We have Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Line, and Instagram. Now we're going to have WeChat _ a mobile voice and text chat app with friend-discovery social features.
While WhatsApp is a chat application and Facebook serves for keeping track with friends, WeChat is a combination of the two, said Dennis Hau, general manager of WeChat International Product Centre.
WeChat is a platform that enables people to connect. It comes with three key features: Push to Talk, Look Around, and video/audio calling.
Instead of typing on the keypad, users can just use the Push to Talk feature to answer a message while they are driving, or if it is inconvenient to deal with the keypad.
The Look Around feature lets users connect with nearby WeChat community members who are also looking around and it also calculates the distance and location of both friends and strangers in the area. Friends will appear on the list, but users can choose whether or not to connect to other WeChat members who are not their friends.
Video calling allows users to talk one-on-one or see up to 40 friends in a group chat. The application provides multimedia communication with VoIP chat, video chat, text messaging, voice messaging, group chat, photo/video sharing, location sharing, and contact information exchange.
The user's timeline sharing section, Moments, is a feature WeChat claims to be a private network based on phonebook contacts. Users can make comments without being seen by others they don't know.
"This application provides a secure and robust social networking platform that emphasises user privacy and fast response performance," Hau said. Users can share content based on visibility levels such as "public", "friends only", (user-defined) "select friends only", and "private". It protects user data by offering on-demand contact list backup and retrieval to and from WeChat's cloud-based service. User registration can be done via Facebook Connect, mobile SMS or voice message.
Moreover, the app has extended capability by providing an open application programming interface for development of the application as well.
Sanook Online managing director of content and services, Krittee Manoleehagul, noted that WeChat is a leading social app ranked third in the Social category. Globally there are more than 200 million users, and WeChat predicts all smartphone users in Thailand will use the app because it can support every operating system. Having been available for Thai users to download for a few months, the China-based WeChat has had a promising response.
"There is a high potential here, and WeChat is going to find new users in offices and universities," said Krittee.
At the moment, there are no ads running on the app as its developers would like users to experience it without distractions, but Krittee did not deny it will have advertising in the future, when Thai user behaviour is better known.