WeChat to take on SA

2013-02-14 14:31
The WeChat social network has launched in SA. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

The WeChat social network has launched in SA. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - A new social media application has launched in SA that aims to combine the instant messaging and social integration for smartphone users.

Touchlab launched WeChat in SA on Wednesday with an intensive marketing campaign and the application promises to deliver a comprehensive chatting experience on smartphones.

The Tencent application shares similarities with popular applications like BBM and WhatsApp in that it scans your address book to add to its contact list, but also offers addition features like video calling from the application.

An analysts cautiously welcomed the new market entrant, saying that it faced challenges from established players.

"I'm interested to see how it fits into the South African market, where WhatsApp has a fair market share among smartphone owners, and Mxit has captured the feature phone chatters market," social media consultant for Afrosocialmedia Samantha Fleming told News24.


WeChat allows users to find each other by using a Look Around feature that uses the user's location and identifies other users by distance.

A neat way to meet new users is to shake the device and the platform will connect to other users doing the same thing.

Fleming expressed some discomfort that though the features can be turned off to protect privacy, they are enabled by default.

WeChat is primarily aimed at higher end smartphones as it is available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone platforms, including the BlackBerry operating system.

The WeChat application differs from its competition in that it is completely free.

"BBM is a closed service in that it works only on BlackBerry devices, and WhatsApp is not a free application. WeChat is completely free to download, and supports multiple platforms including: iOS, Android, BlackBerry OS, Symbian and Windows Phone," Brett Loubser of Touchlab told News24.

BlackBerry devices make up around half the smartphones in SA and the rich media supported by WeChat like video chat may turn off users sensitive to data cost.

Fleming said that the success of the platform, which has around 300 million users, will depend on users' social networks.

"WeChat will be competing with WhatsApp and will only be successful if everyone can get their friends to migrate."

News24 is part of 24.com, a subsidiary of Media24, which is in the Naspers stable. Touchlab is a subsidiary of Naspers.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

- An earlier version of the story indicated that WeChat platform was not supported on the BlackBerry platfrom. News24 regrets the error.

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