Since its launch in 2005, Fetion has been one of the most popular messaging apps in China. But after 15 years, the service is finally shutting down.
(Credit: Imaginechina Limited/Alamy Stock Photo)
In a recent announcement, China Mobile told users that the service will end on September 30th. Fetion was one of the first apps to offer free voice, data, and SMS services. [Securities Daily, in Chinese]
However, it ran into competition from WeChat in 2011 and has been in decline ever since. While WeChat is now a national super app, Fetion never gained the same traction. It is not clear how many people are still using Fetion, but the shutdown marks the end of an era for the Chinese messaging app market.
It’s no secret that messaging apps have been eating into the market share of traditional SMS text messages. In fact, studies show that people are now sending less than half as many SMS texts as they were just a few years ago.
The rise of OTT (over-the-top) messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat has been a major disruptor in the telecommunications industry. These apps offer a more user-friendly experience and a wider range of features than traditional SMS texting, making them a popular choice for mobile users.
However, it’s not just SMS that’s under threat from OTT apps – traditional carrier-based messaging services are also at risk. In China, operators have been trying to compete with OTT messaging apps by launching their own RCS (rich communications services)-based 5G messaging platforms. These platforms offer a similar range of features to OTT apps, including group chat, location sharing, file sharing, and video calling.
However, they face an uphill battle in winning over users, as they lack the brand recognition and user base of the OTT players. Moreover, carriers are often perceived as being slow to innovate and reluctant to embrace new technologies – something that won’t help them win.
Lack of cooperation has been a big problem for telcos when it comes to 5G messaging. In order to make a native app, device support is essential, but some brands are actively opposed to 5G messaging. This was evident in a national contest for 5G messaging apps last year in which only three handset models were available that could display the 400 new apps.
China Mobile is now focusing its attention on another platform business – the metaverse. However, among telcos, SK Telecom has been the early metaverse champion with more than a million users on its Ifland platform and plans to expand worldwide.
China Mobile’s progress is slightly more modest in comparison but it still announced last week it would set up its metaverse headquarters in the southern city of Xiamen.
Some good news for China Mobile and China Telecom is that they are both in a list of companies with the most potential. The research firm Hurun put them in this list along with giants like Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei and iFlytek.
The bad news is that according to the researchers at Hurun, the only thing these companies have going for them is their network capabilities.
Josh Yang is a Tech Writer who loves helping people understand what's going on in the tech industry. He writes about all things tech, from the newest gadgets to how to get your cat off your keyboard. Josh has been writing since 2013 and enjoys discovering new topics and sharing them with his audience.