Addicted to Screens: China’s love affair with WeChat and Smartphones

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jackie_chan confused

“But there’s no Facebook in China!”

Tut tut tut. After one or two days in China one quickly becomes aware that one’s Facebook wall and Whatsapp belong in the same place; social contacts depend on the platform that is WeChat.

WeChat is your social sphere, your gif bank and your literal bank; in many places in Shanghai, WeChat pay is used instead of credit cards, which frankly just slow things down.

After just three days of using it, however, it becomes clear that WeChat is much more than what the boom generation might confuse for the app you use to send inappropriate pics.

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WeChat is China’s go-to “app of all trades.” It provides everything from messaging, to twitter-like social media posts, to electronic payment in China

With countless start-ups trying to figure out how to reign in the money transfer market, WeChat has managed to monopolize that sphere in China. And with that it has added yet another function to the seemingly limitless capacity of the smartphone in China.

The West appears to have developed a hypochondriac’s attitude towards the unabashed use of smartphones and screens, with some cautionary headlines advising against it, suggesting it makes one more anxious and less happy.

Others publications such as the perennially face-palming Daily Maily create headlines like “To have and to hold: We now spend more time looking at our phone than with our partner” suggesting a loss of human connection due to smartphones.

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While Western media bemoans the loss of human connection due to smartphone usage, Chinese millennials embrace the addiction to their mobile screens

Meanwhile, China seems not to care, instead choosing to watch another episode on the metro from and to work, sometimes even while walking through the mazes of the Shanghai railway stations, or even down the streets.

This has reached such an extent that Chongqing has set up a “No Cell Phone” pedestrian lane, presumably to avoid time waste and holdups.

This is reflected in the fact that China has one of the highest phone turnover rates in the world; on average a phone is discarded after 8-12 months. According to Yahoo, Chinese millennials spend four hours a day on their phones; this bearing in mind their 6am-11pm school hours which barely ease up at university.

China Smartphones

According to Yahoo, Chinese millennials spend four hours a day on their phones. China has one of the highest phone turnover rates in the world.

It is not surprising that the Chinese government then is keen on keeping a tight reign on exactly what goes on with these phones, as they announced this week that they will be making their own secure smartphones.

But hey, mobile ad spending in 2016 is, according to reports, to become the biggest digital ad market. Plus, people are now making comics specifically for mobile phones (what?!)

Whatever you might think of the effects of this kind of portable technology on our wellbeing, it’s clear that companies are not stopping to consider this, as they target all kinds of social media outputs on our phones, and successfully reach customers in doing so.

To see just how big companies like Air France and Tiffany & Co do this, check out the market reports carried out by Resonance by clicking here.

About Author

Social Brand Watch (SBW) is a collection of experts in digital, mobile and social media in China. SBW was created to complement Resonance's China Social Branding Report, a bi-weekly report focusing on modern marketing methods of the world's top brands in China.

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