Asia loves mobile instant messaging, and China is no exception. For youngsters, the most popular monthly mobile phone contract packages probably include hundreds of free SMS. In addition to SMS, China also has QQ, the decade-old instant messaging that thoroughly dominates the space.

Now Tencent, the company behind QQ, is bringing the latest mobile messaging service to the mainstream. Whether you call them a fast follower or an unashamed copycat, Tencent is adept at spotting and pushing the latest internet trends to its vast userbase. Tencent’s version is called Weixin (微信).

Weixin 101

From the start, Weixin was likely a clone of Talkbox, an instant voice messaging startup from Hong Kong. After Talkbox’s runaway success it became the target of many others including MiTalk (米聊 by Xiaomi), Kiki Messenger, Youni, and of course Tencent’s Weixin.

But Weixin has one key advantage the others can only dream of: 700 million registered users. Just about every single Chinese internet user has a QQ account, for many QQ is the internet. For Weixin, a QQ account is the only log-in option, which also immediately allows the app to pull from a user’s existing QQ social graph.

Functionality-wise Weixin is fairly standard comparing to its competitors. All have text messaging, photo sharing, voice messaging, location-sharing, and group messaging.

Weixin's chat screen, photos, video and voice messaging

Strange Encounters

But Weixin once again further leverages Tencent’s massive user base by offering an edgy geo-location service. You can see and message any users within a 1000m radius of your GPS position, whether they are a friend or not.

Now you can strike up a conversation with a random stranger near you, and we can all imagine the other applications this neat little feature can lead to. One friend told me it was an excellent way to find 美女, ‘beautiful girls’ in his vicinity.

And to give you an idea of how far Tencent’s userbase extends, let me offer an example:

For me, my location search normally reveals 30+ strangers near my home, a residential area. In CBD Shanghai, that number will be considerably higher nearing 50. That’s 50 users every 1000m already using Weixin–and imagine how many more QQ users aren’t yet on Weixin.

For a friend in Singapore, his search came up with 7 strangers, so clearly with Weixin you can find people for an interesting chat just about anywhere in Asia Pacific area and maybe also in Japan.

Of course you can erase yourself from this search if peace and quiet is your style. But the default is opt-in.

Weixin location search, strangers within 1000m

Weixin is available on Android, iPhone and Symbian, to experience it you can download the app here.

Weixin a Threat to SMS?

Weixin is for users with a mobile data package (GPRS/3G) access, so with consideration of data volume limits users might turn away users. But Weixin’s development team promises their app is optimized for the lowest data usage possible.

And Tencent went even a step further. In China’s GuangDong province, they signed a deal with China Unicom, the second largest mobile service provider in the country, to offer all China Unicom users free data access when using Weixin within GuangDong province.

Any user who activates a specific data package before end of December will have unlimited access of Weixin for the next 24 months, which means free SMS, MMS, voice mail and any other forms of mobile communication that Weixin introduces in the next 2 years.

It will be a huge threat for SMS in GuangDong and the rest of China if this free deal extends to the rest of the country. But China Unicom could stand to win if users abandon China Mobile, its main competitor.

Weixin’s Competitors

China has a slew of new mobile messaging services. Here are a few key competitors:

1). Xiaomi MiTalk (米聊)

The Xiaomi phone received over 300,000 pre-orders on it’s first day of pre-order sales. MiTalk (or Miliao / 米聊 in Chinese) comes pre-installed one each one.

Each MiTalk users has a wall on which friends can post messages. And MiTalk also offers a ‘doodle pad’ so you can send your friends your touch-screen sketches.

2). Feixin IM (飞信)

This is an app by China Mobile, a surprising hit for the state-supported telecom that struggles with original content. Its biggest selling point is free SMS for you and your Feixin friends.

China Mobile is the one other company that approaches Tencent with its control of a massive userbase. Let the race begin.

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  • LM

    is there any english download available?

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  • V Azhagan

    hi

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  • Kawoos_naserie

    can this app be offered in BLACKBERRY APP WORLD?

    • PlzSeed

      stop being a faggot and burn your blackberry

    • Rich

      who still uses blackberry

      • Marjsyd

        Yes the App is available for Blackberry based on the tech Davy sarcasm seems you should know this …

  • Aga

    how can i change it ? this app on my phone is absolutely impossible to read. i have nokia e72 btw.

  • Bahinton

    I use this App in English no problem. Switching languages is also easy. Settings>General and select your language.

    A few problems I have with the program at present.

