wechat-appPopular Chinese mobile app company WeChat [Direct Link] congratulated Apple on ten years of the iPhone earlier this morning, with founder Allan Zhang posting photos online from the iPhone's unveiling in January 2007.

Simultaneously, WeChat parent company Tencent Holdings launched a suite of cloud-based smartphone apps that analysts believe suggests WeChat intends to "play a leading role in the next decade" of the smartphone software business (via The Wall Street Journal).

The new platform is called "Mini Program" and is made up of a collection of apps, all stored in the cloud, that users can access without downloading or requiring storage space on their smartphone. Although seemingly a direct counterpart to the iOS App Store and Google Play Store, a Tencent spokeswoman speaking with The Wall Street Journal said that the company "maintained regular dialogue with Apple" throughout the development of Mini Program. WeChat also deliberately avoids calling it an "app store."

The company has taken care not to describe Mini Program as an app store, saying it doesn’t have a central location to distribute applications. Apple doesn’t allow third-party app stores in its iOS App Store. Tencent also dropped plans to include the word “app” in its name, calling the features “programs” instead.

“Apple won’t let us call it App Accounts, which might turn out to be a good thing,” Tencent Chairman Pony Ma wrote on his WeChat account in September, as Mini Program began beta testing.

Although Mini Program provides experiences and programs similar to iOS apps, none are located in a "central location," akin to the actual App Store app on iPhone and iPad. Programs are instead discoverable through third-party means, like scanning a QR code or finding a new program in a search result. The programs are said to provide small but useful functionalities, similar to the simplified apps on the iMessage App Store.

wechat-app-2
WeChat itself began as a chat app in China and has slowly evolved into "a digital Swiss Army Knife," including extra features that let users stay up-to-date on the news, pay bills, check their bank accounts, buy tickets to the movies, and more. Mini Program is yet another feature addition to the popular app, but analysts believe it will take a while for both developers and users to get the full use of the programs.

Industry experts say the first mini-programs are less sophisticated than most conventional apps, with fewer features and functions. “For heavy users, the experience on apps is still better so I don’t think this would threaten the status of app stores,” said Zhu Xiaohua, product supervisor of online question-and-answer platform Fenda.

“Mini Program is not a simple substitute,” said Hong Bo, a Beijing-based tech analyst. “It will take a fairly long term for developers and users to get used to it.”

For Apple, the iOS App Store continues to account for a large portion of the company's revenue, with $240 million in sales on New Year's Day 2017 -- the "busiest day ever" for the App Store. In total for 2016, App Store developers made $20 billion, which the company said was up 40 percent from 2015. The iMessage App Store is also growing, with 21,000 apps now available for users to download, up from 1,600 last September.

Tags: China, WeChat

Top Rated Comments

i think G4 imac Avatar
73 months ago
10 years later and back to iOS "web apps"
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

ios 16 beta 5 battery percent

iOS 16 Beta 5: Battery Percentage Now Displayed in iPhone Status Bar

Monday August 8, 2022 10:43 am PDT by
With the fifth beta of iOS 16, Apple has updated the battery icon on iPhones with Face ID to display the specific battery percentage rather than just a visual representation of battery level. The new battery indicator is available on iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 models, with the exception of the 5.4-inch iPhone 12/13 mini. It is also available on the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, XS and XS Max, and...
iPhone 14 Lineup Feature Purple

Color Options for All iPhone 14 Models: Everything We Know

Monday August 8, 2022 3:59 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models are rumored to be available in a refreshed range of color options, including an all-new purple color. Most expectations about the iPhone 14 lineup's color options come from an unverified post on Chinese social media site Weibo earlier this year. Overall, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro's selection of color options could look fairly similar to those of the ...
iOS 16 battery percentage

Apple Limiting iOS 16 Beta 5 Battery Percentage Display to Select iPhones: Here Are the Supported Devices

Tuesday August 9, 2022 2:51 am PDT by
Apple this week brought back one of the most highly requested features from iOS users since the launch of the iPhone X in 2017: the ability to see your battery percentage directly in the status bar. Ever since the launch of the iPhone X with the notch, Apple has not allowed users to show their battery percentage directly in the status bar, forcing them to swipe down into Control Center to...
ios 16 battery indicator 2

Everything New in iOS 16 Beta 5: Battery Percentage in Status Bar, Find My Changes and More

Monday August 8, 2022 12:53 pm PDT by
Apple today seeded the fifth beta of iOS 16 to developers for testing purposes, introducing some small but notable changes to the iOS operating system. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We've rounded up everything new in the fifth beta below. Battery Percentage in Status Bar The battery icon in the status bar now displays the exact battery percent, a feature that ...
iphone 14 pro max camera bump compared lipilipsi 16 9

Bigger iPhone 14 Pro Max Camera Bump Shown Alongside iPhone 13 Pro Max

Monday August 8, 2022 4:33 am PDT by
The camera bump on the upcoming iPhone 14 Pro Max is expected to be the largest rear lens housing Apple has ever installed on its flagship smartphones, and a new photo offers a rare glimpse at just how prominent it is compared to Apple's predecessor device. iPhone 14 Pro Max dummy (left) vs iPhone 13 Pro Max All iPhone 14 models are expected to see upgrades to the Ultra Wide camera on the...
cook sept 2020 event

Gurman: Apple Preparing Pre-Recorded iPhone 14 and Apple Watch Series 8 Event

Sunday August 7, 2022 6:13 am PDT by
Apple has "started to record" its virtual September event, where it's expected to announce the upcoming iPhone 14 lineup, the Apple Watch Series 8, and a new "rugged" Apple Watch model, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Writing in his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman says the event, which is expected to take place in the early part of September, is already under production, implying...
airpods pro black background

Beyond iPhone 14: Five Apple Products Expected to Launch Later This Year

Monday August 8, 2022 9:43 am PDT by
While the iPhone 14 and Apple Watch Series 8 are expected to be announced in September as usual, there are several more Apple products rumored to launch later this year, including new iPad and Mac models and more. Beyond the iPhone and Apple Watch, we've put together a list of five Apple products that are most likely to be unveiled by the end of 2022. Second-Generation AirPods Pro Apple...