If you have already started ordering takeout or scanning share bikes, you might have noticed that several different applications can often be used to access the same service. Since almost all online service companies in China seem to be owned by only three or four conglomerates, it makes sense that these interconnected application systems exist, saving us time – and storage space on our phones.
Here are a few examples of how third-party apps can be accessed.
WeChat Mini Apps
Opening WeChat Pay and scrolling down to ‘third party operator’ services, we can see ‘Movie Tickets’ – or Maoyan Dianying, part of the Tencent-backed Meituan Dianping group. We can see ‘Specials’ – which takes us to online shopping platform Jing Dong or JD.com. We can also see ‘Ride Hailing’ – or Didi Chuxing, China’s answer to Uber. Clicking on any these icons will open a mini program within WeChat, without the need to download additional apps.
Looking now to WeChat’s rival Alipay, the payment software from Alibaba group, jump to the ‘My Apps’ section to bring up a number of equally useful embedded apps. We can see Eleme – the food delivery service, also owned by Alibaba. We can see Taobao – China’s most famous online shopping platform, also part of the Alibaba group. Didi Chuxing is also accessible from Alipay. Again, no need to download these as separate apps.
Meituan-Dianping offers several different applications, all of which can be accessed through it’s primary ‘Meituan’ app, which includes access to Meituan Waimai (food delivery), Meituan Dianping (reviews and ratings), Meituan Bike (formerly Mobike) and a number of other services provided by the group. All of these can be downloaded as separate applications also.
Baidu offers access to several Baidu-owned and third-party services. Opening its primary app and jumping to the ‘applet’ section we can see hundreds of embedded apps. We can access Baidu Translate and Baidu Maps, along with popular video streaming site iQiyi and e-commerce site Dangdang, China’s largest online bookstore.
Thoughts on embedded apps
So is it better to use the embedded applications or download the apps separately? The jury’s still out on this one.
For me personally, I take a mixed approach. For the services I use regularly, I have downloaded the individual app – it’s quicker to access than having to trawl through another company’s system and, in general, the notification system seems to be much more sophisticated. For the services I rarely touch, the mini-apps suffice for now.
If storage space is an issue, go for the mini-apps. If not, try the services listed above and see what works for you.