MiTalk, or Mi Liao in Chinese, the mobile messaging app by Xiaomi, launched today a major update, MiTalk 2015.

MiTalk was first launched in November 2010, earlier than the launch of Tencent’s WeChat. Back then when mobile messaging apps such as Kik and Talkbox got traction, a wave of Chinese clones, including MiTalk and Qihoo’s Kouxin, emerged. But before long Tencent’s WeChat would beat all of them in terms of users and popularity.

At an event in 2013, Lei Jun, co-founder and CEO of Xiaomi, said that WeChat was merely another Tencent QQ, the most popular instant messaging software in China, hinting that’s a major reason why most other mobile messaging apps had lost to WeChat. In Xiaomi’s estimation, they had a chance if Tencent launched a similar one half a year later but little chance within three months. WeChat was released two months after MiTalk launch.

Even after WeChat became dominant in China’s mobile messaging market, some Chinese Internet companies such as Alibaba and Netease thought there was still room or niche markets for them.

EasyChat, the chatting app jointly established by Netease and Chinese telco China Telecom, announced 100 million users earlier this year. Alibaba’s Lai Wang doesn’t get much traction, but it seems the company doesn’t want to give up – Its management are using it anyway.

Xiaomi never gave up on MiTalk, either. Mr. Lei said at the aforementioned event that he felt proud that MiTalk was still alive given the rise of WeChat. It seemed the company was counting on the growing Xiaomi phone users and other users of MIUI, the customized Android system for all Xiaomi smart devices and free for download. They may use MiTalk since it’s a built-in service and Xiaomi would make it tailored to its fans. It sounds reasonable. People that don’t agree must argue that the No. 1 communication tool will take it all, just like where QQ IM is.

Xiaomi claims MiTalk had had 70 million registered users as of H1 2014, with 7.5 million being daily active. The company announced last month that MIUI users reached 70 million worldwide. So the company just counts every MIUI user as registered? When it come to activeness, what’s for sure is the majority of Chinese users are using WeChat on a daily basis.

The MiTalk 2015, apart from functions and features for mobile messaging, has integrated Chinese music streaming service Xiami, Xiaobing (a Siri-like service developed by Microsoft China), Baidu Maps, and Xiaomi’s online forum and shopping site. A location-based feature now is a must for a mobile app that MiTalk users now are able to find people or merchants nearby.

The shopping site integration allows for buying Xiaomi products without leaving the chatting app. The Xiaomi forum is another form of group chatting. Other features include making customized song tracks that can be shared among MiTalk contacts.

Social elements have been introduced to engage users. Users who play games or take on tasks, or active users on Xiaomi online forum will receive Mi Coins, the virtual money used on Xiaomi’s online sites or services, or other rewards such as F code, the invitation code for Xiaomi product purchas. There’s a tab in the app that shows a user’s virtual properties.

It took one year to develop the new Mitalk app, according to Xiaomi.

The app, apart from Xiaomi’s own site, will be available on Android app stores of Baidu, Tencent, Qihoo 360 and many other major Chinese app distribution platforms from tomorrow on.

When it comes to PC-based instant messaging software, what has happened in China is almost all IMs created by Chinese Internet companies, such as Baidu, Netease and Sina, lost to Tencent’s QQ. Microsoft MSN Messenger was an exception that was actually popular among white-collars and college students for several years. We’ll see what to happen to mobile messaging apps in China.

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at

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