Tension between Chinese internet giant Tencent and its U.S. counterpart, Apple, has escalated after WeChat's cash rewards feature was blocked on the iOS platform.
The feature, which allows users to send tips of up to 256 RMB to their favorite official accounts, was disabled on iOS on April 19, apparently because it violated Apple's regulations. It is currently still functional on other platforms, including Android.
According to Apple's regulations, updated in 2016, users must utilize the in-app purchase function if they wish to unlock new features within apps. Apps are not allowed to include buttons, external links or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms other than in-app purchase, for which Apple splits revenue 70\30 with developers.
In an announcement released by Tencent on April 19, the company said the adjustment was made after extensive negotiations with Apple. For the time being, Tencent suggested that its users bypass the regulation by transferring tip money through individual transfer channels, a move that was later prohibited by Apple.
"From WeChat's perspective, its cash rewards feature is meant to encourage official accounts to create original content. Apple, on the other hand, sees the practice as a pay-for-view service," an analyst told Thepaper.cn, adding that the rewards should not be considered a purchase.
Some analysts believe that by banning WeChat's rewards feature, Apple hopes to compete with Tencent in the area of payment services. Tencent's WeChat Wallet is widely used in China, while Apple Pay is not popular with Chinese consumers.