Are you ready to ride the upcoming wave in social chat apps? WeChat is the dominant mobile texting app in China that has set its sights on American chat users. You might think we have enough chat options already with WhatsApp, Facebook, Kik Messenger, and others, but we here in the USA have seen nothing the likes of WeChat. The app is primarily designed for smartphone users, but it has a perfectly integrated Web site so that PC users can use the WeChat Online Login Version: WeChat Web.
Chat Meets Life
Imagine that you have a special app on your smartphone that integrates seamlessly with the world around you. On the train into town, you open the app on your smartphone to pay your electric bill and schedule an appointment with your physician. At the mall, your smartphone starts a chat with a checkout kiosk that ends up netting you a 10% discount off your purchase. On the way out, it calls for a taxi then chats up a vending machine that soon pops out a can of your favorite soda. While enjoying your soda on the way home, you video chat with your crush using the same app.
This kind of lifestyle integration is not available with any mobile chat app in the USA today, but roughly 600 million WeChat users in China experience it every single day. Yes, we can order a cab online with our smartphones here, but it requires a separate app. WeChat users in China have it all in one spot.
WeChat has arrived in the USA. The western version of the app lacks the features that will make a soda pop out of a machine for you, but it has most all of the features that make connecting with friends an unbelievably smooth and rich experience.
You can download the WeChat app from the app store at Amazon, Google Play, Apple or any other authorized site. Once you have the app installed and your new account established, send an invitation to your friends via e-mail or text.
Find Friends on WeChat
While waiting for people you already know to get set up on WeChat, shake your phone to meet someone new and begin chatting right away. That’s right: shake your phone. Well, first you want to go to the “Discover” tab in your WeChat app and select the “Shake” feature. When you see the icon of a person shaking their phone, shake yours. You’ll see a little flower when you do it right. In about 1 second a profile image will appear with the person’s name and how far they are from you. If this person doesn’t appear to be your ideal chat mate for whatever reason, shake again for someone new. When you’re ready to chat, click on the profile and get to it.
Shake is a great way to make global friends via chat. You could meet someone 10 or 10,000 km away from you. Since most people using WeChat are in China, you might have to shake your phone a few times to find someone speaking your language. My test came up with a couple from China, one from Libya, another from Libya, and finally an American. If you are fluent in Chinese or whatever language comes up, go for it, of course, but if you want a native English speaker be ready to shake a few times. It’s all good, though, for in the end you meet someone new. You can chat with that person one time and be done or, if you hit it off, save each other to your contact lists to chat again another day.
Shake only works when both people are shaking their phones at the same time while in WeChat’s Shake mode. In other words, you don’t have to worry that new people will be sending you a message when you’ve forgotten your phone is in your hand while waving down a taxi on the street because it only matches you with other users when you are in Shake mode.
Another way to meet new friends from the Discover tab is to select “People Nearby” to activate WeChat’s Look Around feature. When activated, you will see people near you that are using their WeChat app right now. When they say “People Nearby,” they mean really nearby, like distance measured in yards and up to a mile or two. You have to have GPS enabled on your smartphone to do this, and people will be able to see you, too, but they have to be doing the same thing (looking for new friends nearby). It is an innovative way to meet new people that no other social chat app offers. And just like in Shake mode, you can chat one time only or mutually agree to add one another to your contact lists for more chat later.
To meet friends really nearby – people you probably know – try WeChat’s Friend Radar. From the Discover tab, click the “+” sign and choose Add Contacts. Click on Friend Radar. This is a quick and easy way to find the friends you’ve sent a WeChat invite to and add them to your contacts list.
Keep in mind that to use the features Look Around for People Nearby and Friend Radar, everyone looking for someone or hoping to be found has to have GPS location services enabled on the smartphone they’re using.
If meeting people so randomly as Shake and Look Around do it sounds a little freaky to you, there’s a way to turn off both options in your WeChat settings.
Chatting on WeChat
Once you begin chatting with a friend and add them to your contact list, you will love the new ways WeChat lets you communicate. The most basic method is a standard one-to-one chat. WeChat offers a collection of stickers to use in chat, plus makes it easy to share files like pics, videos, and links.
While in a chat, ask your friend if he or she is free to video chat. That’s right, you can ‘facetime’ in WeChat (versions 4.2 and later) no matter what kind of smartphone you or your friend is using. If you’re not in a chat with someone you can send an invitation to them to join you in a video chat.
When you start a group chat, you can go into walkie-talkie mode with three or more of your friends. Just like a standard walkie-talkie, only one person in the group can talk at a time, but WeChat lets you know when the line is available. It’s a neat way to have a group conversation. Not quite a phone call, but just about as good.
Another nice feature in WeChat is the ability to backup your chat history. Go to your Settings menu, to General settings, and then to Chat History Backup. Select Back up to save your chat history for seven days. During this timeframe, be sure to log in to Web WeChat if you want to archive the messages using whatever method you find best on your home computer.
WeChat on the Web
Web WeChat opens your home computer to the world of WeChat through your browser. Since WeChat is designed to be used primarily as a mobile chat app, you have to download, install, and register for your WeChat account on a smartphone before you can use Web WeChat and your smartphone has to be with you when you log in online.
- On your desktop or laptop, open a web browser (Web WeChat works with Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and other popular browsers) and go to the url https://web.wechat.com/.
- You will be greeted by a QR code with the invitation to “Scan QR Code to log in.”
- Pick up your smartphone and open the WeChat app there.
- Click the “+” sign in the top menu bar and choose Scan QR Code from the drop-down menu. A square will appear.
- Hold your smartphone up to the browser with the QR code and center the square over the code in your browser; you will hear a click when the scan is successful.
- You will be asked (on your smartphone) to confirm the online login. Tap the green bar to do that.
Once you complete these steps, your online portal to Web WeChat will display your contacts list and all open chats. Chat history will not transfer, but ongoing individual and group chats will. As long as you don’t close out the chat stream on Web WeChat, you can continue the same chat when you are on your smartphone again.
Web WeChat is a pretty basic chat portal. The built-in video chat is not available, nor is the walkie-talkie feature, or any of the search features like People Nearby, Shake, or Friend Radar. Still, you can chat back and forth easily from the comfort of your home computer’s larger screen and keyboard. Also, you can send stickers, emoticons and emoji in messages along with photos or other files (up to 10MB). The interface is comfortable, easy, and fun to use.
However you choose to use the app, WeChat is a truly novel chatting experience. While most of the more innovative features are dependent on features in your smartphone, it is great that the developers have provided the WeChat Online Login Version: WeChat Web for times when we want to relax on our home computers, something most chat apps we use are lacking (except with use of an Android emulator). WeChat is definitely an app to watch as it develops its user base in the USA. What do you think is likely to develop?
Will WeChat bring its totally integrated lifestyle app to the USA? Or, will a social chat app already here be first to play a similar role in the lives of Americans that WeChat does in China? Share your ideas and opinions in the comments below.