    1. How to backup your chat stream. This seems impossible at present.

    2. Custom emoticons.
    It seems impossible to delete custom emoticons once you have added them.

    It also seems impossible to add Animated GIFs to the Custom tab. Only the first frame will display. And believe me I tried -  I even made a standards compliant GIF based on the default files inside the Weixin .IPA file. These files are called icon_002.GIF etc by Weixin. But none of this worked!

  • Paviliun_co

    hi

  • Paviliun_co

    wei xin is good

  • Princethedesigner

    i am using weixin in Africa, Zimbabwe and i talk with my friends china….its amazing and yes low data consumption so totally cool

  • Fiona

    I have hard time to enter my account, does anyone know how to solve it?

    • Therry

       i used my qq account without problem

  • Therry

    Hi, I am From Mauritius island.. your weixin application is great.. can’t you find a deal with Mauritius/France telecom here? i am sure you can blow up the market here.. anyway i will advocate for your product now.. i already shared your link on facebook.. go go go weixin

  • Melissa Raylyn

    Is anyone else having problem downloading the pictures? … It won’t show me larger versions. Im on an iPhone and he is too.

  • Mrspootsie

    when can i throw drift bottles again? It seems ive reached my limit. What are the all stipulations what go along with that?

  • Sfdsfa

    im in USA, it has a lit bit problem in determining my IP so as to look for the ppl around me, other than that, its been great!

  • Kk

    - -……im chinese i use weixin….n u can shake ue cellphone within in weixin to find a stranger who is shaking cellphone at the same time.

  • Good_Yeah

    I am in Australia, Brisbane this app works a treat. i have been using Weixin for about 6 months now. The first time i tried the location it found about 10 users now 6 months on it locates no less then 50 people.

    • Hello

      To add to this… the English version was a great idea…   now we just need more Aussies to use this App…  
      Weixin you should hit Optus up for a sms deal…

  • Stephane

    hi all, how can we setup the uk language, all is in Chinese 

  • Kovvurijitendra

    every mobile has waxing english settings recently windows mobile also has a nice update .it rocks bad luck for black berry users ..i am a black berry phone fan . just for this app i bought a android phone ….

  • Kovvurijitendra

    when you install you get chinese but you can change english in any mobile i will shortly keep tutorial in you tube for every mobile …..

  • Ygan2008

    i cant find my password

  • cassiano pinto

    something really good and practical

    • candy

      yeah.i am agree.

  • Sly

    im in the usa, so is this free? i use wifi on my phone and my data, roaming is switch off

  • BJ

    how to change your password?.

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  • Pino

    How to delete my old account?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jie.johnson1 Jobin Sun

    wechat(weixin) +1

  • Sorinchen

    hi tashi delek

  • Sorinchen

    hi my pet animal

  • Anonymous

    Hi

  • Anonymous

    Anybody in sweeden

  • consulting daxue

    yeah, weixin is becoming more and more popular in China, especially for students. Perhaps all my friends have an account of weixin. 
    And for more information about internet in China, you can see here: http://daxueconsulting.com/

  • Ddd

    for those who want to try it out, make sure your phones or pads english, and get the latest version. it will adjust to your language as it just begun to support multi-languages those days. however due to regional laws and privacy protection pilicies, many functions can’t just go public.

    have some fun

  • Siamak

    Does balckberry have weixin? thx all

    • candy

      you can try. i think it does

  • kenny

    Does any know how to transfer voice messages to a computer ?

    • Hannie209 .

      so one did. but I don’t know how

  • kenny

    is there a way to transfer voice messages to your computer ?

  • kenny

    Can you transfer voice messages to your computer ?

    • candy

      i think it cant

  • secret_gurl

    how to change the language to english?

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  • JamesF

    Please help .. How do I change my password?

  • Anna Li

    Let’s not forget that the international version of QQ (at http://www.imqq.com) lets you connect with all mobile Weixin users from the comfort of your laptop/desktop!

  • rajivk1

    How can i login with my qq account on webchat (on my blackberry mobile)?

  • Hatem

    big like 4 weix ^^

  • dixie

    can we post animated images on weixin? i cant seem to do it

  • evelyn

    how can save I save wechat conversation ot history??

  • http://www.facebook.com/candido.teixeira.77 Candido Teixeira

    need to log in

  • YYY787 .

    我是住在欧洲荷兰,现在想使用微信。请教哪位朋友可以给个链接,先谢谢了。

  • YYY787 .

    我是使用LAPTOP的,不知道可以吗?

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