“LetsChat, TikTok’s Sibling App, Aspires to Be Africa’s WhatsApp Substitute, Yet Users Remain Skeptical.”

TikTok’s sibling app, LetsChat, has made its debut with the ambition to rival WhatsApp and Telegram. However, users expressed doubts about the app’s ability to compete effectively, despite its data-saving feature.

Yusuf Balogun, who stumbled upon LetsChat via online comedy skits, downloaded the app with high hopes. LetsChat, boasting of free voice and video calls, no ad interruptions, and in-app games, initially seemed promising. But after a few days, Balogun chose to remove the app. “Though it does not consume data as much as other apps, I’m not entirely convinced,” he shared with TechCabal.

ByteDance, the Beijing-based parent company of TikTok, launched LetsChat in 2021, aiming to attract young African users and vie with established competitors like WhatsApp and Telegram. Rather than merely keeping pace with the existing market, LetsChat aims to dominate it. As part of its marketing strategy, the app has roped in influencers, including comedians, to boost its profile. According to Google PlayStore, the app’s download count has surpassed five million.

Is LetsChat a potential rival?
Young Africans often seek social content apps that offer chat and video options. WhatsApp is currently the leader in this space, thanks to its robust feature-set which includes voice and video calling, group functions, stickers, and status updates.

I sampled LetsChat for two days, finding it a plausible contender to WhatsApp, offering a few extra features. The ‘People nearby’ option connects you with local users, while the ‘Lifie’ feature captures real-time moments with a dual camera. However, despite its touted feature of data-free voice and video calls, maintaining connectivity still requires data. While the calls were not flawless, it was decent for an app just two years old.

However, several users interviewed by TechCabal highlighted technical issues with the app, despite appreciating its features. Omojolade Michael mentioned poor call quality and unwanted calls from unknown numbers as reasons for his dissatisfaction. “They need to work on the features. They still have a long way to go,” he added.

Susan, an early adopter of LetsChat, said she uses the app occasionally as a break from WhatsApp. She lamented the app’s insistence on suggesting unknown people to connect with, a feature she found intrusive.

Yet, for digital marketer Adam Opeloyeru, these features set LetsChat apart. He particularly liked the ‘Lifie’ feature and the option to call multiple friends simultaneously without extra charges.

Despite its unique selling points, LetsChat still faces challenges in retaining its users. Yusuf, for instance, wouldn’t consider it a strong competitor to WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Adam, however, believes that with the right improvements, the app could meet user expectations. He suggested, “They just need to upgrade those features to meet the expectations of people… they need to do more research beyond the reviews on Apple Store and meet the users to know the kind of features they want.”