Review: Why WeChat Is More Popular In China Given That WhatsApp Is More Popular Elsewhere?


The question as to what is the difference between WeChat Versus WhatsApp is always puzzling especially when you do not know the technical differences between the two.  And why WeChat Is More Popular In China Given Than WhatsApp Is More Popular Elsewhere? Well, sit tight and relax because I have it all covered for you.

I often hear a number of people from China say that, WeChat is the only app you need if you are living in China and that you can do anything with Wechat! Interesting, so am thinking to myself… ‘If I had an app that would literally do everything for me, why not have it after all?!’

Wechat according to Wikipedia, WeChat a is Chinese multi-purpose social media application software developed by Tencent. It was first released in 2011, and by 2017 it was one of the largest standalone mobile apps by mobile active users. It has been termed as China’s “App for Everything” because of its many functions and platforms.

Whatsapp on the other hand is as well a cross-platform instant messaging application with similar messaging features as that of Wechat. The application allows the sending of text messages and voice calls, as well as video calls, images and other media, documents, and user location. Originally users could only communicate with other users individually or in groups of individual users though in September 2017, WhatsApp announced a forthcoming business platform that would enable companies to provide customer service to users at scale. Whatsapp for business was recently unveiled on 18th January 2018 as a separate app for business transactions. All data is end to end encrypted.


What are the Stats?


The application was created by Whatsapp Inc., based in Mountain View, California which was later acquired by Facebook in February 2014.

According to statista, the amount of monthly active WhatsApp users worldwide as of July 2017 was announced to be more than 1.3 billion monthly active users, up from over 1 billion MAU in February 2016. The service is one of the most popular mobile app worldwide.

Therefore there is a clear contrast in numbers which ultimately means popularity worldwide for whatsapp unlike wechat which according to statista has about 963 million monthly users worldwide.


Image result for wechat and whatsapp stats
WeChat Versus WhatsApp Credit: Tech Chrunch


Given this much popularity for WhatsApp worldwide, here is a brief summary of why WeChat Is More Popular In China Than WhatsApp

Well here is the answer, majority of the people from mainland China use Wechat!

If everyone is using the same app, wouldn’t it be safer to keep communication easy by getting the same app? WeChat and Whatsapp were released in 2011 and 2010 respectively, which mean Whatsapp was only a year ahead of WeChat. Before WeChat, the majority of Chinese were already using QQ (instant messaging app) which was founded by the same parent company as WeChat, Tencent. This gave WeChat the advantage of access to a large user database. There was a button on QQ that allowed QQ users to log into WeChat in the early days and this helped them maintain a dominant position in China’s social media space.

Wechat’s main target market was China this means that it was able to launch features that were unique to the Chinese market.

If  you where looking for just a brief summary of the full article, you may end here however, you may proceed and dive deep into the whole story.



Creation of WeChat and The BIG Idea


After the launch of WeChat 1.0, the team released the app to around 100,000 users for trial. The team then checked if these users were generating organic growth for the app through word of mouth and product demonstration. This way the team was able to tell whether WeChat was genuinely a great product that’s worth investing more time and money into or not.​ Wechat is known for its Mini Programs feature which incorporates many different functions and programs developed from Tencent and other independent developers.

In January 2018, Wechat announced a record of 580,000 mini-programs in its feature and recently, Wechat Games have received huge popularity, with its “Jump Jump” game attaining 100 million daily active users in just two weeks after its launch, as of January 2018 according to Wikipedia.



WeChat And What’s Special (WeChat Versus WhatsApp)



Wechat and whatsapp have similar user interface however there is more to what meets the eye. WeChat provides text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast (one-to-many) messaging, video conferencing, video games, sharing of photographs and videos, and location sharing.

It can exchange contacts with people nearby via Bluetooth, as well as providing various features for contacting people at random if desired. It can also integrate with other social networking services such as Facebook and Tencent. Photographs may also be embellished with filters and captions, and an automatic translation service is available.

WeChat supports different instant messaging methods, including text message, voice message, walkie talkie and stickers. Users can send previously saved or live pictures and videos, name cards of other users, coupons, lucky money packages, or current GPS locations with friends either individually or in a group chat.

Despite all the features WeChat platform interface is still quite simple. From a first glance, WeChat is still a messaging App.


Official accounts

WeChat supports users who wish to register as an official account, which enables them to push feeds to subscribers, interact with subscribers and provide them with services.  By the end of 2014, the number of WeChat official accounts had reached 8 million. Official accounts of organizations can apply to be verified. An official account can be used as a platform for services such as hospital pre-registrations, visa renewal and credit card service.



Moments is Wechat’s brand name for its social feed of friends updates. Moments allow users to post images, post text, post comments, share music, share articles and post “likes.” Moments can be also linked to Facebook and Twitter accounts, and one can automatically post Moments content directly to these two platforms.

