Bullet releases new chat app, joining other WeChat challengers

January 16, 2019 16:06
Touted as WeChat challenger, Bullet Message introduced a new messaging app called Liaotianbao, with new functions and rewarding features to boost adoption. Photo: Liaotianbao

Bullet Message, a Chinese messaging startup that has signaled ambitions to challenge WeChat's dominance in the market, has introduced a new app-based networking service called “Liaotianbao”.

Released on Tuesday, Liaotianbao, roughly meaning “a nice tool for chatting” in Mandarin, is seen as an upgrade of Bullet Message. In addition to the appealing features of Bullet Message, the company has added news feeds and e-commerce sessions in the new chat app.

It also turns the app into a “rewarding” messenger, which rewards users with virtual currency “gold coins” for their usage and participation in the social network, including reading news, inviting friends to register, and making the purchase via its e-commerce channel.

“Spending time in Liaotianbao can make money,” said tech veteran Luo Yonghao, founder of Beijing Kuairu Technology, the company behind Bullet Message.

According to the company, users who successfully invite 1,000 friends to join the chat app will receive a cash rebate of 1,500 yuan (US$221). However, it has not provided details on whether the digital coins can be exchanged for cash, as well as how the users can cash out the rewards.

The chat app has partnered with Alipay and Ant Financial, financial service affiliates of Alibaba Group, to facilitate the payment monetary reward to users, Luo said.

At the launch event, Luo emphasized the effort on marketing and promotion to boost adoption for Liaotianbao. The company will launch a marketing campaign with Chinese online travel agency Ctrip and drone maker DJI, among other brands, offering free gifts like flight tickets and drones.

Taking on China’s ubiquitous social media platform WeChat, which is owned by Internet giant Tencent ((00700.HK), Bullet message said Liaotianbao aims to become the “super-efficient communication tool for the next generation”.

It claims that users now are increasingly dissatisfied with WeChat, which has become “over-encompassing” with a wide range of service offering.

“[WeChat’s interface] looks like a mess... mixing up users’ social life and communication for work.”

Highly anticipated as a potential challenger to WeChat, Bullet Message has racked up over 4 million users across the country in nine days since its launch in August 2018, becoming the most downloaded social app in the Apple App Store.

With a built-in, automatic voice-to-text feature, Bullet Message attracted users with its sleek and simple design. Targeting the younger generation, it also provides a greater degree of privacy as it allows users to choose to read the transcription instead of playing out the audio message received.

Despite creating a huge buzz at its debut, Bullet Message has seen a slump in user growth afterward, as it faced criticism from authorities for allowing vulgar content on its social network.

The app was once removed from Apple’s App Store in less than two months after the launch, claiming to undergo a “review process”.

Among other players seeking to shake the market dominance of WeChat, tech unicorn ByteDance Technology, which owns China's leading news aggregator Jinri Toutiao and short-video platform TikTok, on Tuesday unveiled a new video messaging app called “Duoshan”.

In yet another move the same day, another social media startup released the "Matong MT” chat app, grabbing attention with its anonymous communication features.

Links to the Tuesday releases by the three social media aspirants were reportedly blocked on WeChat’s platform, a controversial action seen as declaration of war by WeChat on the upstarts.

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