A recent report by Counterpoint Technology Market Research has revealed that the number of Smartphone users in Bangladesh has increased from 3.1 million to 8.2 million over the last year. Although, this figure doesn't come as quite a surprise. The fact that such a small device, with its versatile range of functions can be key to so many things in our daily lives- starting from apps to help stay connected to people to apps for ordering food over the internet to casting movies from our phones to the big screen on the wall., Not to forget, mailing our bosses as well. Smartphones have made lives pretty convenient. However, it could get a bit more convenient, don't you think? What if we instead of having all those separate apps, we had just one to do all of those with just one app? Well, in case you were wondering, there already is one, and it's not an unfamiliar name. It's WeChat.
WeChat- the cross-platform instant messaging service developed by Tencent in China, is that "one-app-to-do-it all". Released back in January 2011, WeChat is one of the largest standalone messaging apps based on its monthly active users. The app is available on Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows and Symbian phones. WeChat has over a billion user accounts, with 700 million of those active, with more than 70 million of those from outside of China.
WeChat provides text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast (one-to-many) messaging, video conferencing, video games, sharing of photographs and videos, and location sharing. It can also exchange contacts with people nearby via Bluetooth, as well as host various more features for contacting people outside one's contact list, if desired, of course with the integration of a user's social media accounts. Other than social networking, this app also features Official Accounts. WeChat allows users to register as an official account, which enables them to push feeds to subscribers, interact with subscribers and provide them with services. Official accounts can be used as a platform for services such as hospital pre-registrations, visa renewal or credit card service. Along with these, there is WeChatPayment, called ewallet. WeChat supports payment and money transfer, which allows their users to peer-to-peer transfer money, book doctor appointments, pay electricity fees or traffic fines, book transportations, purchase movie tickets, and many more. This co feature is known as City services.
However, aside from the kick-ass features, WeChat holds quite a peculiar stance on its user security measurements. The app operates from China under Chinese law, which includes strong censorship provisions and interception protocols. WeChat contains the ability to access text messages and contact books of its users and users’ locations through the GPS feature. Countries and regions such as India, the United States, China and Taiwan all fear that the app poses a threat to national or regional security for various reasons. In June 2013, the Indian Intelligence Bureau flagged WeChat for security concerns. India has debated whether or not they should ban WeChat for its possibility in collecting too much personal information and data from its users.
Users in China have also expressed concerns over the privacy issues regarding the app. Human rights activist Hu Jia was jailed for three years for sedition. He speculates that the guobao officials, or the internal security bureau, listened to his voicemail messages that were directed to his friends, repeating the words displayed within the voice mail messages to Hu Jia.
Chinese authorities have accused the app of threatening individual safety. Chinese Central Television, a state run broadcaster, featured a piece in which WeChat was described as an app that allows criminals an easy way in due to its location-reporting features. CCTV gave an example of such accusations through reporting the murder of a single woman who was murdered by a man she met on WeChat after he attempted to rob her. The location-reporting feature, according to reports, was the reason for the man to know the victim’s whereabouts. Authorities within China have linked WeChat to numerous crimes. The city of Hangzhou, for example, has reported over twenty crimes related to WeChat in the span of three months.
However, supporters of the app argue that WeChat, in general, is a safe platform, and that one's safety and security is one's responsibility. One can always argue, right? In general, WeChat may offer some extremely awesome features with its ability to do so many functions that normally require third-party authenticating access. With the whole "one-app-to-do-them-all" kind a vibe, WeChat definitely has some good ideas behind its drive but with the over-the-wall invasion of user privacy, and a lack of security concerns, it might still need some tweaking before it can be branded "precious" to our hearts.