WeChat debuted a new Chinese version, 5.1, on MyApp, Tencent’s Android app market last night.
New features and changes include,
- Recharging mobile phone accounts for contacts, through WeChat Payment of course. A greeting e-card will be sent to the recipient after anyone does so.
- Reviving crashed planes in the first WeChat game, one of the hottest in the past summer in China. It’s a 6 yuan (less than $1) charge for three chances of revivals.
- WeShow, the short video app launched no more than three months ago, and QQ Creative Camera (not official translation) now are built in sitting in the bar under the input box. Tencent Mobile Manager, a mobile security and management app, is available in user settings for direct installation.
- A group chat now can accommodate up to 100 participants, not 40 with the previous version. By default every user can only own one such a big group, but he/she can own another two after having signed up to WeChat Payment and an additional one if he/she makes donations with WeChat Payment.
- Delivery address can be added onto user settings.
- Drafts will be shown in the timeline.
- Preview of stickers with a long click.
Obviously WeChat wants more users to get on board with WeChat Payment which was launched with the 5.0 version, encouraging them to spend more money on mobile games and other paid services.
The mobile recharge for friends and the accompanying e-card is a sign that WeChat will come up with more gifts for users to send to each other — with WeChat Payment for payments of course. There are too many gifts WeChat’s parent company can offer, from virtual items in online games or other online services like digital music to physical goods on its e-commerce site Yixun.
The addition of delivery address makes it possible to send contacts physical goods without letting them know. It won’t be surprising that Tencent’s Yixun will be the only merchant, who will know all the addresses filed in, that runs this gift business. Alibaba, currently the most powerful e-commerce player in China, has seen the potential threat from WeChat-commerce that it has disabled the showing of Taobao/Tmall webpages in WeChat conversations.
It’s the first time WeChat has added other Tencent apps into it as default or options. Integrating Tencent’s other apps that are complementary to WeChat is just a matter of time.
Also it’s the first time WeChat debut a new version on Tencent’s MyApp. App store has become a strategic weapon for Chinese Internet companies to grab land shares f the mobile Internet. In this regard, Tencent’s peers and future competitors have already been well prepared — Baidu now has 91 Wireless, Xiaomi has its own installed as default in Xiaomi devices and MIUI custom system, and Qihoo has 360 Mobile Assistant which, its CEO claims, is the largest in China in terms of mobile game distribution.
The permitted capacity of a group chat may not seem like a big issue, but it has been real demand on Tencent’s QQ IM, the most popular instant messaging service in China. Users have to subscribe to QQ premium subscriptions in order to have more participants in their QQ group chats.
WeChat reportedly has had more than 600 million registered users, though the company only discloses the number of monthly active users which is 272 million in Q3 2013. WeChat game platform now has eight games, including the self-developed and third-party games like Zombie vs. Plants 2. Tencent has pulled a lot of money from some of them.
APIs and speech recognition SDK have been released that enable business accounts, or WeChat Official Accounts, to build custom features. As sticker is seen a must-have revenue source for a mobile messaging app, WeChat invites designers to contribute their works and will share revenues with them.