Earlier this week, a new messaging App was launched and introduced to the world during the Smartisan Nut Pro 2S smartphone launch: Zidan Duanxin (AKA Bullet Messenger).
Bullet Messenger created a huge buzz in the Chinese tech community. Here are some of the stats:
- Ranked No.1 for the top downloaded free social media app on the Apple Store for 3 days in a row
- 5 million registered users on the 11th day after launch (it took WeChat 5 months to reach to 1 million registered users)
- Daily downloads on iOS reached 300k on August 25th according to App Annie
- QuickAs, the parent company, received 150 million RMB funding from Chengwei Capital and Gaorong Capital 7th day after launch
- 600 million RMB valuation
- 51 VC and 7 tech giants proposed to fund the App
The sharp growth of Bullet Messenger convinced some people its the app that could beat WeChat.
Bullet Messenger is it better than WeChat?
Here is an opening video of Bullet Messenger that explains how to use it.
Text message instead of the voice message
The essential feature of Bullet Messenger is that the App made it easier for people to automatically convert a voice message into a text message.
When pressing to talk, you can send a text message composed by the built-in voice recognition system, and attach the original voice message.
You will be able to edit the text message if the voice recognition software makes a mistake.
The push-to-talk feature is the single feature that made WeChat stands out among its competition in the very early days, but it became one of the most hated features of WeChat: sending a bunch voice message to friends or colleagues is considered impolite according to WeChat etiquette.
Voice messages are complicated to listen to in a crowded space, hard to search through and almost impossible to forward. They are however also very easy for the sender to compose, so users are likely to use them frequently.
Bullet Messenger is trying to bring together the best of both worlds through its voice recognition capabilities.
Reply to all the messages directly from the main chat interface
Bullet Messenger also makes it easier to manage multiple conversations at the same time. Instead of opening up each chat window, you can directly reply a text message or a voice message from the main chat interface.
As the name of the App would suggest, this is another feature aiming at making Bullet Messenger a fast and more efficient tool than WeChat.
You can switch from the voice mode to text message mode
Bullet Messenger enables you to easily switch from a voice-based interface to a text-based interface from the top header of the App.
It is a simple way to enable easy access to voice messages while giving the opportunity to quickly switch to a text-based interface if the users can’t talk into their microphone (for instance during a work meeting)
Stop & play feature for voice message
You can choose to replay a specific part of the voice message. This increases the efficient especially if you have to listen to part of the message again.
This feature stands out from WeChat which forces users to replay an entire 60-seconds voice message if they want to catch a bit of information at the end of the recording.
Group owners can keep other group members from sending messages
Managing groups on WeChat is especially challenging. Bullet messenger provides extra features to make this management easier, for instance, the ability to temporarily prevent some or all of the group members to send out messages.
This feature could be helpful if you want to ask group members to calm down in the middle of a heated discussion, or if you are going to host a live speech on a group and want attendees to focus on the speaker.
No “WeChat Moments” feature yet
Users are not yet able to share their pictures, videos or thoughts on a social timeline. Instead, the App has a build-in Toutiao news display.
However, this is not surprising: WeChat also started out as a simple messaging application and only introduced its social timeline after having built initial traction (even though Weibo was at the time already a prominent social App)
Could Bullet Messenger really replace WeChat?
The short answer is no. Features matter, but they’re no longer enough to create a market leader.
When WeChat first started, it struggled to gain its first 1 million users. That’s because there were thousands of other messenger apps with similar features. WeChat finally reached the top 5 messenger Apps when it released its push-to-talk feature. But it’s not until WeChat released 2.1 version that integrated with QQ that it took its unbeatable place.
It would be relatively easy for WeChat to release any of the features of Bullet Messenger. But it will be extremely challenging for Bullet Messenger to counterbalance the network effects of WeChat.
This is all the more difficult as WeChat also stands out through the variety of its features. Through payments, mini-programs, WeChat KOL’s and more, WeChat became an ecosystem rather than a mere messaging App. It is unlikely that the bulk of users will give up on these benefits for a slightly improved messaging experience.
Bullet Messenger could be the Slack of China
Instead of competing with WeChat, Bullet Messenger could be an effective tool to use for professional communication. All of the features are designed to make the messaging experience more efficient.
The current “Slack of China” is the Alibaba workplace communication App Dindin. Many users tried Dindin but switched back to WeChat due to its complicated features and high on-boarding cost.
Bullet Messenger could have just the right features to be the highly effective workplace communication tool that comes with simple yet efficient features.
Through its innovative features and design, Bullet Messenger definitely is a more efficient tool for communication than WeChat.
While it remains unlikely Bullet Messenger has any change to take the market lead from WeChat, it will definitely impact the industry through the innovative features it showcased.
As for its future, Bullet Messenger will likely either be acquired by a larger player, or will have to focus on a specific niche market (in the same way Slack became the go-to workplace messaging tool outside Mainland China but didn’t try to challenge WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger)