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China Mobile Apps Market Report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Mobile Apps - China market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Key points included

  • Mini program boom driven by pursuit of convenience and offline retail
  • Fierce competition in search engine services to drive traffic
  • Awareness of data protection is on the rise

Covered in this report

After almost a decade of rapid development, the mobile app market is highly concentrated. 2019 highlights enlarging businesses with a vertical integration strategy is the latest trend for app developers. As consumers continue to migrate their lives to apps, the fastest-growing categories of apps are online education, internet wealth management, and live streaming in that order.


Mini programs seek to maximize the time consumers spend on apps, fuelled in part by cumulative “micro-moments” throughout the day. These periodic sessions have become engrained in users who have formed usage habits around them.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Xinyuan Xu, a leading analyst in the Technology sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Consumers may be easily converted when it comes to apps that can provide further convenience, yet they are also hyper-vigilant about the ownership of personal data. As China leads the world in developing mature data privacy-related policies, mobile app developers are left to face a more intense market, expected to deliver instant high-quality content, tech-driven innovations, and secure user experiences Xinyuan Xu
Technology Analyst

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What's included

What's included

Table of contents

Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Covered in this report
      • Executive Summary

          • The market
            • China holds higher market percentage than any other country
              • Figure 1: Top countries by app store downloads, 2-year growth, 2016-2018
              • Figure 2: Top countries by app store consumer spend, 2-year growth, 2016-2018
            • Fastest growth rate by sector is online education, followed by internet wealth management and live streaming
              • Figure 3: User base across sectors
            • Companies and brands
              • Four tech giants and one concentrated market
                • Figure 4: Popular apps of the tech giants, does not include total app count
              • The consumer
                • Top three essential apps for Chinese consumers are WeChat, Alipay, and Taobao
                  • Figure 5: Top apps usage frequency, September 2019
                • Douyin and Weibo show higher usage habits among iOS users vs Android users
                  • Figure 6: Top apps usage frequency, by system, September 2019
                • Overlapping functions and ever increasingly similar usage scenarios
                  • Figure 7: Functions used across top apps, September 2019
                • Inpatient consumers fuel the competition over the next best search engine
                  • Figure 8: Search functions used across top apps, September 2019
                  • Figure 9: Functions of WeChat used in the last week, by age, September 2019
                • Young adults have higher demands on app developers
                  • Figure 10: Reasons for deleting apps, September 2019
                • Apps will not be replaced by mini programs
                  • Figure 11: Popular mobile platforms used for online activities and services, September 2019
                • Consumers’ understanding of a brand’s identity prevails through their mini program usage habits
                  • Figure 12: Popular mobile platforms used for online activities and services, September 2019
                • App preference is driven by convenience
                  • Figure 13: Drivers for using mini programs, September 2019
                  • Figure 14: TURF analysis of drivers for using mini programs, September 2019
                • Mini programs can help brands to further understand lower tier city consumers
                  • Figure 15: Drivers for using mini programs, by city tier, September 2019
                • Hostility towards in-app ads again comes from iOS and young consumers
                  • Figure 16: Attitudes towards removing in-app ads, by age, September 2019
                  • Figure 17: Attitudes towards removing in-app ads, by age, September 2019
                • Consumers are highly curious as to how their data is being used
                  • Figure 18: Attitudes towards data privacy, September 2019
                • What we think
                • Issues and Insights

                  • Mini program boom driven by pursuit of convenience and offline retail
                    • The facts
                      • The implications
                        • Fierce competition in search engine services to drive traffic
                          • The facts
                            • The implications
                              • Awareness of data protection is on the rise
                                • The facts
                                  • The implications
                                  • The Market – What You Need to Know

                                    • Businesses focus on two populations’ spending habits
                                      • Consumers habituated to using mini programs
                                        • 5G apps within reach
                                          • App developers’ appetite for foreign markets
                                          • Market Size and Forecast

                                            • China is taking the lead in total downloads
                                              • Figure 19: Top countries by app store downloads, 2-year growth, 2016-2018
                                              • Figure 20: Top countries by app store consumer spend, 2-year growth, 2016-2018
                                          • Market Drivers

                                            • The prevalence of New Retail and changing consumer behaviour
                                              • Growing awareness of data privacy
                                                • Increasing demand for product services in both hardware and software
                                                  • Habit-enhancing apps
                                                  • Market Segmentation

                                                    • Online learning saw the highest increase in user base while gaming faces slow growth
                                                      • Figure 21: User size across sectors
                                                      • Figure 22: User size and utilization rate of internet applications of internet users from December 2018
                                                    • Instant communication and live streaming videos grab more screen time
                                                      • Figure 23: Distribution of usage periods for six types of application
                                                      • Figure 24: Percentage of internet users’ time spent on different categories of applications in China, June 2019
                                                  • Key Players

                                                    • Tencent ecosystem
                                                      • Alibaba ecosystem
                                                        • Baidu ecosystem
                                                          • Toutiao (ByteDance) ecosystem
                                                            • ByteDance to become new “B” in China’s BAT
                                                              • Competitive strategies
                                                                • Figure 25: Popular apps of the tech giants, does not include total app count
                                                            • Competitive Strategies

                                                              • Strategy to cover a wide range of user groups through the fan economy
                                                                • Omnichannel services coming full circle
                                                                  • Personal assistance instead of apps: laziness encouraged by lucrative incentives from app developers
                                                                  • Who’s Innovating?

