A $4.5 billion photo app that is huge in China is trending in the US - here's what it does

Donald Trump MeituMeitu/ReutersMeitu/Reuters

A popular Chinese photo-editing app has suddenly burst into popularity in the West, covering social feeds in airbrushed photos with huge, sparkling eyes.

Although Meitu has been around since 2008, it has become an overnight success, and was trending on Apple's App Store on Thursday.

Meitu is a lot like other photo-editing apps - it has Bitmoji-style stickers, Instagram-style filters, and Layout-style photo collages.

But the app really shines in its "hand-drawn" mode that is like a Snapchat filter on steroids. The hand-drawn mode slims down jawlines, enlarges eyes, and adds a little bit of sparkle to the whole package. 

Basically, it makes you look like a cartoon - and it's these images that are rapidly spreading on social media.

The company behind the app is set to IPO in Hong Kong with a reported valuation of $735 million - which may increase as investors learn that Western audiences like the app too. 

Here's what using the app is like: 

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This is what a fully doctored Meitu photo looks like. I added a "hand-drawn" filter, increased the blur, and added stickers.

This is what a fully doctored Meitu photo looks like. I added a "hand-drawn" filter, increased the blur, and added stickers.

Here's how to get there. First, boot up the app. First impression: although this app is available in English, it's really targeted towards Asian consumers — specifically, women. But don't worry, all kinds of people can enjoy it.

Here's how to get there. First, boot up the app. First impression: although this app is available in English, it's really targeted towards Asian consumers — specifically, women. But don't worry, all kinds of people can enjoy it.

After taking a photo with your front-facing camera, you can add Instagram-style filters. These won't transform your photo, but will change a few things. Here's the "youthful" filter.

After taking a photo with your front-facing camera, you can add Instagram-style filters. These won't transform your photo, but will change a few things. Here's the "youthful" filter.

You can adjust the amount of airbrushing or effects for any filter.

You can adjust the amount of airbrushing or effects for any filter.

But the real fun starts when you start applying hand-drawn filters. Here's "Angelic."

But the real fun starts when you start applying hand-drawn filters. Here's "Angelic."

That's not what I look like! 

I liked the Chinese New Year option!

I liked the Chinese New Year option!

People have already started to use the app to transform Donald Trump.

 

Another fun game is to run your photo through the hand-drawn filter until it no longer looks like a person.

 

It's available for both iPhones and Android devices.

Download from the iTunes App Store here. Download from Google Play here

But I eventually settled on Baroness, which gives your selfies kind of a goth look.

But I eventually settled on Baroness, which gives your selfies kind of a goth look.
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