Author: Rita Liao

11/11 shows biometrics are the norm for payments in China

TECHCRUNCH Chinese consumers were quick to adopt digital payments, and a recent shopping binge showed they are ready for another leap: biometric payments. On November 11, Alibaba wrapped up Singles’ Day – the world’s largest shopping event – and hauled in $30.8 billion in total transactions, a staggering amount bigger than Cyber Monday and Black Friday combined. Instead of frantically inputting payment passwords to grab deals, Chinese users jumped on new technologies to shop in the blink of an eye. This year, 60.3 percent of Singles’ Day customers paid either by scanning their fingerprint or taking a selfie. That’s according to Alipay as it collected the data for the first time. The Alibaba affiliate digital wallet handles online and offline transactions for 870 million users around the world and its close rival WeChat Pay, the payment method that runs on Tencent’s popular chat app, is on a par at over 800 million. Both are racing towards a future of seamless payment. Alipay debuted pay-by-fingerprint back in September 2014. In less than a year, WeChat Pay announced its own. Over time Chinese shoppers got themselves familiar with biometric verification, using it to unlock smartphones and enter office buildings. By 2016, around 95 percent of the people surveyed by China’s Payment and Clearing Association said they “knew about” fingerprint recognition. The more sophisticated selfie-taking method soon followed. Last year, Alipay rolled out a smile-to-pay...

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Alibaba made a smart screen to help blind people shop and it costs next to nothing

TECHCRUNCH Just a few years ago, Li Mengqi could not have imagined shopping on her own. Someone needed to always keep her company to say aloud what was in front of her, who’s been blind since birth. When smartphones with text-to-speech machines for the visually impaired arrived, she immediately bought an iPhone. “Though it was expensive,” Li, a 23-year-old who grew up in a rural village in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, told me. Cheaper smartphone options in China often don’t have good accessibility features. Screen readers opened a plethora of new opportunity for those with visual impairments. “I felt...

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Alibaba sets new Singles’ Day record with $31B in sales, but growth is slowing

TECHCRUNCH Alibaba scored another blockbuster Singles’ Day after customers around the world shopped in stores and online on the tenth edition of its November 11 shopping festival. That puts this year’s gross merchandise volume – a measure for the dollar value of total transactions – at a staggering $30.8 billion, although the company recorded its lowest-ever annual growth rate for the event. The figure makes the spending bonanza more than twice the size of Cyber Monday and Black Friday combined in 2017. This is by far the largest-ever Singles’ Day to date. Just 15 hours and 49 minutes into...

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Calling all hackers! Join us for TechCrunch China’s Shenzhen Hackathon on Nov 17

TECHCRUNCH Attention coders, designers and all other builders: the TechCrunch China Hackathon is returning to Shenzhen, the city known as the hardware capital of the world, this month and we want you to take part! So if your inner being is to code, design, build and hack cool things; if you want to have fun with others like you over a weekend; if you love to use your superpower to win cash and prizes; and if you need an excuse to kickstart that side-project project you’ve been thinking about for weeks… then come on over! Arranged as a pre-cursor to our...

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WeChat reaches 1M mini programs, half the size of Apple’s App Store

TECHCRUNCH They may not be widely known outside of China, but Tencent’s mini program initiative to develop ‘apps’ that live outside of app stores is bearing fruit after it clocked two notable landmarks: 200 million daily users and one million apps. In recent years, Tencent’s WeChat messaging app has blossomed into a universe of its own with a myriad of services that span from food delivery to getting loans. But the Chinese messaging app wants to lock users in for longer — and its mini program scheme appears to show promise. Back in January 2017, Tencent introduced “mini programs,” which...

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Alibaba rival JD.com plays the long-game on technology investment

TECHCRUNCH China’s JD.com  has made it clear recently that it’s venturing into artificial intelligence and automation. Every few months over the past year, the online retailer – China’s second-largest by transactions after Alibaba – has unveiled new products based on cutting-edge technology: for example drone delivery, self-driving trucks, fully automated warehouses, to name a few. Most of these technologies are still in their testing phase and JD’s ever expanding technology investment is already eating into its profitability. In the second quarter, the retail titan’s technology expenses were up over 70 percent year-over-year for the third consecutive quarter, costing the...

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China’s obsession with short videos has its internet giants worried

TECHCRUNCH Take a subway ride in China and expect to see a lot of commuters’ eyes glued to TikTok videos on their phones. Video clips like TikTok’s are now consuming nearly nine percent of Chinese people’s time online, a 5.2 percent jump from 2017, according to app analytics firm QuestMobile. Apps such as TikTok — which is operated by ByteDance, the world’s highest valued startup at $75 billion — have become popular among previously camera-shy users. Those who lack editing experience can now easily add beautifying filters and music to spice up their work. Elderly couple having a moment on Douyin / Credit: Douyin ID @淘气陈奶奶 It also helps that smartphone data became cheaper and internet penetration kept growing in recent years — China now has 800 million smartphone users, according to government data. In 2013, just under 40 percent of China’s online population streamed videos on their phones, according to database CBNData. In 2017, that ratio surged to 80 percent. Initially geared towards Chinese youth, short-video apps have increased in popularity across all age groups – including the elderly. Over a third of the country’s 1.4 billion people are active on these apps every month. People above the age of 50 now spend as much as 50 minutes on them every day, compared to only 17 minutes a year ago. And TikTok, called Douyin in China, is spearheading the...

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China’s frenzy over League of Legends championship sheds light on esports growth

TECHCRUNCH When China’s Invictus Gaming defeated European squad Fnatic in the League of Legends 2018 finals this past Saturday, China’s social media platforms became awash in ecstasy and pride. “It’s like winning an Olympic gold, a teenage dream come true,” writes one thirty-something audience of the competition on his WeChat feed. Many others share that sentiment. So far, the hashtag #IG冠军, which means “IG the champion,” has generated over one million threads on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter with over four million monthly active users. This is a critical moment for China’s first-generation of players who grew up under...

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