WeChat mini program on a Samsung smartphone home page. (Image credit: Tencent)

WeChat and Samsung announced a new partnership which allows users to directly access WeChat mini-programs on Samsung smartphone home screens without the need to open the main messaging app.

Why it matters: WeChat has recently been unveiling features so it resembles more of a mobile operating system (OS) for Chinese netizens, which, until now, have been only within its own app. The Samsung partnership grants users a gateway to directly access WeChat’s ecosystem and move it a step closer to becoming a mobile OS.

  • WeChat mini-programs, lightweight apps that run from within WeChat on any operating system without the need to download, positions parent company Tencent in competition with companies like Apple which earn revenue from app downloads.
  • The super messaging app rolled out an update earlier this year allowing users to search for and use mini-programs within the app more easily in an interface similar to an operating system.
  • The partnership with a smartphone maker in creating a direct gateway for mini-apps is a first for the messaging platform.

Details: Without opening the main app, users can swipe right on the phone’s home screen to find their five most recently used mini-programs, or swipe left from the edge of the screen to see up to 10 favorite mini-programs.

  • Samsung pre-installed the features in S8, S9, and S10 models that are sold in China as well as the Note8 and Note9. Future models will also include the function.

Context: Launched in January 2017, Tencent says WeChat mini-apps boast 840 million users.

  • Other apps including Alipay, Douyin, Taobao, and Baidu have all launched their own mini program ecosystems.
  • In March 2018, a group of Chinese smartphone makers jointly launched a unified standard, Quick App, in a bid to lessen WeChat’s grip on mobile traffic. The partners in the alliance include major smartphone makers such as Xiaomi, ZTE, Huawei, Gionee, Lenovo, Meizu, Nubia, OPPO, Vivo, and OnePlus.
  • Already operating 900 Quick Apps, Huawei said in August that it will officially launch its “Quick App” in September.

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.

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