                                                                    • Apps on everything
                                                                      • Figure 26: Apple CarPlay demo
                                                                    • Douyin first to introduce the idea of the “lite” app
                                                                      • Figure 27: Douyin Lite version versus full version
                                                                  • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                                    • Passive yet demanding
                                                                      • Cultural background pinpoints 5G technology in entertainment and personal use
                                                                        • Super apps feed on consumer data and internal content
                                                                        • Penetration of Top Apps

                                                                          • Alipay, WeChat, and Taobao are daily necessities
                                                                            • Figure 28: Top apps usage frequency, September 2019
                                                                          • QQ and Weibo are more popular with younger consumers
                                                                            • Figure 29: Ranking of top apps, by age and gender, September 2019
                                                                          • Tier two city residents are more active smartphone users
                                                                            • Figure 30: Top app penetration, by city tier, September 2019
                                                                            • Figure 31: Top app penetration, by city tier, September 2019
                                                                          • Busy businessmen rely more on mobile apps
                                                                            • Figure 32: Top apps usage frequency, by employment, September 2019
                                                                          • Weibo and Douyin appeal more to iPhone users
                                                                            • Figure 33: Top apps usage frequency, by system, September 2019
                                                                            • Figure 34: Top apps usage frequency, by age difference average, September 2019
                                                                        • Functions of Top Apps

                                                                          • Functions of leading apps starting to look similar
                                                                            • Figure 35: Function used across top apps, September 2019
                                                                          • Search function is gaining popularity
                                                                            • Figure 36: Search functions used across top apps, September 2019
                                                                            • Figure 37: Functions of WeChat used in the last week, by age, September 2019
                                                                            • Figure 38: Functions of Weibo used in the last week, by age, September 2019
                                                                        • Reasons for Deleting Apps

                                                                          • Too many ads and crashing put consumers off
                                                                            • Fierce competition between major app ecosystems
                                                                              • Figure 39: Reasons for deleting apps, September 2019
                                                                            • Young adults show hypervigilance of in-app experience
                                                                              • Figure 40: Weekly downloads according to iTunes app charts, China
                                                                              • Figure 41: Reasons for deleting apps, September 2019
                                                                            • Freeing up space can be an issue for Android users
                                                                              • Figure 42: Reasons for deleting apps, September 2019
                                                                          • Apps versus Mini Programs

                                                                            • Mini programs will not replace apps
                                                                              • Figure 43: popular mobile platforms used for online activities and services, September 2019
                                                                            • Public services may be the next battleground for leading tech companies
                                                                              • Competition between tech giants leads to specialised mini programs
                                                                                • Figure 44: Popular mobile platforms used for online activities and services, September 2019
                                                                              • Mini programs should target busy managers and business owners
                                                                                • Figure 45: Usage of WeChat mini programs, by employment, September 2019
                                                                              • Apps turn to targeting precise and niche markets
                                                                              • Drivers for Using Mini Programs

                                                                                • Convenience and in-app ecosystem are the keys to consumers’ hearts
                                                                                  • Figure 46: Drivers for using mini programs, September 2019
                                                                                  • Figure 47: TURF analysis of drivers for using mini programs, September 2019
                                                                                • Mini programs are favoured by low-income consumers
                                                                                  • Figure 48: Drivers for using mini programs, by personal income, September 2019
                                                                                • Mini programs have more potential in lower tier cities
                                                                                  • Figure 49: Drivers for using mini programs, by city tier, September 2019
                                                                              • Attitudes towards Data Privacy and In-app Ads

                                                                                • Interactive ads for the young and relevant ads for the old
                                                                                  • Figure 50: Attitude towards in-app ads, by age, September 2019
                                                                                • 25-29s are harsh judges of in-app ads
                                                                                  • Figure 51: Attitudes towards removing in-app ads, by age, September 2019
                                                                                  • Figure 52: Attitudes towards removing in-app ads, by age, September 2019
                                                                                • Straightforward personalised ads to engage lower tier city consumers
                                                                                  • Figure 53: Attitudes towards ad format and content, by city tier, September 2019
                                                                                • Consumers have limited control over how their personal information is used
                                                                                  • Figure 54: Attitudes towards data privacy, September 2019
                                                                                • Older consumers are less sensitive about data privacy
                                                                                  • Figure 55: Attitudes towards privacy and advertisements, September 2019
                                                                              • Meet the Mintropolitans

                                                                                • Mintropolitans are more into information, news, and entertainment
                                                                                  • Figure 56: Top apps usage frequency, by consumer classification, September 2019
                                                                                • Mintropolitans are concerned about personal data while non-Mintropolitans are annoyed by too many ads
                                                                                  • Figure 57: Triggers for deleting apps, by consumer classification, September 2019
                                                                                  • Figure 58: Attitudes towards data privacy, by consumer classification, September 2019
                                                                                • Easy content sharing is more important for Mintropolitans
                                                                                  • Figure 59: Drivers for using mini programs by consumer classification, September 2019
                                                                                • Interesting and interactive in-app ads are essential to engage Mintropolitans
                                                                                  • Figure 60: Attitudes towards in-app ads, by consumer classification, September 2019
                                                                              • Appendix – Methodology and Abbreviations

                                                                                  • Abbreviations

                                                                                  This market report provides in-depth analysis and insight supported by a range of data. At the same time, introductory and top-level content is provided to give you an overview of the issues covered.

                                                                                  • Market

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                                                                                  • Consumer

                                                                                    Mintel's proprietary consumer research provides our analysts with the attitudinal and behavioral data used to provide valuable insight to topical issues.

                                                                                  • Brand/Company

                                                                                    Mintel provides overviews of the top brands and manufacturers, and uses consumer research to explore attitudes and reactions to brands, as well as insight into what will resonate with consumers.

                                                                                  • Data

                                                                                    Market reports provide appendices of data to support the research and insight produced. Our tables of data are easily manipulated and downloadable to support your research needs and covers factors from consumer attitudes to market forecasts.

                                                                                  Please Note: This is a sample report. All of the figures, graphs, and tables have been redacted.

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