Market Spotlight: Why China is already the Next Big Thing

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Our new blog series: Market Spotlight

In the Market Spotlight series, we will research the opportunities and challenges of new, emerging and overlooked markets. We will mainly focus on app markets and how to win them over with your product. Our first post in the series will shed a light on China.

The puzzle: Where is that Chinese localization?

The Chinese language boasts with more than a billion native speakers. Translation and localization of apps are an obvious choice for app expansion. Or is it? Despite having 1.28 billion native speakers in real life, web content provided in Chinese is under 2%. Why? Many app developers opt not to translate or localize their products. Sometimes it's to avoid the hassle of finding the right translators. Many change their mind because entering the Chinese market is not that simple. However, stats say that the time for excuses is gone.

China is taking over the app economy steadily just with the sheer number of users, and the expansion is not slowing down. Billions of hours are spent using apps in China. The number of mobile users is gargantuan. If you’re not yet considering entering the arena - here’s why you should.

Infographic: Two Worlds: Languages IRL and Online | Statista

Time spent on apps is time well spent

China’s population of 1.4 billion people brings 802 million internet users. According to Statista, a whopping 98% of internet users are using their mobile phones. This means there is an untapped market of 788 million people hungry for new apps.

In addition, app users in China download more apps than users in any other market. Not only that, an average user in China spends the most time using applications on their mobiles. According to AppAnnie, users in China spent 225 billion hours using apps just in the last quarter of 2017. This number is expected to grow, along with the number of overall app users.

So, how do you get the numbers to work to your advantage?

Sorry, Facebook. You shall not pass

Apple said in 2009, “There’s an app for that” and China took it to heart. Most mobile users in China spend the majority of their time on social platforms such as WeChat and QQ messenger. This is a gamechanger when it comes to app development and marketing. For example, including a Facebook share button or login is pointless.

In addition, although iOS app store is available in China unlike Google Play store, the majority of mobile users are opting for the Android platform and phones. This makes an interesting vacuum in the market. By choosing the right 3rd party app store, you can get your Android app out on the market, without the hassle many iOS published apps encounter.

But wait - 3rd party app stores? And why doesn't Google Play store work in China?

The Great Firewall of China

The Great Firewall of China (GFC) is a cluster of regulations that block access to certain foreign websites. This includes search engines such as Google and Yahoo; social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but also Youtube, Reddit, and many apps. This means that you can forget about Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Instead, research China’s most used social networks and see how you can best sell your app. Which brings us back to...

What’s a 3rd party app store?

Imagine a market where a majority is represented by Android users, who can’t access Google Play store. Well, that's mainland China. To tackle the problem, hundreds of Android mobile app stores are offering the service. Most popular third-party stores include Myapp (Tencent), Huawei and Xiaomi app stores, and Baidu mobile assistant.

Localization do’s and don’ts

LingoHub’s motto Be Global, go Local has never been as true as when speaking of China. Huge population doesn’t mean a completely unified market, so here are some basics you need to know before diving in.

The language

Don’t bother just translating your app. Localization is crucial when developing apps for the Chinese market. The Chinese language is full of nuances and plain translation of the words to Hanzi characters will not get you far. Chinese speakers take great care when it comes to words, titles, and names. We wrote before about the mishaps that happen when localization is overlooked so don’t make the costly (and often hilarious) mistake.

The design

There’s no room for minimalism, clear typography and boring design in the Chinese market. Most successful apps are all about vibrant colors and dynamic animation. Take good care when considering the color pallet for your app. The language of colors is not universal. Red cancel button might not be as effective for users that are accustomed to using red for good luck.

Same goes for logos and avatars. In China, a dragon is worth more than a thousand words… if you use it properly. Dragons are far from fire-breathing monsters as interpreted in the Western cultures. Chinese dragons are benevolent, symbols of luck and power, often connected to seas, lakes, and water in general.


China's app market is booming with potential and it won't be long before that potential is tapped. Be sure to be among the first - be careful about your design and choose the right 3rd party app store. Leave localization and translation to us. Our pool of professional translators and native speakers will make the process hassle-free.