WeChat has rolled out its 5.2 update for both the domestic Chinese version as well as its international counterpart.
The new update adds depth to the overall user experience, but unlike the previous 5.1 update, but doesn’t do much to boost WeChat’s money-making prowess, which is what many observers are looking out for. Still, these new features will likely be welcomed by local Chinese users.
The most notable addition was first spotted by Chinese beta users last week. For both domestic and international versions of WeChat, users can now bind their LinkedIn profiles to their WeChat account. When a user taps on the LinkedIn tab on someone’s profile page, they’ll be redirected to the LinkedIn mobile app, where they can then view complete resumes in full.
This addition now opens the door for job-hunting and self promotion through the WeChat. It also marks a strong first-step for LinkedIn’s career in China, which officially began earlier this month when it hired Derek Shen, CEO of China’s group-buying site Nuomi, to act as president for China (though of course, the hire and the new LinkedIn feature aren’t necessary causally related).
Other new features include:
- Location sharing – WeChat can detect a user’s location on a map and send out the address to friends through chat.
- Universal search – want to dig up the name of that Murakami book your friend recommended to you a month ago? Just search for “Murakami” under the “Chats” page.
- Group chat mentions – someone in a group chat mention your name? You’ll get pinged.
- Share purchased sticker sets with friends.
- Improved image browsing.
For the domestic Chinese version of WeChat, two additional updates have been added:
- A revamped “My Bank Cards” page that arranges commercial features like taxi hailing (via Didi Dache), consumer finance (via Licai Tong), and movie ticket purchases in an iOS 7-esque grid format.
- A new “voice-to-text” feature for Mandarin Chinese. This should excite Chinese users who don’t like typing in Chinese characters but also like to view messages as text.
The international and domestic updates can be downloaded for iOS here. The Android domestic update is currently though available for users residing in China, but the international counterpart is expected to roll out soon.
WeChat is currently going through a second wave of international promotion as it rolls out its gaming center in Southeast Asia. On the US front, verified accounts for certain celebrities including Matthew McConaughey and Paul Scheer have surfaced, so global marketing teams have likely exchanged some phone calls with Hollywood.
However, WeChat has yet to evolve internationally the way it has in China, where it’s become a full-fledged social network, personal blogging platform, RSS feed, and marketing tool, all rolled into one. That level of maturity can only emerge once the app has attained strong traction among ordinary users, and to date, there’s little evidence to demonstrate that WeChat has a dedicated mass user-base beyond its home turf.
WeChat currently claims to have over 270 million monthly active users, the majority of whom likely reside in mainland China. Its most recent push to monetize arrived last week when it introduced a consumer investment fund, effectively pitting it against Alipay’s Yu’ebao.
(Editing by Steven Millward)
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