Category Archives: Mobile

As Messaging App WeChat Pushes Past 300M Users, Owner Tencent Sets Up Shop In Singapore To Spin It Off

Tencent has had listed business entity in Singapore since May, although it’s denied rumors that it intends to list WeChat on the Singapore stock exchange (SGX).

A China Daily report on Tuesday quoted an unnamed source saying that the Hong Kong-listed Chinese social networking giant plans to list its WeChat product in Singapore, and that it had opened an office here to support that.

Update: Tencent’s appointed Singapore PR firm just sent us a note to say: “This market news is not true and we have no idea where this market rumor originates from.”

The company, however did recently open an office here, and appointed its founder, Pony Ma (Ma Huateng), as the director as recently as Aug 1 this year.

Sgentrepreneurs dug out the company’s listing with the regulator, the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority Singapore (Acra), and found that it was registered in May.

A search on Acra’s listing site reveals that Tencent has two entities listed under the same office address: one Tencent International Service, and another Tencent Social.

Tencent’s other top executives, including Zhang Zhidong and Charles St Leger Searle, are listed as directors on file.

The original China Daily report stated that Tencent’s interests in the SGX were to avoid regulatory issues involved with listing WeChat on the same exchange as its parent company.

WeChat has, at last count, about 195 million active users per month, and a base of 300 million registered users, making it one of the most popular messaging apps globally.

The Leaked New Features with WeChat 5.0 Look Too Good

We’ve been waiting for the new version of WeChat (or Weixin), edition 5.0, for a while that reportedly would be a major update. Today we heard about some of the new features, some of which sound too good. We still have to wait for the launch day, which is still unknown, to see it for ourselves.

The Almighty Scanner

Scan to see places around you. The feature can locate where you are and show images of places around your location. It sounds possible to add such a capability as Tencent’s Soso Maps also has a Google Street View-like service.

Scan for translations. A text in one language can be translated into another if you scan it with WeChat scanner. It also sounds feasible as Soso Huiyan, an app from QQ Labs, can do so.

Scan to get the information of a good. The details about a book or CD would show up after you scan the bar code on it. It also can be realized by Soso Huiyan.

Shake to get videos

Currently the version for the mainland China can recognized music if you shake your phone. It seems it works the same with the music recognition function that it tells and searchs for a video through the sound.

Chat history, including voice messages, and posts on Moments will be saved automatically. The capability has been well-functioning and much welcomed by QQ IM users. The current version can save the chat history for users for seven days but you have to turn it on manually.

Game Center

 With about 11 game titles in the offering, WeChat is expecting to generate some revenue. Of course, this revenue would come directly from the newly introduced payment service, called ‘WeChat Payment’ that will collect money from the users. You will be able to associate your bank accounts with your account. There’s a new built-in scanner that can read and recognize books, CDs and other goods. The scanner can recognize English / Chinese words and perform translations on the go.

Much awaited voice-to-text capability has been added. At present the technology only supports Mandarin and the makers of the app claim that they’ve developed the technology completely in-house. Those who love to add graphics in their messages may take a look at the new emoticon market. Paid emoticons will be made available for about a US dollar each.

Do share your thoughts about the new WeChat once you get the update in your country.

Customize Android’s Home button shortcut

For an operating system touted as being highly customizable, its a mystery why more manufacturers don’t let you program the (physical) Home button. Of course, one tap always takes you to the home screen, but long-pressing and double-tapping are often programmed to take you to places like the multitasker or a voice assistant.

Unless, of course, you use a workaround.

For many phones with a physical Home button, you can customize its shortcuts with the free Home2 Shortcut app.

Step 1. Download Home2 Shortcut from the Google Play store on your Android device. Immediately after it’s installed, launch it from the Play download page. It’s a pretty bare-bones app, but it does the job.

Step 2. Conveniently enough, the app breaks down the process of programming your Home button into steps. In Step 1, tap “Choose application,” then “Installed applications” to choose which application gets launched with a double-tap.

Step 3. In the next step, you have the choice to change the double-tap interval. For example, choosing a slower setting will prompt your phone to react to a double-tap with a longer interval. Right now, keep it at normal.

Step 4. Choose your launcher. If you have a third-party launcher like Apex or Go Launcher installed, select it here. But, if you don’t have a launcher, or have no idea what all this gibberish is about, choose the default option.

Step 5. Hit the Home button, and you’ll be asked to choose a launcher. Choose Home2 Shortcut then hit “Always.”

Now take it for a test-drive! Double-tap the Home button, and you should be taken to your shortcut. If you have a Galaxy S4, and it’s still prompting S Voice, go to S Voice > Menu > Settings, and uncheck the second option to launch with the Home button.

If you like the idea of Home button-based shortcuts, check out the other combos Home2 has to offer. For example, you can set shortcuts for Home-Search and Home-back. Likewise, if your phone has a camera button, you can reprogram that, too. Just choose “Other key settings” in Step 1 of the app.

Musyc Makes The World Go Round

musyc

Welcome back to another installment of Musician’s Corner where we discuss apps and accessories for musicians and fans of music. Last week, we had a hands-on review of UE’s newest portable speaker. The BOOM is definitely a fun new way to listen to your tunes.

This week, we are spotlighting the same app that Apple is spotlighting. This week’s iPad Editor’s Choice in the App Store is Musyc. Incidentally, it is a universal app, so you can make musical magic on any device.

Musyc is a visual experimental app that turns shapes into sounds. Draw lines, add circles, and create new, adventurous songs with this easy-to-use program.

Users can learn the basics by starting a new song. When you open the new song page for the first time, you can take the step-by-step tutorial, which will explain how to add shapes and sounds and how to turn them into music.

