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FEATURED SUPER X APP REPORT: What Is It Like & Using It In Asia – What We Know ?

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#AceNewsDesk – What is an ‘everything app’ and why does Elon Musk want to make one?

Elon Musk.
Elon Muskย wants to create what has beenย described as the Swiss army knife of mobile apps. (Reuters: Kyle Grillot)none

On Tuesday, Elon Musk announced he would go ahead with his original $US44 billion ($67 billion) bid to buy Twitter……….. The purchase would be an “accelerant” for X โ€” the “everything app”, he said.

But what is an everything app, and what does it do?

What is a super app?

A super app, or what Mr Musk refers to as an “everything app”, has been described as the Swiss army knife of mobile apps, with a suite of services including messaging, social networking, peer-to-peer payments and e-commerce shopping.

Scott Galloway, a New York University professor of marketing and co-host of tech podcast Pivot, wrote last year that mega apps were already massively popular in Asia, where mobile phones were the main portal to the internet.

What are some examples of super apps?

Chinese super app WeChat has more than 1 billion monthly users, according to one estimate.

Its users can hail a car or taxi, send money to friends and family or make payments at stores.

In 2018, some Chinese cities began testing WeChat for an electronic identification system that would be tied to users’ accounts, according to the South China Morning Post.

Grab, meanwhile, is a leading super app across South-East Asia. It offers food delivery, ride-hailing, on-demand package delivery, and financial and investing services.

Why does Musk want to make a super app?

In a question-and-answer session with Twitter employees in June, Mr Musk said he saw an opportunity to make an app like WeChat. 

“You basically live on WeChat in China,” he said.

Adding more tools and services to Twitter could also help the billionaire reach his lofty goal to expand the app’s number of users from 237 million to “at least a billion”.

Mr Musk and his inner circle messaged each other about the idea of adding digital payments to Twitter, according to messages released in the discovery phase of litigation between Mr Musk and the social media company.

Have other US tech companies tried to make a super app?

Yes, Snapchat parent Snap made a peer-to-peer payments service called Snapcash, but scrapped it in 2018.

It also made a push into mobile gaming but cost-cutting put paid to that.

Meta Platform’s Facebook and Instagram have also tried to expand beyond social networking and messaging into e-commerce.

Elon Musk X: What life is like on a super-app in Asia

BBC News, Singapore

In Singapore, you can now buy durian on an app and delivered to your home

I’m stuck at home taking care of a sick child, when a familiar feeling suddenly hits – a craving for durian.

But there’s no need to head out to a durian stall or supermarket to buy the tropical fruit, lug it home, and wrestle open its spiky husk.

I just whip out my phone, open an app called Grab, and make a few taps.

Forty-five minutes later, there’s a knock on my door. A deliveryman hands over a bag: it’s my durian, freshly shucked and sealed in plastic tubs, ready to eat.

From ordering cabs and food, to paying our bills and booking holidays, super-apps like Grab offer a mindboggling array of services. They don’t exist yet in the West – Elon Musk is thinking of creating one called X – but in many parts of Asia they’ve already been a vital part of our everyday lives for the past few years. 

I mostly use Grab to get a ride home after a night out, or order Thai takeaway when I haven’t got the energy to cook dinner for the family.

But many in Singapore also use it to send parcels and documents, or shop online – one colleague just purchased a home karaoke set. 

Other extensions allow you to book bus and ferry tickets, make hotel reservations, and even arrange for someone to come to your home and do a professional Covid swab test.

These can be paid for through the app’s finance system. There’s an e-wallet linked to your bank account or credit card, or you can set up instalment plans, or pay with points which you earn with every activity done through the app. 

It can also be used for cashless payments – you pay for items at a shop by scanning a QR code with the app, or you can get a physical card linked to your account.

Grab Card
You can get a physical Grab card linked to your account

But Grab is not the only player in town.

There are super-apps aplenty from Indonesia’s GoJek to India’s PayTM and they allow you to do even more, such as book a manicure, order fuel for your motorbike, pay your traffic fine and purchase gold. 

They have caught on in a region of digital natives – in South East Asia alone, about three-quarters of our population use the internet, and of that group, 88% own a smartphone.

Then, there’s China’s WeChat – the original Asian super-app said to be the inspiration for Mr Musk’s X.

It’s a messaging and social media platform that’s evolved into one of the region’s biggest apps in terms of its range of services and number of users. At last count it’s estimated to have 1.29 billion users in China alone. 

WeChat is also one of China’s biggest payment networks, with consumers using it to pay for goods and services and to send money to each other. 

Some research suggests that a Chinese user spends as much as a third of their waking life on WeChat alone.

Much has been written about how its ubiquity in Chinese everyday life, operating in a society tightly controlled by the government has seen WeChat become a tool of surveillance and censorship.

Messages, posts and even accounts are routinely blocked for content deemed politically sensitive, and there are concerns of how it could contribute to the various controversial “social credit” schemes in China, where citizens’ lives can be restricted based on their bank credit scores or social behaviour. 

Payment codes of Wechat Pay and Alipay are seen hung on a stall at a vegetable market on November 28, 2021 in Beijing, China.
In China, even vegetable markets use WeChat as a payment system

In 2020, WeChat introduced its own scoring system where users get extra privileges if they have good in-app credit records.

The example of WeChat highlights the main concern about super-apps – with everyone doing practically everything on just a few platforms, these apps end up collecting a vast trove of data on people, and could wield some power over our daily lives.

How such data is treated and to what extent governments should have access to it will be part of the debate in societies where privacy is particularly prized. Mr Musk’s X super-app – if it does come to fruition – may be seen by some with suspicion as a double-edged Swiss Army knife.

For others though, the convenience and simplicity of living life on one app is an easy trade-off to make. There’s always the option of scaling back their use, for those with deep concerns about privacy.

And in open markets, specialty apps will continue to vie for users’ attention, reducing the likelihood of most of the data ending up in the hands of just one or two companies – one reason for WeChat’s dominance in China is because some apps like Twitter and WhatsApp are blocked there.

Here in Singapore, I don’t do everything on Grab. It’s not because I distrust it, but I prefer using specialty apps to do other things like grocery shopping and buying clothes as they’re just better at it.

So I’m fine with Grab humming away in the recesses of my phone because it doesn’t know everything about me, just some things – like the fact that I love delivery durian.

#AceNewsDesk report โ€ฆโ€ฆโ€ฆ..Published: Oct.07: 2022:

Reuters/BBC News, Singapore

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