the hottest topic on the app market. Well, it’s time to reveal the truth behind app monetization magic.
Advertising is a core money spinner. WeChat makes more than $1.3 in advertising revenue from each user, according to Arete Research analyst Muzhi Li.
Many WeChat services are free. Tencent company launched sticker shop and game center in WeChat to provide value added services which are a key revenue source for Tencent’s another popular platform QQ. These services normally charge $0.99 for each purchase.
For example, since March 2016, WeChat began charging users 0.01% to withdraw funds from their WeChat wallet but not to transfer within the ecosystem. This fee is now levied on digital transfers to bank accounts where the sum exceeds 1,000 yuan (US$153), the company said. The minimum fee per transfer will be 0.1 yuan. Tencent CEO Pony Ma said the fees of 0.1% of each transaction totalled more than RMB 300 million in January 2016.
How much does it cost to build WeChat?
At this point, you should have a somewhat well-rounded understanding of what features you’d like to develop and whether you plan to hire a development team locally or outsource the entire project.
To build a chat app with the essential features outlined above, you’ll need to put together a team of the following professionals:
- UX/UI Expert
- iOS developers/ Android developers
- Front-end developer
- Back-end developer
- Project manager
- QA Ninja
The total project timeline depending on the scope of your requirements can vary from 600 to 2500 hours. In money equivalent that transfers to $18k and higher depending on the team’s hourly rates.
VironIT’s team would be happy to provide more accurate cost estimates based on your project specifications and outline the different content production options possible!
Whether you need to mobilize a million iOS users, create an award-winning Android app, or cross platform experiences from the ground up, VironIT software development company has the team and experience to develop your vision.
Our team has expertise in:
- iOS applications
- Android applications
- Web applications
Contact us today for an intuitive and fast messaging app solution for your business or enterprise as well as for commercial chatting app solution.