The base of a new song begins with a straight line. Draw a line and then drop a shape or two on top of it. The shape will bounce around. When it hits the line, it will make a sound. Each shape represents a different sound. The circle and triangle are both melody makers while the rectangle is a percussion sound.

There is also a sequencer and a black hole that come free with this app. The sequencer automatically drops shapes at specified intervals and the black hole removes the shape from the board when it touches it.

Shapes can either be completely free to move around until they disappear, or they can be made to remain static, which will cause the shape to stay in one specific spot and not move.

You can connect shapes and sequencers to a line or to each other by touching two of them at the same time. This will create a “string” between the two objects that allows them to swing around and make new sounds when impacting with each other.

Each shape can be fine tuned in the Properties menu. Tap on a shape and adjust the object’s size and whether it is in motion or static.

There are additional audio effects and equalization options for shape sounds. Plus, you can record your music and save it to Dropbox, iTunes file sharing, or SoundCloud. You can also send the file through email in a WAV or AAC format.

This app is very exciting for fans of experimental music. The randomness of the sounds that are triggered by bouncing shapes creates a beautiful song that is different every time and sometimes even different while it is being created. Pick up Musyc in the App Store for free.

Thanks for stopping by Musician’s Corner. If you have any suggestions for apps or accessories you think we should feature, just drop me a line or leave a comment below.

This week’s question: How do you create music?

How Marketers in China Are Using WeChat

Durex

Durex uses WeChat in a culture where public discussion about private issues is uncommon. Fans curious about love, sex and relationships get a response from a real person, even at 2 a.m. “We try to be there when you expect a friend to be there for you,” said Ben Wilson, marketing director for Reckitt Benckiser in China. Each week, a “newsletter” of Q-and-As is sent to Durex’s WeChat friends.

Nike

Tens of thousands flocked to Nike’s Festival of Sport last summer, sampling everything from skateboarding to football to golf.
AKQA created a badge-collection system using WeChat’s QR-code scanner, replacing a paper passport. Fans completing certain challenges could win a chance to meet stars like LeBron James.

Intel

London Olympics competitions largely took place in the middle of the night in China. So Intel hired two celebrity hosts to provide audio updates three times a day. Each morning, they summarized the previous night’s events. At lunchtime, fans were given an Olympics or Intel-related contest question. In the evening, the hosts announced winners along with another sports update.

Starbucks

To reach customers through music, Starbucks asked fans: “How are you feeling today?” They responded with an emoticon, and Starbucks answered with a song to match the mood. The chain added 270,000 WeChat friends over the four-week campaign. “We don’t just push offers at you,” said Marie Han Silloway, Starbucks’ marketing chief for China. “We start a personal conversation.”

China’s Fast-Growing WeChat Shakes Up Weibo. Could It Jump to the U.S.?

Move over, Weibo. Here comes WeChat. Weibo, China’s microblogging platform that’s a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook, was the hot place to be as recently as last year. Now, marketers are clamoring to engage with WeChat and the 300 million users it’s amassed in just two years.

“Everyone is using WeChat, so marketers are wondering how can they use it in their communications,” said Sophia Ong, the executive at WeChat’s parent company, Tencent, who helps marketers navigate the internet giant’s myriad platforms. “They know it’s very influential, everyone is using and sharing it. And slowly some brands are coming out with official WeChat accounts.”

China’s newest digital darling is a mashup of several existing applications, with a few fun features like “Shake Shake” and “Drift Bottle.” WeChat users trade text, audio and video messages with friends over mobile-data networks. There’s a popular group-messaging function and newly unveiled live-chat capabilities. Photos can be posted on an Instagram-like “Moments” page, while “Look Around” identifies other WeChat users nearby. There’s also a QR-code reader.

“We love to use all the social connections because different people want to connect with us in different ways,” said Ben Wilson, marketing director for Reckitt Benckiser in China, talking about Durex’s online-communication strategy. “On WeChat, you can be a little more personal.”

One big reason for WeChat’s stellar growth is that contact lists are linked to Tencent’s QQ instant-messaging platform, which has more than 700 million active accounts. But users can also make friends through Drift Bottle — picking (and sending) notes at random from mobile cyberspace. Shake Shake connects users who happen to be shaking their smartphones at the same time. It’s a quick way to swap contact details. Pete Blackshaw, global head of digital at Nestle, recently tweeted about having a major WeChat “shake-fest with friends and colleagues.”

Should Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Skype and others be worried? Considering that WeChat’s stellar growth has come in large part from QQ, maybe not. But Mark Natkin, a technology analyst in Beijing, says the West can learn a thing or two from WeChat.

“They can be a little more aggressive in adding more social features more quickly,” he said. “In the earlier stages, any user you mentioned WeChat to would say, “Oh, Shake Shake! I can go out and meet people I don’t know.’ It was something interesting and unusual. And that got a lot of buzz going, getting people to try it.”

Out of all the Chinese digital products, WeChat is perhaps the best positioned for global expansion. Launched in January 2011 as Weixin (“way-sheen”), it was rebranded in April 2012 with the globally palatable moniker WeChat. It’s offered in languages from English to Turkish to Arabic. Tencent says WeChat is Apple’s No. 1 social-networking app in Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Malaysia, but also in Saudi Arabia. It’s being promoted in Indonesia, India, Argentina and Australia.

Blog TechNode quoted WeChat Product Director Zeng Ming as saying that Europe and the States is its next challenge.

Tencent has been picky about who’s allowed to do WeChat marketing. “Every time we talk to clients, we say you have to commit to doing social CRM,” Ms. Ong said.