Wechat releases Mini-apps

Oct 12, 2016



  The dreaded message that those of you unfortunate enough to have 16gb iPhones are surely familiar with! So what options do you have? You can delete treasured photos of family, friends and memories (or those 100 selfies), or maybe scrounge through your apps and decide which ones you don’t use that much. Yes, i0S 10 finally allowed us to remove those annoying stock Apple apps that nobody uses, but even those won’t make much difference, and you now may be forced to remove that fitness app you promised you’d use since New Year or that game which was probably only played once but you’re holding on to in case you’re stuck on a long journey with nothing to do. But alas, WeChat has come to the rescue once again.   As of this week, the Tencent owned super app began trialling its own version of an app store for its users by sending out invitations to developers to use its Beta. However, WeChat’s app store and ecosystem (currently known as ‘Mina’) differ to Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store in that apps are not downloaded onto your device, instead, they’re accessed within WeChat’s API directly. This means that precious storage remains unscathed as all apps within WeChat are cloud based and only accessed online, think of them as an app within an app.   Some people have raised questions about the reliability of cloud-based apps, as HTML apps in the past have failed to live up to the expectations of a true app experience. However, WeChat promises that functionality and user experiences will mimic true app experiences and users will not feel as if they’re using a web-based platform or even just a mobile-friendly website. This will be achieved in several ways, first WeChat has access to plenty of user data, using this the app creates caches of user data and stores cookies allowing users to enter apps instantaneously and uninterrupted from their previous session. Also embedded into Mina’s coding are navigate back options meaning users can switch between tabs within the app without load times or refreshing pages meaning all data is stored in the cache. In addition, WeChat’s current plethora of options and utilities such as its GPS services, wallet, access to contacts and many more mean that users will never have to leave the WeChat ecosystem.  Instead, everything they need to conduct transactions, talk to friends and find what they’re looking for can all be accessed within WeChat’s incredible API.   WeChat’s goal to become the King of apps is getting closer and closer, and the desire to be the one and only app for users is growing increasingly persuasive. Some of the key features that make Mina seem promising are its cloud-based operation, optimised performance acting as a hybrid of a traditional app and HTML services providing a true app experience. Access to over 650 million users already within the WeChat ecosystem. This along with the simplified development and reduced costs required to produce such an app rather than a traditional iOS/Android app makes it an increasingly appealing concept for small businesses and brands.   Mina is currently in invite-only Beta and a developer kit will be available in the future. Release date TBA.   James Cabezas