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Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year goes hi-tech, from AI couplets to digital lucky money

With the world’s largest internet population and smartphone market, China has also the biggest app economy, enabling internet companies to stay engaged with users even during the festive holiday season.

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 February, 2018, 6:05am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 February, 2018, 8:18am

The Lunar New Year, which started on Friday, not only marks a holiday travel season in China that is the world’s biggest annual mass migration of people, but also roaring demand for the latest apps to rouse the country’s vast internet population.

With the largest internet population and smartphone market in the world, China also the biggest app economy, according to recent estimates from analytics company App Annie.

It said China accounts for US$1 out of every US$4 generated globally across app stores, in-app advertisements and mobile e-commerce.

In the fourth quarter of last year, app users in China also spent more than 200 billion hours in apps. App Annie said that was more than 4.5 times the next largest market, India.

Major Chinese app providers – including Alibaba Group Holding, Baidu and Tencent Holdings – are expected to keep consumers engaged with viral campaigns to reinforce their brands, while millions of families gather for reunions across the country during the Lunar New Year holiday.

The following are the latest trendy apps that have engaged the country’s tech-savvy consumers during this festive season:

China’s biggest internet firms offer millions, keeping users glued to their apps

Digital red packets

Lunar New Year traditions for Chinese people include sending greetings and hongbao, the red packets filled with cash, to each other. Today, those activities have conveniently gone digital.

Both South China Morning Post owner Alibaba and Tencent, China’s dominant mobile payment service providers, have pledged to give away a combined 5.2 billion yuan (US$820 million) worth of digital red packets as part of their latest Lunar New Year marketing initiatives.

By having users “grab” virtual red packets online or through a promotion in a television show, internet companies like Alibaba and Tencent are betting that users will stay glued to the apps on their smartphones, while luring new customers with potential monetary rewards.

Augmented-reality filters for selfies

Tian Tian Pi Tu, which translates to “Photoshop Photos Every Day”, is an image-editing app from Tencent that now provides new Snapchat-style augmented reality filters meant for the Year of the Dog.

Launched in 2014, this app is targeted at teenage girls and young ladies who are given a choice of handy tools to remove blemishes and put on virtual make-up.

It recently introduced hair accessories and good-luck phrases, as well as singing and dancing dogs, for use in selfies, videos and animated GIFs sent over Tencent’s social media and messaging platforms QQ and WeChat.

Comic strip-like family portraits

Beijing-based start-up Pupupula, a lifestyle brand for children aged three to 12, launched a viral campaign called “2018 Year of the Dog family portrait” that has become popular on the mainland since its launch at the start of the year.

Users of the Pupupula app will find the portrait’s template to include an empty room with wooden floor. Users get to choose a range of furniture, window styles, and family members to feature in a portrait to share on social media along with pet cats or dogs.

The link to the app has recorded about 20 million hits since the launch, with family portraits created by more than seven million users to date, according to Pupupula chief executive Sichuan Zhang.

Pupupula has no plans to profit directly from the design app as the campaign was meant to help promote the company’s future product launches.

This new app to create and share family portraits is sweeping China ahead of the Lunar New Year

Couplets, AI style

In Chinese poetry, couplets are represented by a pair of lines that rhyme, are of the same length and have related meanings. These are usually inscribed on the sides of a home’s front door or as hanging scrolls inside, expressing happiness and good wishes for the new year.

Tencent and Baidu have put a new twist to couplets with the aid of artificial intelligence. Both companies now offer AI-powered apps that enable users to get their unique couplets written expeditiously.

Users can input the Chinese characters they want and leave it to the AI system to write a pair of couplets.