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(Pocket-lint) - Forget about Prisma. Meitu is the latest photo-editing app to go viral.

The Chinese app has been around since 2008, but it landed in the US in early January and already has about 430 million users outside of China. It's been installed on 1.1 billion devices and has generated over 6 billion beautified photos for its 456 million monthly active users around the globe. You've probably seen those photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, because everyone seems to be using Meitu.

Here's everything you need to know about Meitu.

What is Meitu?

It's a free photo-editing app for iOS and Android. It uses facial recognition with augmented reality to combine your actual face with a virtual look. Meitu’s name means “beautiful picture”. It is supposed to give your selfies a "hand-drawn look" and is described as a "one-touch photoshop for enhancing your beauty". In our opinion, it gives you the appearance of an anime - widened eyes, slimmer jaws, and all.

The developer behind Meitu, which had a $4.5 billion initial public offering last year, makes other popular apps such as AirBrush and MakeupPlus, both of which utilise its patented technology.

How does Meitu work?

Pocket-lint reviewed the iOS version of Meitu in the US.

Once you download and open Meitu, it'll bring you directly to the core "hand-drawn" experience that lets you create a selfie like the examples at the top of this article. However, every time after that, you'll go to the main screen and see the following menu options:

  • Editing - Edit your photos with basic tools like auto-enhance, frames, stickers, text, blur, a magic beauty brush, and more.
  • Camera - Take a photo (or upload from camera roll) - with or without a vignette or even a blur effect enabled - and apply one of the dozen filters available, whether that be "youthful" or "sunlit" or various other ones for "selfie", "food", or whatever. You will also see buttons at the top that let you access a timer, give yourself a face lift, or enabled a night mode.
  • Retouch - This is basically the Photoshop section of the app, where you can enhance your skin, get rid of acne and wrinkles, slim down your face, add highlights, erase dark circles, and even make yourself look taller.
  • Tips - Confused? No worries. If you can understand Mandarin, you can go here to see several tips and tricks on how to use the app.
  • Hand-drawn - The star feature in Meitu. Tap it to take a photo (or upload a photo), and from there you can select one of the beauty filters also available in the Camera screen. After, you can apply one of six effects that will change the shape of your face and eyes, as well as the colouring and effect of your photo, and even the texture of your hair. The end result is like an anime, though Meitu calls it a "painted" photo.
  • Collage - This does exactly what you think: lets you grab several photos from your camera roll and arrange them in a collage. You can use one of the templates or create your own. There's also features for decorating a collage.
  • Auto beauty: If you just want to quickly slim your face and firm your skin in a hurry, this option will let you do just that.
  • Meipei - This is a download link to Meipei, an app that lets you apply stickers and effects to video clips.

After you finish editing your selfie, you can save it to your phone or share it via all the usual channels, like Instagram or Facebook.

Why is everyone using Meitu?

Why pay for a nip and tuck when you can just tap and save?

Commenters have given the app glowing reviews, and it currently holds a five-star rating in the US app store. While the novelty of the app might quickly wear off, you'll be impressed at how well it works. Besides, like those beloved Snapchat lenses, it's just cool to see yourself in a whole new light. The app is available on both the iOS and Android app stores, and it's free on both platforms, so there's no reason to not at least try it. The iOS version also supports the iMessage App Store.

Examples of Meitu creations:

Everything might not be as good as it appears. Users of the Meitu app, particularly Android users, have noticed it asks for permission to access an awful lot of data and areas of your phone. While it obviously, and rightly asks for access to your camera and storage, the Meitu app also asks to access your phone number and location just to start up.

But it also wants access to view, modify and delete contents of an Android phone's USB storage, view network connections, change display and audio settings, reorder running apps, control vibrations and prevent the phone from going to sleep. That's a hell of a lot of access for a photo filter app. 

With the iOS version of the app, it runs a check to see if your iPhone is jailbroken or not. But some researchers have delved into the app's code and found it can collect your phone's IMEI number, the unique number that identifies your phone. It is a little worrying that all your data is being sent back to China too. 

Best iPhone apps 2022: The ultimate guide

You can dismiss or disable permissions in the app, as it shouldn't need all of them to be enabled to work. To be on the safe side though, you may want to take your last few photos, edit them, and delete the app. 

Writing by Elyse Betters.