A Glimpse at Chinese Daily Life Through WeChat

Before we dive into anything else, you might ask: what is WeChat? A quick and easy explanation is: Free messaging and calling app. This, however, wouldn’t do justice to this wildly popular app, not only in China but across the globe. In short, WeChat is a mobile text and call app developed by Tencent China. It was first released in January, 2011. Similar to Whatapp, it allows users to send free text messages, make free voice and video calls to each other. What takes WeChat to its next level is its “Moments” function (or in the Chinese version, it’s called Peng You Quan, or Friends’ Circle). It’s essentially built within the tab where you can see friends’ updates, photos, videos, etc. More than an app to connect with friends and families, one can also follow “Official Accounts” set up celebrities, brands, service accounts, etc, similar to RSS feeds. Frequently the account can push articles and contents that suit your interest and hobbies. All these in one single user friendly app. Below is an image of its clean interface.

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Since the introduction, it has been hugely successful. The penetration in tier 1 city in China reaches 93%, almost complete saturation. Last month, Tencent released “WeChat Life Report 2015“, making available a wide range of statistics and analytic previous unknown to the public. Today I would like to walk you through a few highlights from the report:

  1. City Level usage rate reaches 93% in tier 1 city. With tier 2 cities trailing off at 69%. 

In tier 1 cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen), WeChat almost hit a complete saturation. But there’re room to grow in other cities. I was amazed by the popularity of this app when all my family members who have a smartphone are on WeChat. It almost replaces text messages entirely. Everyone uses WeChat to send messages.

2. Peak time of engaging with WeChat changes from 10:30pm to 10:00pm. 

It’s such an interesting insights and most likely driven by more older users of the app!

3. WeChat also reveals reading habits of different age groups.

Entertainment gossips appeal most to people born in the 90s. People born in the 80s like to follow national news. And older generation (born in the 60s) like to read health and wellness related articles.

Notably, average users read 7 articles a day – and that’s an equivalence of one full novel per month! 

4. Finally, the most popular time to take a walk is 8pm to 9am after dinner, according to WeRun, fitness tracking feature connected to WeChat.

That’s right. Chinese people like to take a walk to help with digestion after dinner, when the weather is nice. So it’s just an interesting piece of data we get.

Personally, WeChat has been very important for international workers like me all across the world. It’s a great tool for us to talk to our families, follow their updates in life. Even my parents, in their early 50s and not especially tech savvy, use WeChat daily. They also read articles to their interest, share them with me from time to time. The voice and video call quality on WeChat in my experience seem to be better than other app I’ve ever used. My mom doesn’t use iPhone so FaceTime wasn’t possible with her.

So, what do you think of WeChat? Are you ready to give it a try?

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