Cartoon selfie app is a hit with mainland users

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 June, 2014, 4:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 June, 2014, 4:53pm

Want to add a cute touch to your social network photos? You can now create your own cartoon selfies using MYOTee, the latest hit mobile app on the mainland.

The application, called “lian meng” in Chinese - literally meaning “cute face”- allows users to design a cartoon avatar by choosing from dozens of built-in templates to design their character’s hairstyle, eyes, face shape, and other facial features. They can then save their creation and upload it to their social networks as their profile picture.

MYOTee has become popular on various social networking platforms, notably microblog Weibo and mobile messenger WeChat, where users have rushed to change their usual selfies to the cartoon profile pictures generated by the application.

It has become the number one downloaded free app by Chinese mainland users on the iTunes App Store, Apple’s online mobile app shop, for more than a week. As of Wednesday the app had been downloaded more than 20 million times on different mobile platforms.

“China’s dynamic social networking platforms make it possible for applications like MYOTee to go viral within a short period of time,” said Wang Jian, an analyst at Beijing-based consultancy Enfodesk which specialises in social media and e-business in China.

“But still, 20 million [downloads] is quite a number for a new application within a short period of time,” she said via telephone on Wednesday.

The hit application was developed and published by a one-year-old start-up led by Guo Lie, a 25-year-old former employee of internet giant Tencent. His ten-member team consists half cartoon designers, half programmers.

Guo modestly said he attributed 80 per cent of his recent success to “pure luck” and 20 per cent to “long-term overtime work”. His startup has already received venture capital investments worth tens of millions of yuan.

However the application still faces an uncertain future as after all, its features are nothing new.

A similar app called “Magic Cartoon Camera” that generates a cartoon avatar from users’ self-portraits was a hit last year, but soon quickly faded from public interest.

And an even more similar application to the MYOTee that creates avatars from cartoon facial parts, but with a more ‘pop art’ style, was also once very popular in China before it fell off the App Store’s ‘most downloaded’ charts.

“Smartphone applications with few built-in functions can lose their glamour very quickly,” said Hu.

“The MYOTee’s limited built-in functions could potentially undermine its outlook. It is vital that Guo and his team develop more handy built-in functions and remain creative.”

Guo’s background has also fuelled speculation of possible cooperation with internet Tencent, whose popular mobile messaging app WeChat has helped the application to take off.

Hu was cautious of the rumours, saying it was still too early to confirm Tencent’s possible involvement. But she admitted “the cartoon selfies could well fit into Tencent’s largely profitable online role-playing games.”