Weixin just turned one year old, and its development team just released a few staggering facts. It has made a major splash among smartphone users, pulling together all of Tencent’s services into a single mobile app.
- 50 million registered users
- 20 million as active users
- 76.1% are between the ages of 22 – 30
- Almost a quarter of the user base are white collars
Let’s put this another way:
Weixin now has captured a large and growing portion of China’s top internet users, most of them are the elite social groups in this country. All of Weixin’s users are smartphone users–and there’s only about 70-80 million smartphones in China to begin with.
Especially in top tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai, where the mobile network penetration are higher than the rest of the country, everyone is on Weixin. If you’re not, you’re “out” as they like to say here. And in my personal experience, most of my friends use it as a substitute for SMS and MMS.
The stats show 50% of users are still Symbian-based. Although Chinese mobile users are upgrading to lower end Android devices or the coveted Phone, mobile developers should note that Symbian is still very much alive and kicking.
At the Open Day, Tencent’s Chief Technical Officer Xiong MingHua (熊明华) said that Weixin is a product targeted at China’s elite users:
Q: In product positioning how is Weixin different from Tencent’s other products?
A: Weixin’s positioning has 3 main components: 1. Weixin is a product that syncs both QQ IM and Tencent Weibo; 2. Weixin targets top tier users; 3. Weixin will not have a PC version, it will be focused on mobile.
Note: The traditional path for Tencent’s products are from PC to mobile, so Weixin is a rare exception that was conceptualized purely for the mobile platform. Smart.
Inside The Making of a Hit
According to Tencent, Weixin has gone through two main product development stages and is now approaching ‘stage three’.
Stage One – Functionality Integration:
Weixin’s all-star team was joined via Tencent’s acquisition of Foxmail, and went on to lead QQ Mail (to me, China’s equivalent of Gmail). This crack team was then put on Weixin. And the first version of Weixin was launched with a team of only 10 developers (the team has since grown to 80).
The first version of Weixin was designed to attract users from Tencent’s existing user base, its 700 million registered QQ IM users. And because of the Weixin team’s background, both QQ IM and QQ Mail were prime choices to draw users from.
Weixin’s registration process also requests access to the user’s address book, an excellent way to find existing friends or invite new ones–and for Tencent to expand its social graph even further.
At this stage, Weixin supported really only instant messaging between QQ IM users and QQ Mail. Tencent Weibo was later integrated so that Comments, RTs and DMs are push noticed in Weixin.
Stage Two – Social Integration:
Weixin’s real breakthrough came with its second stage upgrades: LBS for finding other Weixin users within a 1000m radius, also known as the stranger messaging feature; “Shake”, shake your phone to match you automatically with other users shaking their phones, more stranger matching; “Drift bottle” send messages to the open seas and hope someone will reply (ported over from QQ Mail).
Along with these features, Weixin also updated with voice messaging and emoticons (the iPhone version has animated emoticons that are unavailable on the Android version).
Weixin has now reached 100 million daily shakes, meaning more and more users are looking for strangers just to chat with.
Stage Three – Social Expansion:
The current version of Weixin is 3.1. According to the development team, in version 3.5 designable QR ID tags will be available with animated emoticons [presumably] across all mobile OS.
But what should you really watch out for? The introduction of QQ Game Center in Weixin. That’ll be Tencent’s way to cash in on its new smartphone userbase, just as online games have monetized its enormous audience of desktop chatters.
Weixin is also a product that Tencent is trying to aggressively push internationally. Tencent announced that in version 3.5, its mobile number registration will be available in over 100 countries. There’s already an existing English version (available in settings), but this is another, more serious example, of Tencent’s products going international.
If you still haven’t experienced the app that all of China’s smartphone users are chatting about, download it from the App Store for iPhone, Android Market (often blocked in China), or Wandoujia for Android–it’s not hard to find there, it’s now China’s #1 app (yes, higher even than QQ itself).
And then, add me on Weixin! (@DonSunny46664)
Note: If you are using English version and have changed the default fonts on your Android phone, it is possible that Weixin will have display problems.
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