Tencent launches updated, monetised WeChat version with paid emoticons
Monetising the app, Tencent now allows users to purchase emoticon stickers
The latest version of the mainland's leading free smartphone messaging application, WeChat, was launched yesterday.
The app boasts several new payment services, including an emoticon 'sticker store' where users can pay to download graphical images to attach to their messages.
"Version 5.0 is a milestone for WeChat," said Liu Xingliang, chairman of Hongmai Software, a Beijing-based internet data analysis firm.
"The app is at a critical phase and the new version shows that Tencent has chosen a direction for its future."
WeChat, owned by internet company Tencent Holdings, was launched in January 2011.
Its user base had grown to more than 400 million by the end of June, according to data supplied by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
The app is free, however Liu said the app's future lies in the development of add-on services that must be paid for. Moreover, the company wants WeChat users to link their account to a bank account.
The latest version of WeChat is connected to an online payment service. It allows users who like to add emoticons to their messages to buy stickers. The graphics will cost HK$8 each in Hong Kong and six yuan (HK$7.60) on the mainland.
The updated version of WeChat also features a gaming centre.
Poshu Yeung, vice-president of the international business group at Tencent, said:
"The new WeChat 5.0 moves the platform beyond a simple chatting app and enriches the user-experience by becoming a truly mobile social platform."