Saturday, May 6, 2017

Apple’s China Problem: WeChat

Ben Thompson (Hacker News):

The fundamental issue is this: unlike the rest of the world, in China the most important layer of the smartphone stack is not the phone’s operating system. Rather, it is WeChat. Connie Chan of Andreessen Horowitz tried to explain in 2015 just how integrated WeChat is into the daily lives of nearly 900 million Chinese, and that integration has only grown since then: every aspect of a typical Chinese person’s life, not just online but also off is conducted through a single app (and, to the extent other apps are used, they are often games promoted through WeChat).


Naturally, WeChat works the same on iOS as it does on Android. That, by extension, means that for the day-to-day lives of Chinese there is no penalty to switching away from an iPhone. Unsurprisingly, in stark contrast to the rest of the world, according to a report earlier this year only 50% of iPhone users who bought another phone in 2016 stayed with Apple.

John Gruber (tweet):

If it really is true that “the operating system of China is WeChat, not iOS/Android”, that’s the whole ballgame right there.


Apple has nothing to worry about as long it makes desirable iPhones. But WeChat has killed any possiblity of FaceBook or Snapchat in China.

Lucien Hoare:

Thought experiment: what would Apple do if WeChat started using private APIs (or other rule breaking feature) Could they afford to reject?

Like Uber. I don’t quite understand how WeChat is allowed in the App Store in the first place; doesn’t it offer apps within an app?

Ben Lovejoy:

Samsung smartphone shipments fell by 60% year-on-year in China during the first quarter of the year according to Counterpoint Research data. The company saw its market share in the country slashed from 8.6% in Q1 2016 to 3.3% Q1 2017.

The main reason for the fall at a time when smartphone sales in China are still growing was far stronger competition from local brands …

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

It is really hard to define what "offer apps within an app" is. To me what WeChat has done so far was only offering more features, not apps. (Until recently with the launch of "mini programs"). These things exist for China and non-China apps as well. For example, Facebook messenger offer games within the app; AliPay offers 30+ "features" that lie in beautiful 4-column grids.

> It is really hard to define what "offer apps within an app" is.

In the context of a chat app, it's a chat bot, right? So instead of installing the Pizza Order app, you order a pizza with your Pizza service's bot.

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