Everybody who has been to China for a longer period of time or who has Chinese friends has probably heard of this application before: WeChat or Weixin / 微信 / Wēixìn meaning “small message”.
I first installed it back in 2014 when I started studying in China, but it was actually released 2011 by Tencent. Another very common and well known communication application back then was QQ.
Last year, WeChat had over 889 million monthly users, mostly Chinese. To put this into relation FacebookMessenger and WhatsApp had about 1,000 million users that year, although they do not feature the same services as WeChat does.
WeChat started off as a messaging application, but soon added more diverse features, which are unknown to the us westerners (at least to me as a German).
Of course, you can message, voice message and video message with your friends. You have your own Album where you can post pictures and videos. You can also save messages, pictures or videos which you received as your favorites. These Moments of your friends are visible to you where you can like and comment them under Discover and then Moments.
Something, which WhatsApp does not offer is too meet new people through “shaking your phone (go to Discover and then Shake). But pay attention as mostly the people you meet this way are … looking for only one thing – if you know what I mean. In China, you can identify songs this way too, however, this seems to be deactivated in (for all I know) Germany. Also, you can always scan a QR code to follow a company or group, restaurant – basically anything that has offers and discounts etc.
Something which WhatsApp or FacebookMessenger do not have either, is Games. These you find under Discover and then Games. They are in Chinese though!!!
A very useful feature is “location” which you find in the chat of the friend you want to share your location with. You can either just send him your location or invite him to real-time location. The second options is incredibly helpful if you need to find each other as you see where you and your friend are and even see each other moving towards each other.
The most important and amazing feature however is WeChat Pay!! Under Me and then Wallet you find diverse options to spend your money! You can top up your mobile phone – or even the mobile phone of a friend (as long as you have his/her number). You can book your train or plane ticket online and also cancel it online. You can order a DiDi taxi and pay them online, while you wait you can see a map and where the driver is, how long it’ll take him as well as his phone number and number plate for easier recognition. You can also order food from various restaurants and other things (which I personally didn’t try) such as booking Hotels, buying Movie tickets etc.
Mostly, WeChat Pay is good in your everyday life. Almost every shop, restaurant, taxi driver or bar is able to accept your payment through WeChat – no need to carry around a wallet and risk to lose it! You just tell them you want to pay through WeChat and then you go to the little + on the top right side, click money and they will scan you. Alternatively, if you were to scan them, you click the same + and then scan QR Code. Easy peasy!!
Just make sure, that your WeChat Account is linked to a Chinese bank account, in which case you can freely put money on WeChat, put it back to the Chinese bank account or even pay directly through the bank account.
Also, it is possible to send your friends money on WeChat, if you pay for your part of the dinner or so. Just go to the conversation of that friend and click on the plus (next to the smiley). There you can either send a red package (for small amounts) or transfer money if you need to send a bigger account. Both are for free.
Apparently, the WeChat Pay feature was opened to Western market in July this year! Let’s see if and how fast this will catch on in Europe and other parts of the world!!! Mainly it is meant for the Chinese tourist (an average tourist spends 3000€ per holiday!), but maybe this will influence other applications to offer similar features or maybe Europeans will start using WeChat too!