Analyst: Apple may be headed for ‘serious ramifications’ from ‘superapps’ like WeChat in China

“A recent update of the WeChat app from Chinese tech juggernaut Tencent could have ‘serious ramifications’ for Apple, according to one analyst,” Eustance Huang reports for CNBC. “The WeChat update, which came out this week, involves a redesign in the way mini-programs — apps within the app — are presented. With that change, users now ‘essentially have a second home screen’ on their phones, said Matthew Brennan, co-founder and managing director at consultancy China Channel.”

“‘With WeChat moving towards solidifying the mini-programs position, there could be serious ramifications for Apple’s service business, which it has been focusing on to counter plateauing hardware sales,’ TuanAnh Nguyen, an analyst at technology research firm Canalys, said in an email to CNBC,” Huang reports. “Given their ubiquity across both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile operating systems, ‘superapps’ such as WeChat have ‘made the Apple ecosystem lock-in much weaker’ in China in comparison to other parts of the world, resulting in an erosion of the competitive advantage of the Cupertino-based tech giant’s hardware, he said.”

“‘WeChat is your Facebook, your credit card, your Uber, your Amazon altogether,’ said Mengmeng Zhang, a Beijing-based analyst at Counterpoint Research. ‘Some even say China’s operating system is WeChat, not (Google’s) Android or (Apple’s) iOS,'” Huang reports. “‘In the near term, high-value segments of contents such as mobile gaming will still stay on the main platforms instead of moving to WeChat’s mini-programs,’ said Canalys’ Nguyen. Echoing that view, Brennan said the mini-programs on WeChat are ‘not designed to be very big’ and are unlikely to compete against the games that feature on Apple’s App Store.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The “super app” is an interesting conundrum for Apple, but one that is unlikely to spread beyond China due to cultural differences, privacy concerns, acceptance of government oversight, antitrust regulation, differences in how the mobile app markets began, ingrained behavior, and more.

Apple and Tencent reach deal to let WeChat users tip each other – January 16, 2018
Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus was the 2nd-best selling phone in China last year; Apple was only foreign brand in the top ten – January 15, 2018
Apple approves Tencent’s WeChat Pay for App Store purchases in China – August 31, 2017
Apple goes to war with Tencent’s WeChat – May 18, 2017
Courting controversy, Apple tells several Chinese social-networking apps to disable their ‘tip’ functions – May 18, 2017


  1. Very savvy WeChat design. Hopefully another kick in the teeth that may energize Tim and crew to get down off the pacifying seat of laurels.

    MDN: “unlikely to spread beyond China” At this point, this is hardly consoling. Any more Chinese business going sideways is material and fundamentally painful.

  2. Here’s a contrary view. WeChat is the best thing that hcoukd happen to Apple in China. It makes it very easy for Android phone users to switch over. It puts the focus on hardware prestige and innovation, where Apple is farthest ahead. And it eases pressure Apple might otherwise receive from the privacy-invading Chinese mega-state.

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