300 Million People Use WeChat To Text With Strangers, But Most Americans Probably Haven't Heard Of It

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WeChat Demo With Lionel Messi Google Play Store Soccer star Lionel Messi is a paid spokesperson for WeChat.
WeChat is a multi-purpose messaging app made by Chinese Internet portal company Tencent .

The app's popularity is soaring overseas. WeChat launched in October 2010 and had about 5 million users by May 2011. By January 2013, it had exploded to 300 million users, according to Tech In Asia .

The app has a startling array of features. Users can make video calls and hold live chats with friends, host group chats, scan for strangers to talk to nearby, and so much more. Rumors have been circulating that the app could gain a new shopping feature in the future too, which could be a huge potential revenue generator for Tencent.

All of the elements of WeChat are free, which is why it and other free texting apps like WhatsApp and Line have been exploding in popularity overseas where free texting is almost nonexistent. The apps aren't nearly as popular in the U.S., where most carriers offer all-you-can-eat free texting plans.

You can download WeChat for free on iPhone , Android , Windows Phone , and BlackBerry .

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Here's the welcome screen when you first start the app.

Here's the welcome screen when you first start the app.

WeChat will ask you to put your cell phone number into the system.

WeChat will ask you to put your cell phone number into the system.

The program will text you a security code to type in. Your phone number will be posted at the top.

The program will text you a security code to type in. Your phone number will be posted at the top.

Upload a picture and create a WeChat ID to finish the setup process.

Upload a picture and create a WeChat ID to finish the setup process.

Make sure you fill out the essential information for your personal profile.

Make sure you fill out the essential information for your personal profile.

Profiles need specific location data. You can chat with people all over the world.

Profiles need specific location data. You can chat with people all over the world.

This is what your profile will look like after you finish it.

This is what your profile will look like after you finish it.

Here are the general settings you can change for your profile.

Here are the general settings you can change for your profile.

Users can make posts on their profile as well, sort of like you would do on Facebook.

Users can make posts on their profile as well, sort of like you would do on Facebook.

Post moments to fill up your profile. You can add photo or text updates, just like you would on Facebook.

Post moments to fill up your profile. You can add photo or text updates, just like you would on Facebook.

Here's the central hub of WeChat. Try sending a message through People Nearby.

Here's the central hub of WeChat. Try sending a message through People Nearby.

The app will search your list of phone numbers to quickly find friends who have WeChat.

The app will search your list of phone numbers to quickly find friends who have WeChat.

WeChat has to use your current location to find people.

WeChat has to use your current location to find people.

Once the search is completed, it will send you the best results.

Once the search is completed, it will send you the best results.

The app can recommend people to chat with in your network.

The app can recommend people to chat with in your network.

After the search finishes, friends with the app are displayed on the Contacts menu.

After the search finishes, friends with the app are displayed on the Contacts menu.

The Chats section of the app is where you can message friends and view conversations.

The Chats section of the app is where you can message friends and view conversations.

In order to start a conversation, compose a message.

In order to start a conversation, compose a message.

This is what the full layout of the messages section looks like.

This is what the full layout of the messages section looks like.

WeChat comes with a sticker shop. Users can buy various emoji to send to friends.

WeChat comes with a sticker shop. Users can buy various emoji to send to friends.

After finding someone to talk to, try one of the social features called Shake. You'll need to give the app approval to use your location first.

After finding someone to talk to, try one of the social features called Shake. You'll need to give the app approval to use your location first.

Shake finds other people to talk to that are shaking their phones as well.

Shake finds other people to talk to that are shaking their phones as well.

Here's the result. All you need to is send a greeting.

Here's the result. All you need to is send a greeting.

Users can scan a QR code to start chatting with another WeChat user. Everyone gets a unique QR code. This is one of the more popular ways WeChat users connect with each other.

Users can scan a QR code to start chatting with another WeChat user. Everyone gets a unique QR code. This is one of the more popular ways WeChat users connect with each other.

If someone is bothering you too much, block them here.

If someone is bothering you too much, block them here.

You can adjust your privacy so strangers can't find you.

You can adjust your privacy so strangers can't find you.

Now try out another popular app.

Now try out another popular app.

Check out the most popular social network app for the iPhone >>

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