Time for a shot of WeChat

YU HUI, a boisterous four-year-old living in Shanghai, is what marketing people call a digital native. Over a year ago, she started communicating with her parents using WeChat, a Chinese mobile-messaging service. She is too young to carry around a mobile phone. Instead she uses a Mon Mon, an internet-connected device that links through the cloud to the WeChat app. The cuddly critter’s rotund belly disguises a microphone, which Yu Hui uses to send rambling updates and songs to her parents; it lights up when she gets an incoming message back.

Like most professionals on the mainland, her mother uses WeChat rather than e-mail to conduct much of her business. The app offers everything from free video calls and instant group chats to news updates and easy sharing of large multimedia files. It has a business-oriented chat service akin to America’s Slack. Yu Hui’s mother also uses her smartphone camera to scan the WeChat QR (quick response) codes of people she meets far more often these days than she exchanges business cards. Yu Hui’s father uses the app to shop online, to pay for goods at physical...Continue reading