Chinese super app WeChat is adding a dark mode option to its iOS version, finally bringing the the long-anticipated feature to iPhone users. 

Why it matters: The news drew widespread public attention online in China with many social media users speculating that the App Store’s importance to the mega chatting app pushed its decision to acquiesce on a feature it had avoided in the past.

Details: The development of dark mode on WeChat is complete and will launch in the next update, the company said in a post on its Weibo account on Monday, but did not specify a date.

  • “In order to optimize the user experience, WeChat has reached a cooperation with Apple to jointly explore the dark mode experience of WeChat in the iOS system,” the company said in the post.
  • Apple recently updated the App Store’s review regulations, asking all developers to use the iOS 13 SDK to fully adapt to the iOS 13 system before April 30. The update requires a series of changes including support for dark mode, sign in with Apple, and other features. Apps which fail to comply with the rules will be removed from the store.
  • Public discussion (in Chinese) about a possible removal from the App Store for Tencent’s WeChat, which boasts more than 1.15 billion monthly active users, began to catch on as netizens noticed the app’s lack of dark mode on iOS.
  • A Weibo user using the handle “Yelaiyuesezhanyi” commented on the announcement post that Tencent “wussed out” under pressure from the App Store. The WeChat responded that they indeed “wussed out” but to user demands.
  • WeChat’s pledge to add the new feature was reported by Chinese media as a sign that Tencent succumbed to App Store’s regulations.
  • Tencent spokesman Zhang Jun responded in a Weibo post, saying that Apple’s policy addressed all app developers and was not specifically calling WeChat out.

“My eyes are saved.”

— Weibo user “Its2h0u” commented under WeChat’s announcement

Context: WeChat rolled out dark mode for Android version in a December beta update.

  • Apple has been ceding ground to Chinese competitors including Huawei, Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi.
  • The US company shipped 27.5 million smartphones in China in 2019, accounting for 7.5% of the market in 2019 compared with 8.7% market share in 2018, according to research agency Canalys.
  • WeChat has also been losing its share of user attention to intense competition from short video platforms, particularly Bytedance’s Douyin and Tencent-invested Kuaishou.

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at lixin@technode.com. More by Emma Lee

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