Categories: Business / Mobile Apps

Chinese mobile app behemoth Tencent has ruffled a few feathers of the Apple and Google kind. Last year it was effectively censured for its WeChat in-app “tipping” economy. The approach bypassed Apple’s 30% cut – which Apple tried to claw back. They’ve just now reached a resolution.

With a tip jar and mini apps, WeChat is bypassing the App Store.

With a tip jar and mini apps, WeChat is bypassing the App Store.

But it’s not just tips that are raising eyebrows in the mobile app world. WeChat users can now load thousands of “mini-apps” directly into the WeChat app. This allows them to avoid using the Google or Apple app store platforms.

The mini-apps, all under 10mb, run directly within the WeChat app. And there are plenty of them – some 580,000 in fact. About 1 million devs are estimated to be in on the act, and no wonder. App bundling combined with in-app tipping could reshape the app-mosphere we’ve become accustomed to.

Why? Each mini mobile app:

  • is lightweight and loads instantly in WeChat.
  • is platform-agnostic, and run on iOS and Android.
  • connects online and offline functionality
  • allows developers to bypass App stores
Its mini mobile app functionality expands the vast WeChat ecosystem.

Its mini mobile app functionality expands the vast WeChat ecosystem.

They also adhere to Apple’s rules that developers don’t create “store-like” interfaces to sell their programs. And with the reinstatement of the “tipping” feature – now with an Apple cut – there’s a very real marketplace on offer.

Plus the scale of WeChat is huge. The app has some 980 million users, 170 million of which use the mini-apps. And with an audience that big, major players are getting in on the act. Popular fast food restaurants offer mini-apps, while the Tesla mini-app alerts users to nearby charge points.

But does this spell the end of traditional apps?

The answer is no. The mini-apps are great for things like games or lightweight “preview” apps. But 10mb is a bit restrictive when it comes to fully-fledged, sophisticated apps. So while users may use the platform to learn about or familiarize themselves with new apps, they’ll probably head over to an App Store when the time is right.

That said, if you’re a low-key user, WeChat might be all you need. After all, it allows you to pay bills, make calls and book appointments. Soon it may even function as official state ID. And with AR functionality in the works, there’s more to come.

Apple might have recouped some costs with its “tipping” agreement, but Google, whose Play app is banned in China, must be gnashing its teeth over the $35 billion market it’s missing out on.

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