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Half of the country’s mobile phone users will access the WeChat app in 2017.

Messaging service WeChat, owned by Tencent and known as Weixin in China, will total 494.3 million users in China this year, according to eMarketer’s latest forecast.

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Adoption of the platform is widespread among smartphone users, with an estimated 79.1% of handset owners accessing the app regularly in 2017. China’s mobile audience is very likely to communicate via WeChat; some 84.5% of mobile phone messaging app users are expected to access the platform.

However, to think of WeChat as simply a communication app would be inaccurate. Users will spend more than 90 minutes a day on the platform this year, according to the company. WeChat includes standard messaging features like texting, video conferencing, as well as photo and video sharing, but the app’s more advanced functions are primarily responsible for driving engagement. Bill payments, ride services and food ordering, among others, have made the platform essential to consumers in China.

Additionally, an April 2017 study from China Channel found that 83% of WeChat users access it for work purposes.

With WeChat’s large presence in China, eMarketer expects 35.8% of the population and 64.0% of internet users to regularly use the platform this year.

But despite WeChat’s firm market position in the country, it has struggled to expand its reach outside of the country.

Tencent first launched WeChat in India five years ago, marking its first foray into international markets, but competing services like WhatsApp had already established themselves there, as well as in many other countries where WeChat has made an expansion bid.

So far, WeChat has done well in markets with a large population of expats from China, or with large populations of Chinese-speaking people. But it remains to be seen whether it can make significant inroads among speakers of other languages.

via Emarketer