We see Android launcher will be one of the hottest topics in China in 2014. Ambitious Chinese companies or entrepreneurs always want control of users’ access to Internet services and then monetize user traffic or sell services to users. On the Chinese Web, Qihoo is such a company that successfully converted its free security users into adopters of its browsers through which users access all Web content. Now the company is making revenues from businesses through a variety of online advertising offerings and from users through mobile gaming.

In the past several years when mobile Internet use started soaring, some Chinese Internet entrepreneurs tried to develop custom Android ROMs or make smartphones to control the access to mobile content and services. Xiaomi, the smart device maker and mobile service provider, is a typical example. Founded in 2010, the company had sold more than 25 million smartphones, pre-loaded with MIUI — the custom Android ROM by the company, and more than 30 million MIUI users (Xiaomi phone users are included) as of 2013.

Although it is estimated Xiaomi has become one of the most profitable smartphones in China, the management said their goal wasn’t making much money from hardware, but building the software ecosystem and monetizing the user base in the long run. MIUI has managed to generated revenues from mobile gaming, other paid apps/services, search marketing, among others. Xiaomi also owns Duokan, a mobile publishing platform.

But to gain new users, Xiaomi has to convince them either spend $300 or something for a new smartphone or to download MIUI — it’s not that average users know how to install another Android ROM.

The recent success of a couple of Android launchers shows Xiaomi and other of the ambitious that there’s an easier way. Sungy Mobile got listed on the NASDAQ last year. As one of the earliest mobile content and service providers in China, the company didn’t take off until GO Launcher got much traction. The Android had had more than 200 million installations and some 40 million monthly active users as of Q3 2013. GO launcher and accompanying apps now are generating revenues from theme sales, in-app purchases, mobile reading and advertising. It is expected the revenue growth will increase if GO Launcher introduces lucrative offerings such as mobile gaming.

Launcher is just an app that every user knows how to download and install. Xiaomi can do almost everything with a custom ROM, having Xiaomi app store as default, offering paid services like themes, placing a search box anywhere as it likes, among others.

Xiaomi and its peers quickly got the gist. MIUI has developed an Android launcher, named MiHome Launcher, claiming it had had 2 million users as of the end of 2013.

Now Tencent has joined trend with a new launcher — it once rolled out a couple of launchers in 2011 and 2012, respectively. It seems Tencent didn’t figure out what to do with them. Named Micro-homescreen (not official translation), the new one has drawn much attention for it is developed by a team under the business unit of WeChat. Previous to it, the team was developing a phone call app named WeCall. It is estimated WeCall and WeChat will be the default apps in Miro-homescreen for all types of mobile communication. WeCall just started a campaign asking users to change the dwelling place of their Android phone launcher.

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at traceyxiang@gmail.com

Join the Conversation


  1. it seems that tencent is preparing to launch his new custom android, we have already as they call them WeCall, now WeiZhuomian. It seems to me that they’ll launch a smartphone in the near future.

  2. when I downloaded and installed it, it’s just a phone app replacement, not a launcher app. It’s called 微信电话本. that’s kinda confusing. looks nothing like the screenshots either.

    1. Hi Steven, the launcher is developed by the team for the phone app replacement — it’s called WeCall btw. It seems WeCall is shifting focus. It is expected the launcher will have the phone app replacement and WeChat as default so that Tencent will control the default communication channels of the launcher users.

  3. Actually they had already at least two launchers QQ桌面 and 腾讯桌面

    1. Hi Dan, thanks. I avoided mentioning them for I don’t think those were developed for such strategic purpose. Anyway, more details have been added in to the last paragraph.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.