Privacy in WeChat works by groups of friends – only the friends from the user’s contact are able to view their Moments’ contents and comments. The friends of the user will only be able to see the likes and comments from other users only if they are in mutual friends group. For example, friends from high school are not able to see the comments and likes from friends from university. When users post their moments, they can separate their friends into a few groups, and they can decide whether this Moment can be seen by particular groups of people. Contents posted can be set to “Private”, and then only the user can view it.


WeChat Pay

WeChat Pay is a digital wallet service incorporated into WeChat, which allows users to perform mobile payments and send money between contacts. Every WeChat user has their own WeChat Payment account. Users can acquire a balance by linking their WeChat account to their debit card, or by receiving money from other users. Users who link their credit card can only make payments to vendors, and cannot use this to top up WeChat balance. WeChat Pay can be used for digital payments, as well as payments from participating vendors. As of March 2016, WeChat Pay had over 300 million users.

WeChat Pay’s main competitor in China and the market leader in online payments was Alibaba Group’s Alipay. Alibaba company founder Jack Ma considered the red envelope feature to be a “Pearl Harbor moment”, as it began to erode Alipay’s historic dominance in the online payments industry in China, especially in peer-to-peer money transfer. The success prompted Alibaba to launch its own version of virtual red envelopes in its competing Laiwang service.

In 2017 Tencent reported that WeChat had overtaken Alibaba with 600 million active WeChat mobile payment users versus 450 million for Alibaba’s AlipayCity.  Other thing you can pay for include;


In 2015 WeChat has launched the City Services feature in 27 cities across China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. City Services included booking doctor appointments, paying electricity fees or traffic fines, and booking transportation.

Heat Map

In 2015, WeChat offered a heat map feature that showed crowd density.

Enterprise WeChat

For work purposes, companies and business communication, a special version of WeChat called Enterprise WeChat (or Qiye Weixin) was launched in 2016. The app was meant to help employees separate work from private life. In addition to the usual chat features, the program lets companies and their employees keep track of annual leave days and expenses that need to be reimbursed, employees could ask for time off or clock in to show they were at work.


WeChat Mini Program

In 2017, WeChat launched a feature called the “Mini Program”. Consumers could, for example, scan the Quick Response code using their mobile phone at a supermarket counter. The Mini Program app paid the supermarket bill through the user’s mobile wallet. There was no need to install additional applications on mobile devices and business owners could create mini apps in the WeChat system.


Friend seek

WeChat allowed people to add friends by a variety of methods, including searching by username or phone number, adding from phone or email contacts, playing a “message in a bottle” game, or viewing nearby people who are also using the same service. In 2015 WeChat added a “friend radar” function.

WeChat Index

In March 2017, Tencent released WeChat Index. By inserting a search term in the WeChat Index page, users could check the popularity of this term in past 7, 30, or 90 days. The data were mined from data in official WeChat accounts and metrics such as social sharing, likes and reads were used in the evaluation.

News Feed and Search

In May 2017 Tencent started news feed and search functions for its WeChat app. The Financial Times reported this was a “direct challenge to Chinese search engine Baidu.

WeChat Out

In January 2016, Tencent launched WeChat Out, a VOIP service allowing users to call mobile phones and landlines around the world. The feature allowed purchasing credit within the app using a credit card. Services under development in 2017

In 2017, WeChat was reported to be developing an augmented reality (AR) platform as part of its service offering. Its artificial intelligence team was working on a 3D rendering engine to create realistic appearance of detailed objects in Smartphone-based AR apps. They were also developing a simultaneous localization and mapping technology, which would help calculate the position of virtual objects relative to their environment, enabling AR interactions without the need for markers, such as Quick Response codes or special images.



Shake And Find

The Shake and Find Users Nearby features make the app more fun by allowing people to speak to strangers.  WeChat Shake function (search for users who are shaking their phones at the same time as you) is intuitive. Users intuitively shake their phones after seeing a simple hand image on the landing page. They then be rewarded with an exciting sound. This experience gives users a sense of fun.


Complete Video function

Media sharing is relatively limited in the Whatsapp applications. WeChat supports a complete video call function and it honestly functions a lot like precisely the same feature offered by Skype. It enables users to examine pictures posted by other persons and also contains a feature called Minutes that allows folks to post images directly onto a wall that can operate quite similarly to Face Book.

Just how those users locate folks in both programs is one of the principal differences between the two pieces of applications. While Wechat let’s a person search more readily, individuals who use Whatsapp must understand the handle that they’re entering. Some people consider this a feature that is useful, but users might consider Whatsapp’s program more personal.

