China’s smartphone-crazy populace took online their annual practice of gifting red envelopes with token amounts of money to celebrate their new year, using WeChat, a popular messaging app, called Weixin in China.
On the eve of the Lunar New Year, Weixin users exchanged 1.01 billion red envelopes, Tech In Asia reported, citing Tencent Holdings Ltd., the company behind the app. Weixin is said to have more than 400 million users.
Tencent didn’t disclose how much money was actually transferred, the technology news site reported.
Exchanging gifts to celebrate the new year is a Chinese tradition that is often noted for its practice in the excess, especially among businesses. This year is no exception, with companies making extravagant gifts to staff, including BMW SUVs.
The modest virtual envelopes, however, have risen to prominence this year as a hugely popular Spring Festival Gala gamified the exchange of such envelopes through the shaking of smartphones. Viewers were prompted to shake their handsets at various times during the show to win some $80 million in prize money via Weixin.
The promotion triggered a total of 11 billion shakes, with 810 million shakes per minute at its peak, Tech In Asia reported.
The 1.01 billion envelopes were exchanged during the period from 8 p.m. Wednesday to 12.48 a.m. Thursday, local time. Last year, 20 million Weixin users exchanged the virtual envelopes, according to the technology website.
While Tencent didn’t say how much money changed hands, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. said users of its Alipay wallet app sent 4 billion yuan ($642 million) in cash gifts during the 24-hour New Year’s Eve period. That compared with the 200 million yuan ($32.1 million) sent on Alipay during the full new year holiday week last year.