Over the past year, 2and2 have been bustling away creating Koala Academy, a mobile social games platform for Chinese students. We’ve visited China multiple times, speaking to students, teachers and parents, as well as gaining a greater understanding of the educational and technological landscape that currently exists.
While many understand that China is different from Australia in how they use technology, it’s quite hard to comprehend just how different. What social media channels are people in China using? What apps are popular? And how deeply pervasive are mobile devices in the country?
Here, we share a bit of what we have learned about mobile device use in China. Warning: be prepared for some ridiculously incomprehensible numbers!
The Chinese smartphone market
In 2014, China had over 500 million smartphone users, making it the world’s largest smartphone market. On top of this, China is also the world’s biggest Internet market, with over 649 million users. To put into perspective just how pervasive smartphone use is in China, India – the world’s second highest populated country – has only 243 million Internet users and just under 200 million smartphone users. China now has more smartphone users than the US has people.
In terms of smartphone OS market share, Android dominates with around 80% market share. The most popular brands include Xiaomi, Samsung, Apple and Huawei, and the app store market is largely fragmented – in addition to the App Store and Google Play, there’s Wandoujia, Baidu’s App Store, 91 Mobile Assistant, Taobao Mobile Assistant, Xiaomi’s App Store…and countless others.
How do Chinese people use smartphones and social media?
With so many smartphones and app stores available, it’s probably no secret that smartphone users in China differ a lot from smartphone users in, say, Australia. While platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram are blocked in China, that doesn’t mean there are no social media platforms whatsoever – in fact, China actually has the world’s most active environment for social media, with over 355 million people using WeChat alone. QQ, an instant messenger, reported having over 800 million active monthly users while microblogging service Sina Weibo has around 280 million users.
Mobile gaming is also massive – revenue from mobile games is expected to hit 7.7 billion dollars by 2018. However, interestingly, most of the popular games in China are either Western titles tweaked for the Chinese market (such as Angry Birds or Plants vs. Zombies) or games produced by one of China’s internet giants, such as Tencent or Baidu.
Smartphone use in China – our firsthand experience
In our own observation, we never cease to be amazed at just how prevalent smartphone use is, and how technology has become integrated into life in China in a way yet to be seen in Western countries.
QR codes are everywhere, from advertisements in shopping centres to magazines. Grandparents send their grandchildren messages from a thousand miles away using social media, and taxi drivers accept fares via WeChat’s online payment system. On top of all this, smartphones are highly affordable, with a Huawei phablet priced at less than $400.
Chinese users are savvy and eCommerce is booming. And while China, like Australia, still has a long way to go to get the optimal use out of their mobile devices, there sure is a lot that we can learn from them.