After a series of social media posts celebrating the iPhone's 10th anniversary, WeChat founder Allan Zhang deployed a series of web apps for all smartphone users called "mini programs," in an attempt to combat Apple's dominance in the field and possibly collect some of the billions of dollars fed into the app economy in the future.
WeChat parent company TenCent Holdings rolled out the cloud-based apps on Monday, first spotted by the Wall Street Journal. All of them are lightweight, and require very little in the way of consumed data, or space on a device.
They are not as sophisticated as full-blown apps like found on the Apple iOS App Store, and generally focus on accomplishing a single task, rather than encompassing many features in one title.
"Any tool should help the user increase efficiency," Zhang said in a speech last month. "That is the goal of a tool, the mission of a tool."
The "mini programs" aren't offered in a central store as of yet, but are intended to be discovered by scanning a QR code, or finding them in a search engine query. At this time, the utilities are free, but may not remain so.
WeChat's current offerings are similar to apps with iMessage support, adding features like Yelp data and similar to WeChat.
WeChat was released in 2011, and was developed by Tencent in China, and boasts more than 864 million active users. The service was one of the apps compiled with a maliciously crafted Xcode version, with users afflicted with the "XCodeGhost" malware for a brief time in September 2015.
According to recent analyst data, the iPhone accounts for 17.1 percent of the smartphone sales in the third quarter of 2016, pre-iPhone 7, with Android claiming the rest. Apple recently noted that app sales in China rose 90% in 2016, year over year.