istock-c8501089-470660191.jpg
(Credit: c8501089/iStock)

While government restrictions in China have kept out Facebook (download for iOS or Android), the ban has allowed for the massive expansion of Tencent's WeChat (download for iOS or Android), a messaging app that has 1.08 billion monthly active users, putting it neck-and-neck with Facebook.

WeChat has gone far beyond messaging to become a social network, a gaming platform, and a payment system. Now, Tencent's latest move is to add virtual assistant capabilities to WeChat to eventually rival Amazon Alexa and Google Home.

SEE: How Jane Wong became the app whisperer

WeChat italking, or Xiaowei, could be used by businesses and smart cars in addition to smartphones. Xiaowei could connect to Tencent Music, food delivery app Meituan Dianping, ride sharing app Didi Chuxing and bike sharing app Mobike.

Adding a virtual assistant could help the app continue to compete against rivals Baidu and Alibaba.

The app also plans to add a video streaming button so posts are more authentic than the filtered photos users traditionally post on social media. It's also possible that the app will add the expiration feature of Snapchat. Now, when a user posts a photo or article, it will only display for three days.

Tencent is taking into account the fact that the smartphone market is slowing down. Last year, the Chinese government reported that smartphone shipments dropped by almost 16 percent.

FOLLOW Download.com on Twitter for all the latest app news.

Takeaways

  1. Tencent's latest ambition includes Xiaowei, a virtual assistant that will be added to WeChat.
  2. Xiaowei will be able to be used by businesses, smart cars and connect to various apps.

Read more

Shelby is an Associate Writer for CNET's Download.com. She served as Editor in Chief for the Louisville Cardinal newspaper at the University of Louisville. She interned as Creative Non-Fiction Editor for Miracle Monocle literary magazine. Her work appears in Glass Mountain Magazine, Bookends Review, Soundings East, and on Louisville.com. Her cat, Puck, is the best cat ever.