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With 150 million smartphones, 5.5 billion downloads, and double-digit growth in app and mobile ad sales, the China app market appears to be a gold-laden opportunity for iOS and Android developers operating anywhere in the world. The escalation of 700,000 apps combined with slow absolute growth in smartphone adoption has made the US and Euro markets increasingly competitive. Developers and mobile marketers can no longer afford to ignore the China opportunity.
As the second largest economy in the world (and one of the fastest growing), China offers a huge opportunity for many app developers. The Chinese Android mobile app market is different from anything you’ve ever known. There are over 200 app stores and Google is only a small fish in this big pond.
Like many developing countries, China has more and more mobile-only internet users. China’s overall internet penetration will reach 49.3% this year, with mobile internet usage surpassing that of PCs. According to the data from the state-affiliated China Network Information Center, 83.4% of Chinese web users access the internet through mobile devices, while 80.9% do so via PC. Seeing as more than half the country still yet to become internet users, the opportunity for growth is immeasurable. China’s sophisticated mobile payment market has helped drive internet traffic to mobile devices. The price of smartphones has dropped dramatically, making them accessible to a larger chunk of China’s population.
Lesser known facts about the Chinese app market include:
- There are more than 200 Android stores (and only one AppStore). Android is huge, but Google Play is almost non-existent.
- The Chinese market is the most sensitive to app language localization, with more than 70% of the apps in the market bearing the Chinese language.
- 5% of Chinese mobile gamers use Android devices. Along with Samsung, domestic smartphone manufacturers such as Xiaomi and Huawei are quickly winning a major share of the market.
- China generates the third most iOS app revenue of any country.
- Since Apple’s China App Store does not require a credit card to create an account, of the estimated 60 million iOS devices operating in China, only 10 million have a registered account, half of them being jail broken.
- Of the 140 million Android devices operating in China, less than 10% are registered with Google Play, the official Android app store.
In a place where there are more than 200 Android stores and the Google Play being a minor player, the Chinese app market could be a challenge for the foreign developers and companies, hence requiring the app to be delivered the right way for this market.
Here are a few things to be kept in mind before taking the big step and to understand the Chinese Market in a better way:
Android is widely dominating the market owning most of the market share, however even if the non-friendly relation with the big Apple, IOS is the second one owning the market share. It has the second highest number of iOS app downloads in the world (just behind the U.S.), and China generates the third most iOS app revenue of any country. In Spite of Android’s Dominance, Chinese consumers crave Apple products, and these buyers are easier to monetize.
There are very few Apps these days that are not connected to external services or social networks of some sort. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are all used in the West, but China has its own unique set of social networks, such as Renren, Weibo and WeChat. If you want to use the power of those social networks and services, you need to research which of these would be the right ones for you, and then connect your Chinese App to them. If your app is fairly independent, you’ve saved yourself lots of time.
When you aim for the Chinese market, use the Chinese language. Chinese people are language sensitive, so having a successful App in English only is nearly impossible. Because English proficiency is low in China, it’s essential to get your app translated into Chinese. Bringing an app into a new language can be a delicate process, and it’s essential to have quality translators.
Partnering with a local publisher can save you a lot of effort. A publisher will add customized content and storylines to your app. They’ll also optimize monetization channels and integration with social networks. There are approximately 250 app publishers in China. Around 50 of them are large companies, such as iDreamSky and ChuKong. Partnering with a publisher is usually free up front, in exchange for around 30 – 40% of Chinese market revenue.
Piracy and Other Monetary Issues:
Chinese are not really willing to pay for mobile applications. As compared to United Kingdom where users have at least 8 paid applications in their phones, China smartphone users only counted 2 applications paid in their smartphones. In many ways, China is still a cash-based society. This makes it difficult for developers to make money through app store purchases. In a similar way, Google Play is not easily accessible in China, which hampers Android app monetization. This means you’ll need to integrate the local online payment options that are popular, such as Alipay.
Of the estimated 60 million iOS devices operating in China, only 10 million have a registered account on the Apple App Store with a credit card attached. More than 50% of those devices are jail broken, giving leverage and market share to third-party iOS app markets. Between these independent markets, 8% of Apple App Store paid apps, about 20,000 apps are found in pirated (and usually free) form.
The speed of China’s mobile networks still lags behind most of the other developed countries, and much slower than other Asian cities like Japan or Korea. If the app is graphics-heavy or for many other reasons eats up a lot of data and making it load slowly, it will most likely be abandoned. There is a need to optimize the app’s data usage so that it works fast enough on a much slower network speed.
China’s app market still has a large room for development. At present, advertising and value-added services are the two most important profit channels for developers. However, the average usage period of apps is only ten months and about 85% apps are uninstalled within a month, especially social communication apps, which makes it hard for developers to gain profits. Developers should avoid invasion of users’ privacy and improve performance to attract more users.
Concluding, all we’d like to state is that the China App Market, is a huge burgeoning market where all the companies are trying to be the best. By innovating marketing and monetization strategies that play to the set of marketing channels and consumer behaviour unique to China, foreign developers and mobile app companies can overcome these challenges.