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WeChat becomes business tool as it tops rival Facebook's daily usage

Editor: zhangrui 丨Xinhua

04-26-2017 06:54 BJT

WeChat, the ubiquitous messaging app, is being used for an ever longer period of time and is growing into a lifestyle choice embedded into daily activities and interactions, a new survey has found.

In 2016, one-third of WeChat's 889 million monthly active users spent a solid four hours or more per day on the mobile chatting tool, twice that of a year ago, according to Penguin Intelligence, a research arm of WeChat's developer Tencent Holdings.

The average daily time spent is also up slightly, now at 66 minutes, surpassing that of Facebook's average 50 minutes recorded last year.

And it's becoming more pervasive and stickier than ever, creeping into new aspects of life from offline payments to receiving newsfeeds.

A striking 92 percent of respondents to the survey said they prefer mobile payment over cash and credit cards when shopping in stores. Speed, convenience and "not bothering to carry cash" are the top three reasons cited for using mobile wallets to buy movie tickets and pay utility bills.

It's also transforming the way people get information. WeChat's public accounts, which allow media services, industry bloggers and corporate branding campaigners, to feed content to subscribers, are quickly gaining traction. Nearly 60 percent of users expressed the willingness to tip good content producers.

Already cementing WeChat's position as the nation's most-used app, users found a majority of newly added contacts are casual acquaintances, notably in work-related communication. About 45 percent of WeChat users reported to have over 200 contacts, up from just 10 percent a few years ago.

Such a trend is turning the app into a virtual workplace. Over 80 percent of people have handled office work on WeChat, from transferring files and coordinating tasks to taking video calls and making transactions.

"The all-in-one super app is radically changing the way I live. When lining up for coffee, I can't see a single customer holding a wallet — instead they hold mobile phones over a reader and the lattes are theirs," said Fred Wellington, an Australian auditor working in Shanghai.

Last year, WeChat users helped drive 174.3 billion yuan ($25.3 billion) of information-sector spending and created jobs for 18.8 million people, according to a separate study by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology released in early April.

Mobile apps are gaining additional steam by integrating payment functions into public service platforms, said Lu Wei, secretary-general of the Internet Society of China. With a few taps on the phone, users can declare personal taxes, pay traffic fines and make medical appointments, he said.

The internet-enabled digital economy had claimed 30.6 percent of China's GDP by 2016, according to the China Internet Plus and Digital Economy Index published this month.

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