Whatsapp is regularly commended for having no gimmicks. However Wechat allows pictures to be taken by users and transform them into emoticons. In addition, it has numerous other gimmicks like Drift Bottle, which provides the choices to send messages to people that are random to users.



Wechat requires its users to send requests to their friends with the “Add Contact” icon which would need approval from the receiving parties before they can send a message to the latter. Apparently, Whatsapp doesn’t offer this secured feature; instead, the app user can send a message to other friends in his contact list who also have the app installed on their smart phones. No need for any approval which makes it less private compared to Wechat.

On the other hand, WeChat requires no annual subscription. Aside from the free text messaging services, the app also provides free voice and video calls plus sharing of multimedia files with other friends.

Another advantage of the app is its ability to live-stream content and shares it at the same time. With WeChat, the option to install location-based plug-in will make chatting with local and international friends easy and convenient.


Find People

Individuals who use Whatsapp will have to know the handle that they’re entering, while Wechat lets people search for users more readily. Some people consider this a useful feature, but other users might consider Whatsapp’s system more private because of this technicality.



Whatsapp is often praised for having no gimmicks. However Wechat allows users to take images and convert them into emoticons. It also has a number of other gimmicks like Drift Bottle, which provides users with the option to send messages to random individuals.



Here is a video review by Wall Street Journal i found very interesting.  In Summary, WeChat is portrayed to be a combination of both Facebook and WhatsApp adminst reactions in the comment section where users claim that its a spyware,  dead, among others.



WeChat and The Downsides


Security concerns

Image result for wechat security

WeChat operates from China under Chinese law, which includes strong censorship provisions and interception protocols. WeChat contains the ability to access the text messages and contact books of its users and users’ locations through the GPS feature.

In 2016, a report by Amnesty International placed Tencent last out of a total of 11 companies, including Facebook, Apple, and Google, for the lack of privacy protections built into WeChat and QQ. The report found that Tencent did not recognize online threats to human rights, did not make use of end-to-end encryption, did not disclose government requests for data, and did not publish specific data about its use of encryption.

A September 2017 update to the platform’s privacy policy detailed that log data collected by WeChat included search terms, profiles visited, and content that had been viewed within the app. Additionally, metadata related to the communications between WeChat users—including call times, duration, and location information—was also collected. This information, which was used by Tencent for targeted advertising and marketing purposes, might be disclosed to representatives of the Chinese government.

Users in China also have expressed concern for the privacy issues of the app.

Supporters of the app have argued that WeChat was safe overall. Martin Johnson, a founder of the anti-censorship in China site, stated that WeChat was less of a potential threat than the app Weibo which was modeled on Wechat’s focus on messaging between well-known acquaintances and social groups. Doug Young, a Shanghai-based author of the Party Line, noted that while the app might practice self-censorship within China, it would not, however, practice the same self-censorship outside China. Doing so, according to Young, would affect the app’s image and possibly hamper its global expansion.


XcodeGhost malware

In 2015, Apple published a list of the top 25 most popular apps infected with the XcodeGhost malware, confirming earlier reports that version 6.2.5 of Wechat for iOS was infected with it. The malware originated in a counterfeit version of Xcode (dubbed “XcodeGhost”), Apple’s software development tools, and made its way into the compiled app through a modified framework. Despite Apple’s review process, WeChat and other infected apps were approved and distributed through the App Store. Even though some sources claimed that the malware was capable of prompting the user for their account credentials, opening URL and reading the device’s clipboard, Apple responded that the malware was not capable of doing “anything malicious” or transmitting any personally identifiable information beyond “apps and general system information” and that it had no information that suggested that this had happened. Some commentators considered this to be the largest security breach in the App Store’s history.


Special Note: Whatsapp Banned In China

WhatsApp has been occasionally banned in China on several times for example on 25th September 2017 the New York Times reported whatsapp to have been blocked by the Chinese government. Such incidences therefore create unnecessary inconveniences to people thus discouraging its use altogether.


In Conclusion

For as long as the functions of WeChat and WhatsApp are more or less similar, Wechat has more to offer as an app, will be getting more and more popular, not only in China but all over the world. It will be a very tough job for WhatsApp to gain a significant market share in China. Perhaps it is what we call user loyalty. Its the main reason why now WeChat is not only considered a messenger, but also news, social media, SNS, ecommerce app.

Wechat’s mobile phone app works on Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, and Symbian phones.  Web-based OS X and Windows clients also exist. This however requires the user to have the app installed on a supported mobile phone for authentication, and neither message roaming nor ‘Moments’ are provided.

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Kwehangana Hamza


I am a digital content designer and publisher working with a top digital agency in Kampala, Uganda. I started blogging out of my passion for learning & sharing.

Through this blog, I share tech and digital tips i’ve uncovered and hoping they be of great value to you.