At first glance, the Chinese app WeChat seems similar to its Western counterparts like WhatsApp and Viber. It allows users to text people over an internet connection, share photos, videos, and other files.
If we dig deep, though, we will find a full-featured app that does so much more than just messaging, especially for residents of China. It is more akin to a blend of messaging, social gaming, and social media.
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 with more than 963 million monthly active users. In the last quarter of 2020, WeChat had over 1.2 billion monthly active users from a wide range of age groups.
Find more statistics at Statista
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 a 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.
WeChat allows users 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 to contact people at random if desired. It can also integrate with other social networking services such as Facebook and QQ.
WeChat hasn’t let this opportunity slip through their fingers, having implemented a version for chatting directly in your browser.
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.
Once you specify a type of account, it cannot 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-registration, visa renewal, or credit card service.
Do you want to edit your photos to be published on social networks? Or maybe you want to add a filter to your profile picture on WeChat? This is all possible in WeChat without using external applications. The app has integrated photo editing, allowing you to edit photos with a whole host of different filters.
What is a WeChat moment? Moments is an essential part of WeChat that allows users to post images, texts, and comments, share music and 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 increase 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 to participating vendors. As of March 2016, WeChat Pay has more than 300 million users worldwide. In 2017, Tencent reported that WeChat had overtaken Alibaba with 600 million active WeChat mobile payment users versus 450 million users of Alibaba’s Alipay.
Half a million people used OKCoin’s mobile wallet and WeChat account – called OKLink – to gift bitcoin to their friends in 2015. Users sent the bitcoin gifts in the form of virtual red envelopes through WeChat.
Mini Programs is a WeChat feature that essentially allows you to access light apps within WeChat without having to download or install brand new apps.
During the WeChat Conference 2018, WeChat released these data about WeChat Mini Program:
This bike-sharing program allows cyclists to pay for rides using their WeChat wallet. It is similar to bike-sharing schemes in cities worldwide aside from one difference: it does not require docking stations.
Bikes can be parked anywhere within major cities, which admittedly has created some difficult pick-up points. Mobike is not owned by Tencent, but the functionality resides within the WeChat app.
WeChat has launched the City Services feature in more than 27 cities across China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. City Services include booking doctor appointments, paying electricity fees or traffic fines, and booking transportation.
The City Services section also includes traffic camera feeds, the option to pay your home electricity bill, book long-distance transportation, monitor air quality, pay traffic fines, report incidents to police, and more.
This works for both taxis and cars at China’s top on-demand startup Didi Kuaidi. You don’t need to use the Didi Kuaidi app- it can all be done inside WeChat.
In certain major cities—including Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu—users can input their location to see a heat map, which 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 and 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 mini-games are simply WeChat mini-programs used for gaming. Just like you can turn your shop into a mini-program shop, you can also turn your game into a mini-game.
There are already plenty of mini-games already available: simple “flash-style” games, chess, war games, and more.
WeChat allows people to add friends in a variety of ways, 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 that allows you to 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 useful for those interested in knowing what 898 million users are talking about. It is worthy of note that WeChat articles are not currently indexed by Baidu or Google and can only be searched on Sogou.com.
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,”. In May 2017, WeChat acquired a news feed and search function. The Financial Times defined it as a “direct challenge to Chinese search engine Baidu,”
WeChat Out is a VOIP feature that allows users to make low-rate calls to mobile phones and landlines around the globe. The feature involves purchasing credit within the app using a credit card.
WeChat has expanded its emoji, as well as launching an animation effect that transforms emojis from still when they are sent. Special effects have also been applied to the bomb and fireworks emoji in preparation for the Chinese New Year.
The new feature allows users to update their status on their profile page with messages, videos, images, locations, and hashtags. Users can choose from twenty-one different statuses, depending on their mood or activity.
Previously, WeChat restricted users to opening five windows simultaneously. Now users can have unlimited floating windows so that they can bookmark as many WeChat articles as they want.
WeChat Channels is an independent video platform within WeChat for users to produce content. It allows users to post videos within one minute, up to nine pictures, or text content of up to 1,000 words. It can be accompanied by links to official pages, and with the functions of Favorite, Forward, Like, and Comment.
Channels allow a user to search for or discover:
Users can also search for hashtags, keywords, product categories, or even brand names.
Since WeChat launched its live-streaming feature last year, users can directly watch streams on WeChat Channels. To encourage its audience to directly engage with streamers, WeChat has developed WeBeans. The new in-app currency can be used to buy digital gifts in WeChat Channels.
Here is a day-in-the-life video of a typical WeChat user that demonstrates how its features have become essential in everyday life in China.
So how is a chat app like WeChat created? Start by understanding the tech stack, which goes into it first. Here’s what the WeChat 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 server pairs perfectly with the Erlang programming language, which powers the entire app. It may not be the standard choice, but this language is rather flexible and allows quick and instant fixes to be made without much refactoring. However, you are not obliged to use the same language for chat app development. For instance, the Telegram instant messaging app uses Node.js for all backend coding.
Originally WeChat used HTTPS to transfer all of the users’ messages.
The databases are powered by EnMicroMsg DB and SQLCipher. The WeChat app is available for 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.
So this should have satisfied your curiosity. If you want to receive a full tech stack for an app like Wechat, please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Now let’s take a closer look at app monetization, development time, and cost.
How do free apps like WeChat make money? In recent times, we have been getting many 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 a sticker shop and game center in WeChat to provide value-added services, which are a key revenue source for Tencent’s other popular platform QQ. These services normally charge $0.99 for each purchase.
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 totaled more than RMB 300 million in January 2016.
At this point, you should have a somewhat well-rounded understanding of what features you would like to develop and whether you plan to hire a development team locally or outsource the entire project.
Essentially, WeChat can be used for just about anything you want to do online. It does facilitate easy integration between most of China’s most popular apps. Within WeChat, there are equivalents of Western apps like Facebook, Instagram, PayPal, Tinder, and Slack, along with hundreds of other popular services.
The total project timeline, depending on the scope of your requirements, can vary from 5,000 to 9,000 hours.
VironIT’s team would be happy to provide more accurate cost estimates based on your project specifications and outline the different content production options available!
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.
Contact us today for an intuitive and fast messaging app solution for your business or enterprise as well as for commercial chatting app solution.
sowmya sri says:
Very well explained, informative article to develop an app for reference…
Gracel Robby says:
Hello Darya! You have penned down this blog of how to build an app like WeChat. I liked the way you have elaborated it with simple and easy to understand language. There are WhatsApp, the Facebook Messenger and Telegram for instant messaging. But, WeChat offers extensive features. It has gained popularity from the last few years. But, Whatsapp is on top. This article shows the essential features of an app similar to WeChat which can give a clear understanding of the concept. Thanks for providing great info.
I was doing some research about the best chat platforms and I came across your blog where you talked about WeChat. In your blog, I saw what you wrote about WeChat that, WeChat was a web service for internal private online chat and instant messaging. I must say your write-up is nice. Thanks for the nice write-up.
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