A new threat to Apple’s position in China has emerged in the form of an App Store rival backed by Tencent’s WeChat, the most frequently used mobile app amongst the nascent superpower’s 1.4bn strong populace.
The move, dovetailing with the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, has seen over 100 ‘miniprograms’ made available from third party developers with functionality ranging from sharing a ride with Didi, ordering a gift from JD.com or even renting a bicycle from Mobike.
These nested apps serve to elevate WeChat into a defacto rival to Apple’s own App Store used by owners of iOS devices – but cannot be named as such after Apple blocked its rival from using the term ‘apps’.
Unlike Apple however WeChat will not take any royalties from purchases made through miniprograms, which can be freely used on both Android and iOS devices.
Apple has struggled in China over recent months with profits in the region slipping by a fifth over the year to September 2016, forcing nervous execs to acquiesce to strict censorship laws from the Chinese government – most recently through removal of a New York Times app.
WeChat has grown to capture 35% of all mobile hours spent on the internet with more than 750m logging in daily – half of whom use it for more than an hour and a half each day.