Weixin (aka WeChat) is a new product from Tencent. It's awesome. http://www.wechatapp.com/ It's been around for a couple years, and now has about 100m users in China.
It is a regular chat program, except the default way to chat is to record a short message which is sent to the other person. There is also a text typing mode.
The recording mode seems weird at first, but it is really well-done and it works.
Chat this way (direct to voice-mail, with really easy playback) is a new medium. You can plan what you're going to say, but there's still some ad-libbing. You can hear someone's real voice and the way they talk. Much more information is transmitted, and faster. It's maybe 3-10 times faster than typing, and way less annoying. It's also a lot easier than a phone call, because you have more time (if you want it) to answer. You can also repeatedly listen to things.
Having lots of recorded speech is good - most people have multi-year gaps in the existence of recordings of their speech. (Although they all have pictures, now). Hmm, I wonder if changes in voice over time can be used to detect medical problems? What do voice changes over time mean about someone's health (physical or mental?).
For some things, like arranging plans or explaining longer ideas, it's just way faster to say it quickly than to type everything out.
It wouldn't be that strange to send a weixin message to someone you had never talked to on the phone before. Sending short messages of introduction isn't nearly as weird as it'd be over the phone talking to someone you'd never met. So it's a lot more effective at seeing what someone is like than SMS, people are a lot more forgiving & a lot more information is exchanged than SMS, yet it's not as high pressure as a phone call, and easier to initiate.
It leverages the qq chat network (700m users) to find friends (but seems to have fb integration, which is weird for a Chinese product)
Other apps can do this, like whatsapp, but it is not nearly as easy to send or receive messages with it. Weixin has really optimized this and made it work.
The next step would be allowing people to record public messages, in a twitter-like format. Imagine how viral a spoken clip could go, compared to a written one! It seems so incredibly powerful - I'm not sure if China would even allow it. Comedians would have something like a twitter stream, or instagram, but with recorded stuff.
As of now, comedians already do "live-tweeting" of events - imagine if they could do this live? it could be incredibly great - a really easy way to reproduce mst3k, or Fan Commentary on Sports Broadcasts.
in the 80s, when everyone had answering messages, or in the 90s when things moved to voicemail, something like this could have been invented! But for some reason, answering machines / voicemail was always just horrible. People's answering machine messages were always way too long, and the beep was too painful. Why didn't they just make it a nice chime or something?
And voicemail was way, way worse - sometimes you'd wait 30s - 1 minute to begin recording. It should have been instant - you just call a certain number and start talking, that's it. And maybe it's listening for certain sounds, and if the user calls they can type in the code and retrieve their messages that way.
I can see something like this actually having happened! The world would have been really, really different - a landline based weixin for chatting.
Wechat has a nice group system.