My Mandarin teacher first introduced me to WeChat last year. In China it is known as Wei Xin from Shenzhen based QQ. Wei Xin or WeChat has many similarities to another more well known texting app called WhatsApp which is becoming more popular in the United States. However I think WeChat is WAY better.
Like WhatsApp, WeChat allows users to send and receive instant messages for free – no matter what countries the users and receivers are in – all that’s needed is an ITouch, iPad, IPhone or Android phone with iOS 3.0 or later with Internet access. Because it’s based in China Wei Xin comes in Mandarin Chinese (Traditional and Simplified characters) and English versions.
WeChat users can send and receive text messages, instant voice messages, photos, group messages, and share their locations. Users can also use a GPS function to see other users who are within a 1,000-meter radius of their GPS phones although I’m not sure that’s all that useful to non-city people.
One of the reasons texting apps are not more popular in the U.S. is that calling plans often include unlimited texting. We’ve all heard the stories about the teenagers that send 3,000 or texts in a month – something that cannot possibly be a good thing for wireless carriers and will not be this affordable forever.
There are many reasons I like WeChat so much – the most significant of which is the ability to hear the person’s voice and emotion, and respond in the same way – at your convenience (after all if you are going to have a real time voice texting conversation why not just simply call the person). I also like having the conversation preserved for as long as I want. And when my Mandarin teacher sends me a 20 second voice text in Mandarin I can listen to it like fifty times to be sure I understood what she said (or at least think I understand). And even more, I can take as much time as I need to respond in Mandarin (my ability to respond in Mandarin in real time is still ‘in development’).
Another thing crossed my mind with regard to a big benefit of using WeChat – with a little voice recognition technology integrating WeChat would in fact make texting while driving a non-issue. The only stipulation is that you have to be invited to WeChat by a WeChat user as it has to stay inside the circle. BTW – did I mention WeChat is FREE?
What do you think? Are you at all intrigued and interested enough to try?